Students, faculty look forward to resuming educational opportunities after COVID-19 pandemic

MURRAY, Ky. — Murray State University students are reflecting on their time studying abroad this past academic year while looking forward to future opportunities in a post-COVID-19 world.

Retired faculty member and alumni Dr. Celia Wall led and instructed nearly a dozen education abroad programs in her time as a journalism and mass communications professor in the Arthur J. Bauernfeind College of Business. She also served as a member of the Cooperative Center for Study Abroad’s (CCSA) Board of Trustees and on administrative teams for programs in Australia, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Murray State University students are reflecting on their time studying abroad this past academic year while looking forward to future opportunities in a post-COVID-19 world.

Over the course of her long career working with students, Wall witnessed firsthand the transformative ability of international study. Amid a new period of uncertainty with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Wall said students are continually challenged in new ways — including the use of virtual distance learning and the inability to safely travel — but she encourages them to remain positive about their educational goals.

“Life will return to normal eventually,” Wall said. “Then you can once again think about studying overseas. Do not give up on that dream.”  

From her home in self-isolation during a time of stay-at-home orders and lockdowns, Dr. Wall reflected on a past student who, upon returning from a program in South Korea, carried herself with more confidence and had gained a clearer picture of her own career goals. While the student was hesitant at first, Celia noted that she was fascinated and excited about the possibility of experiencing a new culture. 

“Upon her return, she had grown into a competent, self-assured young woman,” Wall said.

Education abroad advocate and Murray State junior Mallory Wooldridge from Murray, Kentucky, has studied abroad in several programs across Ireland, Mexico and Germany. This fall, she plans to participate in a Spanish exchange program. She said her experience learning abroad changed her life in ways she never expected.

“There is no way I can ever fully convey my time abroad to others,” Wooldridge said. “That being said, the precious time I’ve spent in foreign countries holds my most valued memories, some of my sweetest friends and the lessons that shaped me into the Mallory I am today.”

Camryn Clift, a junior majoring in agricultural communications and Spanish from Princeton, Kentucky, saw her semester in Spain cut short by the pandemic. She said she will always remember her experience, including her other past trips to New Zealand and Mexico.

“The little moments are the ones that have the largest impact,” Clift said. “In my day-to-day life in the United States, it’s always the small things from my programs that come back to me the most — like the types of foods that I ate and the way the moon was full on my last night in Mexico.” 

“Continuing to strive toward the goals you have laid out for yourself is an important part of navigating this new normal,” Wall said. “Studying abroad changes students. It changes their ideas and beliefs about the world, about other cultures and about other people. Equally important, it changes their ideas about themselves and their capabilities.” 

The Murray State Education Abroad Office urges students to remember Wall’s words and not give up on their dreams of studying abroad. Opportunities for studying abroad will resume at a later date in accordance with all state and federal guidelines to protect Racers and their host countries. Please visit murraystate.edu/educationabroad for more information.

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