The one thing that drives us all is the spirit of survival. It is an evolutionary instinct. We learn, adapt, and evolve to find the best possible outcomes in the face of difficulties.
The pandemic has pushed this instinct out to the forefront. But, it’s time to you need address the one basic question: are you putting your life (and education) on hold until the dreaded virus goes away? Or are you rerouting your plans towards progress despite the pandemic?
Here’s what we think global ed will look like in 2021.
We have spent most of last year living in fear. Workplaces, universities, schools, entire countries have been locked down in some form or the other. The restrictions on travel have not just affected the tourism industry but also the education sector, especially involving international students. While it has had economic and cultural ramifications for the universities, it’s wreaked havoc in the lives of students as well.
However, the world is starting to get back on its feet as it deals with the realities of the virus. Universities in most countries have adapted to the needs of the hour and are introducing blended learning programs. Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia, for instance, defines blended learning as follows:
Blended learning – otherwise referred to as hybrid learning or mixed-mode learning – is usually seen as a mix of face-to-face (f2f) and online delivery, and may refer to the mix of delivery across a whole institution, across a whole course, or within individual units of study.
It means that you can complete the admission process, register yourself as a student of a university of your choosing and begin the next chapter in your learning. You might not be able to travel right away, but you can finish the online part of your course from the safety and comfort of your home. You travel only for the f2f component which also includes experiments in laboratories and other practical applications of your course.
It also means that you get to experience all the advantages of international education while staying relatively safe. You will have access to cutting-edge research and pioneers of your field. While experiencing a new culture might not happen right away, it is guaranteed when you travel for your f2f classes. You can enhance your networking skills and build connections across the globe. It is certainly a huge boost to your resume. Most importantly, it challenges you, boosts your confidence, and makes you more independent and adaptable.
Even in a pre-COVID world, deciding to pursue a global education, choosing a university or a country involved tons of research. And this remains unchanged, with just a few extra criteria on that list.
Here are some points to keep in mind
Be thorough. Research and dig as much as you can into your field of study, so you know what your future might look like. Don’t let the economy blindside you. Ideally, you should be able to find a space where your passion and the market requirements intersect.
Pick classes that contribute to the larger picture that you have painted for yourself. It’s all about meeting industry demands while carving a niche for yourself that sets you apart. If you want to err on the side of caution, pick all online courses for your first semester so you don’t have to worry about travel. It would also help you if you can gather information about cancellation policies in case there is a change of plans.
Things change on a daily basis, so keep abreast of what new travel policies/ restrictions are being implemented in both your home and destination country. Make sure you get your information from authorised sources, or directly from the consulate. Many governments have portals that update the latest information for students – like this website created by the Australian government that answers FAQs of international students.
In addition to the usual travel documents, confirm what medical documents you will need to avoid immigration troubles. Plan for health insurance in your destination country and give yourself enough time in case you are quarantined. Ensure your travel is 100% confirmed before you book your flights. You can even consider travel insurance that will protect you in case you are cancelling or rescheduling.
Also, give yourself enough time to plan your finances. The cost of tuition plus living plus travel must be managed. Factor in the reality that campus employment and jobs around your university might be diminished, or be highly competitive. Ideally, learn other skills that will help you in this regard during your online class phase.
This is not something you can compromise on, in today’s world. Invest in a good computer, headphones, webcam, whatever it is, that makes your learning more comfortable. Train yourself to be mentally present during online classes, take notes and participate in discussions so you get the most out of the course. With a lot of jobs becoming remote, your tech investments won’t go out of style anytime soon.
Global ed in itself can increase your levels of stress and anxiety considering how much time, effort, and money you are investing in it. So, in addition to all the documents, essays, and all the other things you need to be ready with, take some time to prepare yourself. Invest some time in your mind and learn to recognise your stressors and triggers. Also, figure out your ideal ways to manage them. Most importantly, make yourself reach out for professional help when things feel out of control.
The time to plan is now – even if you will act on those plans later. The world will go through waves of ups and downs till this pandemic settles. Eventually, we’ll settle into the rhythm of the new normal (which is different for different people).
If a global education is still what you want, then there are ways to make it happen. When disruption takes place, new patterns emerge. The thing to do is to find the right pattern for you and fit it into your aspirations and dreams.