The hybrid event welcomed over 1,000 participants of both formats, of which 400 were first-timers. President and CEO of the Forum on Education Abroad, Melissa Torres noted “the increase in diversity represented by conference attendees.”
“There has now been a significant increase in the number of people working in this area who represent the changing demographics of our students and communities. It’s an amazing change and I’m proud to lead the forum in this area,” said Torres PIE news.
She added that increasing diversity in this area is a key priority for the Forum’s board, council and staff, and they are looking to continue this trend.
Enda Carroll, Deputy Director of Global Programs at University College Dublin, also commented on newcomers to the conference and the field in general. “This huge injection of newcomers brought freshness and dynamism to the conversations at this year’s Forum,” Carroll told The PIE.
The education abroad sector is still in the process of recovering from the pandemic, and while the numbers are still growing, many note that it is a comprehensive recovery.
“This huge injection of newcomers has brought freshness and dynamism to the conversations”
Delegates spoke about student mental health issues that have worsened during the pandemic and are preventing some students from studying abroad. Coupled with this is the risk aversion that many students feel when traveling abroad after the pandemic.
Stakeholders shared with The PIE that they believe many students are choosing destinations in Western Europe, which they see as the “safer option” because they fear being further from home.
Reflecting on the pandemic and its lingering effects on the recovery of the sector, JB Terrins, Head of Global Mobility at the University of Galway, told The PIE: “There has been this paradigm shift – virtually overnight we have all been trained to teach, learn and work remotely. in cooperation.”
However, as industry professionals began returning to their offices and students began traveling abroad again, there were often new routines and policies to navigate.
“With the world at our fingertips more than ever, we could imagine a greater catalytic effect on integrating global interactions into programming and curriculum,” continued Terrins.
“While this remains an area of growth, I think instead there has understandably been some steadying of the ship in the new normal.”
Some sessions addressed prosperity in the new normal, student mental health, and the residual effects of the Great Resignation. The presenters offered strategies to mitigate real and perceived barriers for students. And with the conference theme “Themeless in Seattle,” presenters had great flexibility in choosing the topics they felt were most relevant to addressing post-pandemic issues.
“It allowed space for a number of diverse and interesting discussions to flourish in an organic way,” suggested Carroll.
“Many of our 90 sessions included new innovations and reflected a desire to share with others what has been successful on people’s own campuses and programs over the past year or so,” Torres asserted.
“Study and internship abroad could grind to a screeching halt unless guidelines change”
One of the most discussed issues at the conference was a recent letter from the US Department of Education to a distinguished colleague. “The conference provided an important opportunity for the field to consider and discuss the implications of the new guidelines in relation to TPS,” Carroll said.
Torres offered that there is “fear about the potential impact of the letter from the distinguished colleague of the U.S. Department of Education, and people are encouraged to help [the department] understand that study and internship abroad could come to a screeching halt unless the guidelines are changed.”
The Ministry of Education extended the deadline for submitting comments and feedback until March 30.