As we all know, this is a semester that looks like none before. With virtual learning in motion, social distancing everywhere, and international opportunities being scaled back, every student, faculty, and staff member is adjusting to an entirely new way of learning and engaging with the world. Many students, for instance, were sent back to the United States early from their international experiences due to COVID-19 in March 2020. One such student is Megan Temple, a junior Marketing major with a concentration in Digital Marketing, who studied abroad in Nijmegen, The Netherlands in Spring 2020.
“Before studying abroad, I attended occasional international and cultural events on campus, but I was not actively involved. Since then, however, I’ve been seeking out campus clubs and planning to get much more involved with a couple of the programs and organizations we have available,” Temple said. Then after doing her research, Megan chose to attend Radboud University in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, as part of a semester-long exchange program, and was enjoying her time studying in a new country and getting immersed in Dutch culture. According to Megan, “meeting other international [students] and learning about their lives and career goals [were] the most rewarding parts. I lived in a hall with students from all over the world, and I loved getting to know them and how they also ended up in the Netherlands.”
Of course, as we all know, things would soon change for Megan and students like her studying abroad in Spring 2020. In March 2020, students who were studying abroad were called back to protect themselves and their international classmates from COVID-19. While there were numerous challenging parts of being an exchange student in Spring 2020, Megan pinpoints an unconventional challenge from most. “The most challenging aspect of studying abroad was actually once I was back in the U.S. after returning early due to the pandemic. I finished my semester online, which meant group projects and lectures were pretty complicated [...] given challenges with time zones, communication across cultures/languages, and a different education system. I felt stuck between two worlds: physically living in the U.S. but spending most of my day studying at my Dutch university and communicating with classmates abroad,” Megan said. Despite this, Megan completed her coursework for the semester, being one of the first students to complete a semester abroad domestically due to the pandemic.
Despite the challenges she faced, Megan still says that her experience was an incredibly valuable one. For instance, Megan says “by living in a culture very different to my own, I learned that cultural learning and global understanding are intentional choices. No matter how much I prepared, mistakes were inevitable, but my learning really began when I acknowledged and reflected on those situations. It was through those instances that I saw how diverse our world is and how much we truly have in common despite our differences.” While international opportunities and studying abroad remains an uncertain reality, we asked Megan what advice she would give to students who may find themselves in her situation, remaining in the U.S. domestically while studying abroad virtually. “Don’t give up. It may not be possible right now, but there are so many ways you can still get involved with an international community here on campus with student clubs and programs. [...] If there is one thing I have learned, it’s that global learning can continue even when you are in your home country.”
This story was written based on Megan Temple's interview with WCOB International Programs. To read the full interview, click here.
Story By: Stephen Justice, MBA 2021
#WalkerAbroad Photo Contest Now Open
Students, faculty and staff members who have studied abroad are invited to share a glimpse their experience abroad for a chance to win prizes. Please read the instructions before submitting photos; submissions are due April 3. Learn more.
About International Programs with Appalachian's Walker College of Business
The Walker College of Business encourages students to study abroad and provides a variety of short-term international programs designed to develop international business skills and intercultural knowledge. These faculty-led programs have proven to be invaluable for many students. Scholarships are available. Fluency in a second language is not required and students can earn credit toward their degree. For more information on future opportunities, please contact Global & Civic Engagement Specialist Meredith Church Pipes, firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit international.business.appstate.edu.