Back to school means study abroad fair season…or, does it? Because of COVID-19, you’re likely to see more virtual study abroad fairs this coming academic year, as an alternative to the traditional, in-person events. Have no fear! A virtual fair can still give students the time and space they need to find the right study abroad experiences.
An organization like The Forum on Education Abroad understands that COVID-19 creates new challenges for college students in studying abroad in general, but also in getting information to make the best study abroad decision when the time comes. The Forum is a non-profit, membership association recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission as the Standards Development Organization (SDO) for the field of education abroad. What does that mean? The Forum on Education Abroad sets the standards that study abroad programs should be using to ensure students are getting top-quality study abroad experience and thriving on these study abroad programs.
Here are some tips and tricks to help students navigate virtual study abroad fairs and prepare them to find the ultimate education abroad experience.
BEFORE THE VIRTUAL STUDY ABROAD FAIR
1. Students should consider what they’re looking for from an education abroad provider and know what questions they want to ask.
In addition to where students want to study abroad and what students want to study while they’re abroad, consider things like:
- What is the organization’s mission and goals?
- What is the academic experience like? How do they value and promotion education abroad?
- How does the organization prepare students for their study abroad experience before, during, and after their time abroad?
- How will they keep students healthy and safe while abroad?
- What are they doing to create a study abroad experience that is diverse and inclusive?
- Is environmental friendliness important to them?
The Forum on Education Abroad knows that these are important areas to monitor and evaluate for students to have optimal education abroad experiences, which is why they have developed the Standards of Good Practice for Education Abroad. The Standards offer study abroad organizations a framework for accountability to provide high-quality study abroad programs to students.
2. Research the organizations and institutions who are attending the virtual study abroad fair.
Because a traditional study abroad fair is in-person, it limits the amount of providers, institutions, and organizations that can attend. A major benefit of a virtual study abroad fair is that many people from around the world can participate in a fair—and students don’t need to leave their dorm room or apartment!
Take some time to look through the exhibitor list to explore who they want to talk to and if students have unique questions for that specific organization. While it’s not necessary to research, it will certainly help students to get the most out of the online study abroad fair.
3. Make sure their technology works
What would be worse than preparing for a virtual study abroad fair, having butterflies thinking about all of the organizations that students will talk with, only to be stopped by a poor internet connection or sound issues. Students should test their device before the event to ensure everything is in working order.
DURING THE VIRTUAL STUDY ABROAD FAIR
4. Students: Be confident, be yourself, and have fun!
We’re talking about a once-in-a-lifetime education abroad experience here—it’s a time to communicate what they want and get the experience they’ve been dreaming of. Psst, for students who are on the shy side, a virtual study abroad fair can be more comfortable than a crowded in-person event, so carpe diem!
Students should feel empowered to speak up for themselves, get the answers they need, and enjoy talking with study abroad professionals from around the world. Remember: these representatives are excited about study abroad and want to help students!
5. Stay engaged & keep good notes
Chances are students will meet a lot of representatives—because they’re at their computer, students can do a better job of keeping notes than you would in-person. That said, because there are more providers, it also means students may need to consider taking a break while they’re virtual booth hopping. Students should be sure to grab some water, stretch, and take a screen break if they need it.
AFTER THE VIRTUAL STUDY ABROAD FAIR
6. Sign up for email lists to stay in-the-know
If students really like an organization, institution, or provider, they should sign up for their emails to learn the latest information. A new funding opportunity could pop up or a new housing option in the study abroad location they’re interested in. Getting that info in their inbox also makes it easy to forward to mom and dad or anyone else who is involved in their study abroad planning.
7. Follow up with organizations you liked to find out more
Education abroad organizations are likely to follow up with students they meet, but it never hurts for students to take the lead and initiate communication. Encourage students to follow up with representatives to keep the conversation moving forward.
Learn more about The Forum on Education Abroad.