This is a question many students ask themselves. The decision to study in their home country or study abroad has been made even more difficult by more classes shifting online. A survey conducted by Schengenvisa.com showed that 30% of international students would cancel their studies in Europe if the classes would be fully online. As universities are shifting to online learning is it still worth going?
Classrooms and lecture halls are emptier with online education.
The switch to online education impacts the number of international students attending colleges. Thomas More University of Applied Sciences located in Belgium had 140 international applications and only 70 of those students decided to attend. Inge Vervoort, Head of the International Office thinks that studying abroad should still be promoted.
“I’m convinced that physical mobility is the most impactful to build your personality and to build your skills. That’s why I work here! I really am convinced that people grow from exchange and decisions like these in their life”
For some universities, the coronavirus pandemic meant canceling part of their international program. London School of Public Relations in Jakarta had no choice but to cancel its program because of travel restrictions. They tried to solve it by offering their subjects online to international students. More universities choose this solution. The students get to go on ‘exchange’ from home. The students remain in their home country but follow the subjects from their chosen University.
Stanislav Mladenov and Stefani Stoilova are two of the many students who had to make the decision of whether to study abroad or stay in their home country. Mladenov decided to return to the Netherlands to study his minor in Music Marketing and Management. He returned thinking school was going to be offline and life was finally going to be more normal. Two days before he started the University decided to switch back to online classes. Mladenov is primarily frustrated with the ambiguity of it all, if he would have known that the semester was going to be online, he might have made a different decision. He tries to make the best out of it given the circumstances.
“I’m trying to enjoy the moment and still try to meet new people. For sure when you’re alone it’s easier to meet people. I live in the moment and I’ll see how it goes. I try to just do the things that I like, look for a job, go dancing and enjoy the simple things in life.”
Stoilova, a student in International Media and Entertainment Management, was given two options by her university: stay at home or come to campus. She decided to remain at home in Bulgaria. She thinks online education is a good alternative and liked having the possibility to make this decision. Not only does the pandemic affect life as an international student, but also finding a place to live is complicated for a lot of international students.
“I prefer doing it like this, instead of sitting inside and spending a lot of money on rent. Here I don’t pay rent because I live at home.”
Stoilova follows her online classes from Bulgaria.
Anna Voinova, International coordinator of Breda University of Applied Sciences, thinks that going on exchange or studying abroad still can be a positive experience for students.
“I have two students coming from Austria who were able to come to Breda. Even though most of the classes are online, they still have a good time because in Breda it is not as strict as in Austria, so it’s actually quite nice for them.”
Breda University tries to find a balance between offline and online classes. By offering empty classrooms with enough space to socially distance, Breda University still tries to create some offline interaction amongst students. Staff and students of Breda University have no feeling of waiting and seeing which way the wind blows. The feeling amongst staff and students is more like ‘let’s carry on and we’ll see.’ There is still a lot of uncertainty for students, but universities are trying to make education as entertaining as possible still. The students of Breda University have a year to decide and sign up for the exchange program. Voinova does not want to dwell and postpone her international plans because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The program for exchange will just go as usual. The paperwork for exchange will continue as normal. Only real commitments like housing will be left for the last moment so there is no loss of money. But if suddenly all the boarders open, then we are ready to go”.