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Carlson School no longer requires students to study abroad — for now

Approved classes through the University are allowing students to complete graduation requirements without traveling abroad.
Illustration by Sarah Mai
Illustration by Sarah Mai

Lauren Polzin, a fourth-year student in the Carlson School of Management, enrolled in a class at the University of Minnesota during the fall 2020 semester that allows her to graduate without studying abroad after University officials canceled her study abroad program.

In previous semesters, Carlson officials required students to study abroad to graduate. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, students now have the option to take one of several approved classes through the University that incorporate intercultural lessons, according to the school.

“I was super sad because I feel like it’s a once in a lifetime thing to be in college and study abroad, but I also understand we’re all tied with just the way things are,” Polzin said.

Carlson officials decided this fall to broaden options for students to complete what they refer to as “international experience” to help students stay on track to graduate while still gaining a valuable global perspective, said Kirsten Canterbury, the Carlson Global Institute director of education abroad.

While it is unknown when exactly studying abroad will be safe for University students, Carlson officials said they decided to broaden the options for an international experience in response to a crisis and hope to send all students abroad in the future.

Canterbury said she predicts options for completing an international experience will be limited to studying abroad when international travel is deemed safe for students. She added that although the additional cost of studying abroad — along with extra attendance fees for the Carlson School — may be a burden to some students, the benefits often outweigh the costs.

“The domestic options certainly come at a lower price point with no travel component associated with it,” Canterbury said. “In terms of scholarship funds, increasing ways to support students and not wanting finances to be a barrier for all students to participate, that is certainly an ongoing conversation that is going on all the time, especially right now as we’re talking about getting students back abroad during a difficult time for everyone.”

According to the school, the international experience aims to prepare students to work in a global environment by teaching them how to communicate with people from other cultures or backgrounds and train them for a global economy.

“I would never say that having a virtual class here in the U.S. with exposure to voices overseas is the same as living in another country for a full semester. It just isn’t. It’s a different experience. But it doesn’t mean that it’s not still a valuable experience,” said Canterbury.

This is true for Polzin, who said class activities, such as hearing from international guest speakers and planning where she would like to visit abroad in the future, have allowed her to think outside of the U.S. without ever physically leaving.

Polzin said she views her abroad experience as more of a postponement than a cancellation, as she plans to use the information she learned in her class to help her travel abroad in the future.

Jo-Ann La, a third-year student at Carlson, also planned on studying abroad during her time at the University but ultimately decided to take the replacement course. She feared whichever program she chose would get canceled close to departure or she would be sent home partway through the semester due to a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Even if she could go abroad, she felt that with COVID-19 restrictions she would not have had the full experience, La said. To fulfill her international experience requirement, she now plans to take a course on campus next fall with a global element.

La said the international experience goal is to become more culturally aware, and she feels she can accomplish this through the classes Carlson is offering.

Despite not being able to go abroad, La said she supports keeping the international experience requirement in place because it sets Carlson students apart from other public business schools.

“I think it makes Carlson students stand out,” La said. “Studying abroad and experiencing those things will help you develop your skills too, as an individual.”

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