While study abroad programs are encouraged within the international relations major, students can immerse themselves within new cultures, learning new traditions, customs and people to better understand global issues.
This would not be the case during the beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Back in March of 2020, the university suspended all in-person courses and eventually study abroad programs ended after the increase in coronavirus cases worldwide.
The pandemic limited any sort of travel; hindering the education abroad experience for international relations students, but there is still hope.
Andrew Barnes, an associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, said as of right now, the university has reopened some study abroad programs. However, there are main factors that come into play, like global COVID-19 policies and university requirements.
“My understanding is that it varies by program,” Barnes said. “I know there were five faculty-led programs slated for spring semester, next semester, and I just walked across the hall about an hour ago and three have been canceled.”
Despite the uncontrollable factors, the university will continue to plan for study abroad and faculty-led programs for the spring 2022 semester.
Barnes said the international relations program is currently planning a two-week study abroad trip to London next semester.
“We as a school have planned a different one in London,” he said. “It is called Queer Britain, and it’s studying LGBTQ populations and their experiences in Great Britain.”
The international relations degree is a program that focuses on answering global questions through a range of perspectives that include political science, economics, geography, history, literature and Africana studies.
Part of the program’s mission is to provide students with the necessary tools to communicate globally. International relations students participate in language study courses and are encouraged to study abroad.
Before the pandemic, the university offered an extensive list of education abroad programs in countries such as Florence, Geneva and Prague.
Julie Mazzei, the interim director for the School of Multidisciplinary Social Sciences and Humanities, said study abroad programs like Florence and Geneva are enriching opportunities that intersect with the international relations major.
“In the past, we have had a lot of students go to Florence and take classes,” she said.
Kent State has had the Florence campus for more than 40 years and offers programs from architecture to hospitality management, according to the Office of Global Education’s website.
Mazzei added that the university has taken steps to reintroduce study abroad programs, and some professors have even proposed future courses. Gabriella Paár-Jákli, an associate professor and undergraduate coordinator in the Department of Political Science, proposed a future Florence course for the spring semester where students could analyze global politics through art.
In Geneva, Barnes said students also have unique opportunities while studying abroad.
“It’s a great place to get international internships because a lot of global organizations are headquartered in Geneva,” he said.
With much uncertainty leftover from the pandemic, Mazzei said students do not have to rely solely on studying abroad programs to have a fulfilling experience.
“Being an IR major is not just about travel, it’s about understanding,” Mazzei said. “You can make really just powerful inroads to your own understanding and your own interaction with the world without going over the ocean.”
Alexus Rayzer is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected]