Studying Abroad at Home: The Meaning of Education Abroad During the Pandemic

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Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic virtually ended studying abroad. New (online) formats are offered, but this has not stopped universities from having to revise curricula, renegotiate partnerships and consult with students about studying abroad in 2020 and beyond. This short essay stems from the author’s experience of cancelling his own Japanese study abroad program in late February 2020 to avoid the program participants taking unnecessary risks in the face of the unknown speed at which COVID-19 was spreading in Europe. The cancellation of that study trip brought to the fore, however, entrenched issues with short term study abroad programs and pushed the author to consider what the value of the ‘abroad’ in ‘study abroad’ had been until then. A short comparison with the practice of ethnography ensues, inspired by early pandemic debates on the future of anthropological fieldwork, which is another endeavour that has traditionally depended on relatively extended stays abroad. The essay closes with two problems that study abroad organisers will have to think about in a post-corona world.

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The Great Dis-Equalizer: the Covid-19 Crisis Special Issue (Essays)