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Leaving Friends while Traveling Abroad

Hello again from the Netherlands! In today’s blog post I am going to talk about my experience with leaving friends behind when I moved from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Maastricht in the Netherlands. Specifically, I am going to tell you about how I felt leaving my friends, being
unable to see them for 2 years, and my experience finally returning to, and seeing them after those 2 years.

As many students studying outside the US near their departure date, it is quite common to feel anxious and worried. I can personally relate to these feelings because, I promise you, I felt exactly the same way! The day I left, and I looked at my room one last time I could feel the tears welling up. Not because I was sad or regretting leaving, but because I was nervous. I had lived all that time in this one house, in my room; it was familiar and home to me.

As I said my goodbye to my friends one final time, I again felt those tears welling up in my eyes. I was obviously going to miss them greatly, but I also knew I would see them again. I think that was the hardest part, honestly, of saying goodbye to friends and family. I do miss Milwaukee, the city in which I lived before moving to the Netherlands, but there are new distractions and new places to see where I am now, but I think for most people it is the people you leave behind you miss the most.

Reading this far you might think it’s a bit doom and gloom, but there’s good news! We live in the time of technology. We can communicate non-stop with others. And that’s how I have kept
my friendships alive for these past 2 years.

For the most part, I was able to keep in touch over Snapchat and Instagram, by texting, and keeping up to date by watching people’s stories. I also tried to call my friends whenever I could. Unfortunately for me and my friends, we pretty much sucked at communicating via the phone even when we were at home, three blocks away from each other. Therefore, it took a bit of time to find time, but that varies per person.

If you put in the effort, you will not lose your true friends, you guys will be in it for the long
run:) I do say “true friends” because obviously it is impossible to stay in touch with everyone from
high school. I personally became closer with my ‘best friends’ because we both had to make
more of an effort to stay in contact, so our time together was more appreciated.

Unfortunately, as my first year came to an end, and summer neared, it became apparent to me
that the situation occurring at the time with COVID would make returning to the US extremely difficult. This was a big blow for me. Thankfully my family had moved back to Europe before
the COVID crisis began, so I could see my family during that summer, however I was
not able to see my friends from back home.

Honestly it was hard for me, but since travel was still possible within European countries, I was
able to distract myself with small trips with my new friends I had made at Maastricht University.
Fast forward another year, and thankfully COVID chilled out enough for me to finally be able to
return to Milwaukee to see my friends! My trip back was amazing, I spent the month couch
surfing at my closest friends’ house in the student area of Milwaukee. I was able to reconnect
with more than 8 of my close friends from High School, and even met up with people I hadn’t
talked to at all during my 2 years away.

When I arrived and first saw my friends it honestly felt like no time had passed at all. We began
to update each other on everything that had happened in the past months and planned what we
wanted to do while I was back. I was able to revisit my old neighborhood, all my old hangout
and food spots, as well as go camping, to the Six Flags Great America theme park, sports games
(Go Bucks!), and even go camping.

Once my trip came to an end, it was once again time for goodbyes. This time around however
they were not as hard. I didn’t have that fear of losing them because I knew we would stay in
touch, and would see each other next summer. In addition, I knew I wa s coming back to Maastricht, to my new friends, and my more recent home.

Overall, I just want to hopefully calm some of the nerves about first leaving home for university abroad. I know it is hard, and you might be scared, but from reading this I hope you can see that leaving friends behind shouldn’t scare you too much. It will be a big change, but new experiences and people will come and fill your time while away from home! When you can visit home again, things will fall back into place if you try while away to keep in contact a bit 🙂

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Carolina On My Mind

Well, after almost two years abroad, we are moving back to North Carolina!  Tom has accepted a position in a company he is really excited about, which requires us to live in the US. This has been in the works for a couple of months now, but I needed to keep it under wraps until it was official, and he let his current employer know.

There are a lot of mixed feelings around this move. Though we left the US in January of 2020, we got to Portugal in March. This was right when Europe shut down and we’ve been in and out of different levels of restrictions since we got here.

We really haven’t had an opportunity to fall in love with Portugal. That’s not because there is anything wrong with Portugal, but because it’s hard to really get to know a place under these circumstances. Until this summer, restrictions made it difficult to enjoy the ease of European travel offered by living here as well.

Luckily, Ellie had in-person school most of the time and she has made wonderful friends who she will keep in touch with. Covid restrictions closed the school to parents, so Tom and I weren’t able to form the same community there. I have made some close friends, but the importance of community  became evident to me when I was back in North Carolina this summer.  For me, community is different than friendships (though there may be overlap).  It’s about having some sort of connection and regular interaction with people who have shared values or interests. Many of the farmers and regular customers at the Carrboro Farmers Market hold a significant part of my community and it felt so good to be back. Even going to Pilates and catching up with people I knew from before provided a sense of connection that I didn’t realize I was missing. I believe that we could have formed that community in Portugal if it weren’t for Covid lockdowns and such.

I’ve learned a lot about myself since we lived here, which has been very valuable.  Part of this relates to my identity as an American.  When we moved, it wasn’t to get away from North Carolina.  We really loved the area where we lived. That said, we had a lot of concerns about various matters/issues in the country and were also eager to remove ourselves from the hostile political environment. Here’s the thing though….whether I live in Portugal, the US, or Antarctica those same concerns affect me. I didn’t experience much of the hostile divide in my everyday life in the US. Social media was my main exposure to this divide which is something I experience no matter where I am living.  What I’ve learned is that I really do identify as an American, in addition to a global citizen. There are elements of the US that I’m proud of and others that I’m not. Moving back will allow me to be more active in causes that I feel strongly about.

There are a number of things I will miss about living here. Though I haven’t been able to spend much time with them due to lockdowns, my brother and his family live just 30 minutes away from us. I had looked forward to getting to watching my niece and nephew grow up. I love the pretty constant 70 degree weather with sunny skies, walking on the ocean every day, the incredible shellfish, and the extremely affordable health care!

There are also a number of things we’re looking forward to in the US.  My dad and stepmother are less than 15 minutes away from us and Ellie is looking forward to the weekly dinners they used to have. She’s also incredibly excited to be back with her long-time friends, get her driver’s license, and get a job. Ellie’s never been to Mexico, so we’re looking at a beach vacation sometime before she graduates. I can’t wait to get back to my friends, family, and also my community. I look forward to driving without anxiety, running more than one appliance at a time without blowing a fuse, not having to use a VPN, and grocery stores with so many options! Tom is most excited for the taco truck he has missed and the craft beer store where he meets his friends.

I’m also looking forward to language learning.  My Portuguese lessons challenged me in a way that I really enjoyed. Though I don’t plan to continue Portuguese, I am going to start learning Spanish.

The most significant things I’ve learned through this experience are more around how I want to approach life than anything else. When we first moved, our goal was to stay five years and apply for citizenship. Being open to possibilities allowed us to explore and pursue a path that was not aligned with that goal.  Since I’m a big planner and goal oriented, being open to different options is something that is difficult for me. Exploring, pursuing, and being excited about a path that is different from our original goal helped me learn the real value in being open to possibilities.

More than anything else, moving abroad has made me really see the world as a place that is open to us (well, except during a global pandemic). Moving abroad as a family is no joke. It’s a lot of work, logistics, and bureaucratic hoops. And we’ve done it now. Twice.  I have no doubt that if we want to do it again down the road that we can and we will.  It’s this confidence, this identification as a citizen of the world, that our students living abroad obtain as well. And it’s really an incredible feeling!

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Covid Progress in Europe: Things are Looking Better

After a long year and a half, Europe is really turning a corner!  Progress against Covid in Europe is on the rise. It has been very interesting to experience the difference in news reporting here.  I saw a lot of articles in the European/Portuguese press earlier in the year, when it became clear that the EU really messed up with their strategy around placing orders for vaccines, but then the news around vaccines was quiet until information about the projected vaccination rollouts began. Since we are used to a more “editorial” approach to the news, Tom and I were baffled by this. This was exacerbated but the fact that throughout the quiet stage, we were still reading article after article in American news sources about how horrible Europe was doing in the fight against Covid.

Covid progress in Europe I still have not really figured it out, but it seems like a mix of moving on from old news and trust that the government has a duty of care of their citizens. You could find few who disagree with the fact that the EU did not place their orders in a timely manner, however once a plan was in place, it was like the mindset was that there was not a reason to harp on the fact that it was not done earlier.  And many people seem to basically take the government at their word that they would formulate a plan for vaccinations. Perhaps it is easier to believe this given the approach used in most of Europe around accessing health care.

I, however, am a little less trusting so I dug into the numbers back in April.  I found that Portugal, and most of the EU, was basically 2 months behind the US and that our vaccination numbers were progressing accordingly.  The Portuguese news publication I read has a vaccination tracker at the top of the page and each day I see it going up about 1%, and it is starting to move even more quickly.  In fact, as I write this , 18.9% of adults in the EU/EEA are fully vaccinated, and 42.8% have had at least one shot. The EU maintains that the 70% inoculation rate should be achieved by mid-July.

We are seeing this on our lives too. Tom has already received his first vaccine.  Even more notable, my 27-year-old brother who lives in Berlin has his first shot scheduled for next week! I would likely get mine by the end of June, but the kids and I are spending time in North Carolina this summer and will all get vaccinated then.

Going through this experience as a first-year expat has been hard. It is difficult to know which struggles are related to being an expat, which are specific to Portugal, or which are C Covid progress in Europe ovid related. I have decided not to make any judgements about what expat life is like, or what living in Portugal is like, until we have a year of normalcy. Even as a middle-aged woman, I must remind myself to keep this perspective!   But do you know what is incredible? How our first-year students have thrived, despite the circumstances! Check out what just a couple of parents of first year students had to say in our member Facebook group.

Fall of 2021 is looking good for students in Europe. In the Netherlands, for instance, students have access to free rapid tests and can now sign up for classes on campus (with limited capacity of course).   The Dutch government has even insured providers of big events like concerts, festivals and sporting events that will take place between July 1-December 30th and will reimburse 80% of the costs if these events are cancelled due to covid. For a skeptic like me, that makes me feel more confident in the return to normalcy for the fall!  I have planned trips as well for later in the summer and plan to go to Switzerland and Ireland. I am having a great time figuring out all the schools I will visit throughout the next year as well!

To celebrate the light at the end of the tunnel, we have a very special offer this month!  For June only, we are rolling back membership and best fit list prices to pre-covid rates!  The membership option is for new members only (master’s or bachelor’s), and will allow you to lock you in the duration of your membership at the lower rate!  All members can take advantage of our Best Fit pre-Covid rate and pay just $300 to get information about 3-5 programs, handpicked by me, that align with the student’s interests, qualifications, budget, and more!  Knock on wood, we will not live through another pandemic in our lifetimes, so I do not anticipate offering a special like this in the future!  Cheers to a future full of international opportunities!

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Travel Experiences as a Student in Europe

This week’s post is written by one of our student ambassadors. Sam (yes, that Sam…) is from North Carolina is a student at Erasmus University Rotterdam.

 

Travel opportunities played a significant role in my decision to go to college in Europe. My family made international travel a priority ever since I was about six years old. One of my favorite trips was visiting my uncle in Istanbul when I was 13. I was able to see what it’s like to actually live in another country, as opposed to the less authentic experience of a tourist. This trip made me realize that I wanted to, at some point, live outside of the US. I had a similar realization when I did a summer language program in Morocco. I lived with a Moroccan family and got to experience the local culture firsthand. When I learned that I could go to college in Europe, where I could live in another country AND easily travel to so many places, I knew it was what I wanted to do. 

I moved to the Netherlands in 2019  and the ease of travel compared to the US is unbelievable! I can travel to many places by train, which is so much more comfortable and easy than flying! When I do need to fly, it’s not hard to find cheap airline tickets, which has made it easy to take long weekend trips with friends. Before COVID, I went to Morocco with some friends and the ticket was only 80 euros round trip and the expenses of the trip were half of that! I’ve also been to Portugal many times to visit family, and I spent about a week in Prague. Over the summer, my friends and I spent a week hiking and camping a route on the Camino de Santiago, from Portugal to Spain. Further, the Netherlands is so small that I have been able to visit different cities in the country as well.

Obviously, COVID has put a stop to all of my other travel plans for the time being, but I have many more planned for when things are back to normal. If travel is open again, I will be taking a week long bike trip through Bavaria over spring break and plan to visit friends in Spain, France, and Germany over the summer. Of course, I will visit my family in Portugal and perhaps another hike will be planned as well! I will also be taking trips to visit schools as a student ambassador for Beyond the States. The bottom line is if you like to travel and experience the world for yourself, college in Europe is something you should explore.

 

 

 

 

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Get STEM Degree Through College in Europe

We recently received an email from a college senior who was about to graduate with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from a school in North America. His internship in Europe had ended abruptly due to Covid. After two previous internships, he was unsure about whether the engineering field was for him or if he should get a graduate degree. This email sparked curiosity on my part to explore the STEM fields in our database and I was astounded by what I found. 

First, what is STEM? The STEM fields are science, technology, engineering, and math. The science refers to the physical sciences like chemistry and biology, as opposed to the social sciences.  

Here are a few quick facts that caught my attention:

According to data from the IEE, of the US college students who study abroad, the largest cohort of students, a full 25%, study in a STEM field. 

Of the 2,038 bachelor’s degree programs in the Beyond the States database, 33% or 665 are in STEM fields. In our master’s database, 38% of the programs are STEM. 

Cost is another major benefit of this area of study because the average annual tuition is just 6,751 EUR for a bachelor’s degree and just 6,642 for master’s annual tuition. 

Starting salaries for STEM jobs are among the highest for new grads, so taking advantage of the 3 year programs available in Europe coupled with the lower tuition costs mean that STEM grads can enter the workforce a year sooner and with much less college debt.

97% of study abroad students found employment within 12 months of graduation, while only 49% of overall college graduates found employment in the same period last year, according to IES. 

For those of us who are parents of prospective students, the STEM field appears drastically different than when we were studying! Back in the 80’s, many of these technologies didn’t really exist, but have since exploded. Whether you’re a student yourself, with vast knowledge of the possibilities, or a parent who feels like all this STEM stuff is a foreign language, today’s post can help!  We will look at some of the different types of STEM degrees in Europe, for both master’s and bachelor’s degree students.

Data Science/Data Engineering: Over the past few years, businesses of all sizes are in a mad rush to mine and refine all the data that they are generating, which is proliferating like never before. The massive data boom has dramatically transformed the way people do business, and companies are constantly trying to figure out innovative ways to use the Big Data explosion to their advantage. This is driving a huge demand for experts in how to use all that data, data scientists and data engineers. The Beyond the States database has 40 bachelors programs and 158 masters in this field. 

One example is the Mathematical Engineering bachelor’s program in Data Science at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona. At just 9,541 EUR, tuition is affordable. Barcelona is incredibly easy to get around, has a fantastic food scene, and great weather with 300 days of sunshine a year.

Robotics/Mechatronics: Mechatronics is an interdisciplinary branch of engineering that focuses on the engineering of electronic, electrical, and mechanical systems. The Beyond the States database has specific area of study search field for Mechatronics and Robotics, so it’s easy to navigate. It contains 23 bachelors and 64 masters degrees.  

An example of an interesting graduate program is the Master in Robotics, Systems, & Control at University of Zurich (ETH Zurich). This program joins the disciplines of mechanical and electrical engineering with computer science. ETH Zurich is one of the top tech schools in Europe and has a highly competitive admissions process, boasting 12 Nobel laureates including Albert Einstein. The school is highly international with 40% of the student body coming from outside Switzerland. Tuition: 1,350 EUR for 1.5 year program.

Cryptocurrency: Cryptocurrency and the associated technology of blockchain as well as fintech are domains of high level math. There are 4 masters programs in this area. If this is really your area of interest at the bachelor’s level, then getting a degree in mathematics would be a good start. 

Network Architect: Are you familiar with the internet? The network architect’s job is to design the networks that have become an increasingly vital part of our lives. Since these networks are generally a legacy of the telecommunications infrastructure, learning about telecommunications would be useful. We have 11 bachelors programs and 23 masters programs in this area.

Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning/Deep Learning: This field has a number of names, but I see it as all about teaching computers to simulate thought. Our database contains 12 bachelors and 48 masters programs in this area.

Cyber Security: Jenn often highlights the Cyber Security program at Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia. The three year program at TUT costs just 6,000 EUR per year and cyber security talent is in very high demand. It is one of 3 bachelor’s programs in Cyber Security. There are 36 graduate programs as well.

Internet of Things (IoT): First, let’s define the term. According to wikipedia, the Internet of Things (IoT)describes the network of physical objects—“things”—that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the Internet.” There is not really a degree specifically for IoT at this point. I looked at open engineering roles at one company in the IoT space, Real-Time Innovations (RTI). They’re looking for engineers with computer science degrees who have coursework in experience in programming, networks, distributed systems, and autonomous vehicles. Our database has 3 bachelors programs and 12 masters programs. Here’s a tip: search the Title field contains the term internet. If you search IoT, the search will pick up biotechnology, semiotics, and other programs you don’t want. 

Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality (VR/AR): According to tech news site, the Information,  Facebook now has 20% of it’s employees working on VR/AR projects currently, which says this tech area is poised for rapid growth. The database has 14 programs that cover VR/AR.

If you’re unsure of your exact area of tech interest, look for a survey program like the one at  VIA University College in Denmark (14,800 EUR) called Software Technology Engineering. In 3.5 years, the student learns programming, computer networks, Internet-of-things (IoT), game design, web design, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), database technology, big data, and cloud computing. As part of this program, the student develops professional and personal skills in information technology as well as gain qualifications for further studies at Master’s level.

In the final analysis, technology continues to drive productivity forward in the global economy. If technology is your area of passion, getting a STEM degree in Europe will position you for long term success, while maximizing your travel opportunity.

 

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Student Ambassador Experience-Andrea in Utrecht

This week we hear from another one of our student ambassadors!  Andrea is from Andover Massachusetts and is in her first year of the liberal arts program at Utrecht University.
Read on to learn more about her experience.

My decision to attend college in Europe was made in my senior year of high school in Andover, Massachusetts, where I have lived almost all my life. Growing up in this suburbia, I was comfortable with the way things were and generally thought I would continue to live in the same area for my college years as well. However, after being exposed to BTS through a family friend, I began growing curious of what other opportunities could be out there for me.

I ended up applying to universities in the Netherlands and Czechia, and am currently in my second semester at University College Utrecht, one of the few liberal arts colleges in the Netherlands. This liberal arts curriculum allows me to explore my interests and combine them to create a unique degree. The courses are split up in three sections: Sciences, Social Sciences, and Humanities. There are no GenEd requirements, except that you must try out at least one class in each of the disciplines in your first year. The program is three years instead of the four years I would be taking in the US, but don’t let that fool you, it is shorter but the course load and curriculum is equally difficult if not harder than that at US schools. At the end of my second year, I have to choose a discipline to major in, within which I have to finish “tracks” or a series of courses in a certain subject to graduate. I am leaning towards taking an Interdisciplinary Major by combining the Social Sciences and Humanities.

My classes have been enriching and interesting, as I have been able to learn about historical events and methods of thinking through a completely different perspective. I have been able to recognize some of the biases or misconceptions I may have as a result of growing up in one area for so long. The classes are also relatively small at UCU, so a close connection with the professor is possible in case I ever need help or have specific questions.

The application process for UCU was similar to that of schools in the US, except that I needed to turn in my AP scores. This added a bit of stress to the process, but I also applied to other universities and university colleges in the Netherlands. The universities here have a set of requirements that if you meet, your acceptance is almost guaranteed, which definitely gave me an added sense of security as I was applying.

The decision to move across the Atlantic to pursue a higher education proved to be worth it. Not only will I graduate without student loans, but I also will receive a degree unique from many other of my peers in the US. The friends I have made here have also helped me grow, and learning about their experiences across the globe has greatly enriched my day-to-day life.

 

 

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Great Options for Studying Abroad

This will be our first Thanksgiving with Jenn in several years. Perhaps it was one too many years of dry turkey and runny mashed potatoes at my family’s place in downstate Illinois that soured her on the holiday… I think the real reason she’s spent the last 5 Thanksgivings visiting schools is because it’s such a great week to travel internationally. The international terminals of the airports are empty, since most US travelers are travelling domestically. International air fares are generally reasonable at this time, as well. It’s a better time than summer, since you can get a feel for school and city with students around. You may also be able to audit a class. since they’re in session.

It’s looking likely that the ’21 – ‘22 school year will have some resemblance to normalcy, so that may be when Jenn and Ellie do most of Ellie’s school visits too. It will be after Ellie has applied but will help her firm up her top choices. One aspect Ellie has been evaluating are the options for studying abroad offered by the different schools.

We’ve met so many students who went to a US university intent on studying abroad but were unable to due to high costs and/or logistical challenges.  Since the European Commission has goals around internationalization, there are options and programs, such as Erasmus+, offered through the EU and the universities to make studying abroad more feasible and affordable for students attending college in Europe.

The first option we’ll explore is when time abroad is part of the program. In this example, courses are held at different campuses with the students moving to them on a schedule in groups.

ESCP Europe’s Bachelor of Management is a 3 year program spent in 3 different countries. All students start in London for the first year. The second year students choose between Paris, Madrid, or Turin (though Turin is the only campus that offers the program entirely in English). Students meet back in Berlin to finish the program for their third year.

For master’s programs, the Erasmus Mundus programs are a great place to start looking at “built in” study abroad. Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree (EMJMD), is an integrated, international study program, where students study at more than one university location. The Beyond the States database lists 153 programs across many different areas featuring multiple campuses (to find them search under the Erasmus Mundus General Area of Study field). Some Erasmus Mundus programs include internships as well.

For example, this Master of Science in Viticulture and Enology has a first year in Montpellier, France, then students study at a partner school in places like Lisbon, Milan, Madrid, or Turin, Italy, based on the student’s interest in winemaking or in the wine business.

Another approach for studying abroad is to become an exchange student. As an exchange student, you can study abroad for one semester (sometimes more) at one of your faculty’s partner universities. The first step to check your faculty or International Office to see what’s available.

The advantages of the exchange student route are that many practical matters have already been dealt with (e.g. exemption from local tuition fees, recognition of credits, and sometimes even accommodation). The disadvantage of an exchange is that your choices are limited to the current partner universities.

For example, if you were a bachelor’s student at Erasmus University Rotterdam in the area of School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, you‘d have 71 different options to choose from ranging from James Cook University on the north coast of Australia to Western Washington University in Washington state in the US. Master’s students in the same faculty, the Department of Public Policy, have 8 options ranging from KU Leuven in Belgium to University of Geneva in Switzerland.

. Erasmus+ provides bachelor’s and master’s degree students the opportunity to study abroad in Europe for three to 12 months. You can take part in study abroad at any time during your degree after your first year although it will depend on the structure of your degree and the arrangements your university has with its partners.

This all sounds expensive for US students. Is it? No, that’s the best part! In general, the student continues to pay tuition at their home school only and doesn’t pay additional tuition to the second school.  Further, when participating in an Erasmus + program, there are opportunities to apply for stipends and grants.

Internships are another great way to get international exposure, not to mention professional experience! Like studying abroad, these can often be done through your university or Erasmus +. Erasmus+ has a page of internships here. Many universities have mandatory internships with an opportunity to complete them abroad. Additionally, universities often have partnerships with multinational companies such as at Copenhagen Business School.

We often have students come to us and saying they must study in France, Italy, or even these days, Prague. The tremendous study abroad opportunities are one reason we encourage students not to have tunnel vision on one European destination for their main program. They will have the opportunity to design their own plan to spend time in their dream destination, even if not for their full degree because of these extensive studies abroad options.

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How Does the Travel Ban Affect Students?

I know there are a lot of questions about the travel ban and, because I want to be super careful not to provide inaccurate information, I can’t speak to many of the specifics. There are a few things I DO know for sure. First off, the ban does not apply to students.  Secondly, and related to the first point, is that the ban is based on country of residence as opposed to citizenship.  International students have student residence permits from a European country which exempts them from the ban.  We had a member fly back from the US to the Netherlands last week using her residence permit, after the travel ban was put into place.  Sam flew here to meet us in Portugal this week, also using his student residence card. Students who have their residence card should not have a problem being able to board and getting through border control.

Then we have students who have been accepted for the fall.  The issue they have is that residency permits are almost always issued after arriving in the country. Even though it’s in process, they don’t have the physical card in their hands yet.  I’d like to go through a few suggestions for the students in this boat.

First and foremost, do not bank on the information you see on facebook. I’ve mentioned before about the well intentioned misinformation I’ve seen in many groups. I saw many things stated as fact even before the travel ban was officially announced!  There is someone who even posted in the comments of one of our facebook ads that her “good friend’s son has just been advised that his university in the Netherlands is not accepting him due to Covid-19 reasons”. Though I found this hard to believe, you can be sure that I immediately reached out to my Dutch administrators group who all assured me that they are NOT rescinding acceptances due to nationality!  It’s just that there A LOT of people saying things that aren’t true or are misleading.

The fact is, specifics will change depending on the country you are traveling to. The advice of someone who has a student going to France, for instance, may not apply to your student who will attend in Finland. Your first point of contact should be the school.  Usually you will already have someone, or at least a department, who has been working on your residence permit. Find out from them what they can issue you to show at the airport and border control proofing that you are a student and that your residence permit is in process. Then ask for a contact at the immigration department (of the country) to see if they can issue documentation. Ask the immigration office for confirmation (preferably written so you can print it up and take it) that what your documentation will suffice.

You may also be able to find information on the country’s website.  For instance, if you look here, you can see that students are listed separately from people who have a residence permit. This implies that already having the residence permit is not required. It also talks about documentation that can be presented at the border and information about who to contact if your documentation is not accepted. Now, it is very true that not every country hasp public information that is this thorough, so well organized, or is even translated so some digging might be required. Ideally, your university could point you to this information and the google translate extension can be a life saver when trying to work through non English documentation!

This brings you to the airport where you and your student arrive with all the necessary documentation. Can you imagine how difficult it must be to work for airports or airlines right now?  You may get in the line of someone who has had an exceptionally bad day or maybe someone who hasn’t yet dealt with this issue.  If you get push back after showing your documentation, ask for a supervisor.  It could also help to research whether your particular airline has a department that handles these type of issues so that, if the supervisor pushes back, you have a next step. There IS someone who can help, if you are in the right and it will be less stressful to figure out who this person is before you arrive.

So, you get your student on the plane but perhaps you are worried about border control on the other side.  One of our retained an immigration attorney in Prague when her daughter flew back, just in case there were any problems. If you are having trouble figuring out the documentation information you need to board, it’s possible that an immigration attorney (in the country your student is traveling to) could help you with that as well.  Here in Portugal, we worked with an immigration specialist (not an attorney but someone who knows the system backwards and forwards) and it’s been worth every penny and more. You can join facebook expat groups for the particularly city or country your student will be moving to and ask for recommendations.

If the current travel ban is still in place in August, you won’t be able to travel with your student. Don’t worry!  Parents dropping off their students isn’t the norm like it is here in the US.  I followed the lead from one of our members last year. Her son (who started a year earlier than Sam) went to school on his own. She made sure he had all the information he needed about tasks that needed to be accomplished, resources to use, and she followed up to make sure he was on top of the particularly important ones. Universities often have resources in place to help with much of this anyhow. Doing this on his own gave Sam a level of confidence and independence which helped him through the year.

If your student is going to a country that requires a quarantine, the first thing I would do is to see if a negative test would change the requirement. Some airports, like Prague and Frankfurt are offering instant tests in the airport (for a fee). I understand that more will be opening in the coming weeks and months. The next step would be to contact the school and student residence around this to see if there are suggestions or resources for new students who have to quarantine. I would also check our member group to see if another student is going there who wants to coordinate travel and quarantine together. Finally, if you have to send your student early to deal with a quarantine, have a plan in place ahead of time.  Of course, you will make plans for where they will stay (if the student residences aren’t a possibility). Find the grocery stores that offer delivery and set up an account ahead of time.  See if you can set up an order be delivered shortly after arrival and pack non-perishable food to get them through until the delivery time.  If they will be in the student residences, make plans to take a router or have it delivered on day one (if they aren’t provided). Set up an uber eats account with the quarantine address ahead of time and look at the options. Most universities, programs, and student residences have facebook and what’s app groups to join.  This will allow students to start meeting people virtually.  It won’t be fun, but at least they can get over the jet lag before their life really gets started in 14 days!

Some families are worried about the impact this will have on the first year experience.  I totally understand that concern! However, given that Covid is everywhere, life is going to be affected no matter where you are!  I’ve said before that making an international move in the midst of a worldwide pandemic was not ideal for us, but since we’ve never moved internationally before we really don’t have a frame of reference. I don’t know what was harder than it would have been without the pandemic. The same applies for students. They will have a first year experience and it will be different than students in the past, but they will still get the information that is needed and meet other people. Since they don’t have the frame of reference from previous years, they won’t necessarily feel like they are missing out.

Honestly, the overall climate around this is just so much different here and I think the students will feel that. I know I’m generalizing, but I’ve heard this from people in other European countries  too. There’s less doom and gloom and much less hostility and divisiveness around it.  Yes, we have teens who irresponsibly have large gatherings and cause an outbreak, but we don’t have people refusing to talk to contract tracers until issued until issued with subpoenas. And nobody is breaking arms over being told by a store employee to wear a mask. I’ve heard that there is more of a concern for the common good than an every man for himself mentality.  Most (again, but not all) people are following recommendations and taking precautions but moving forward with their lives as much as possible.

I’m in a similar boat as many of you, in that I’m unable to leave the country until I have my residence permit. Due to covid, my original appointment was cancelled and I don’t have a new date yet. For now, its exciting exploring this new country we are living in, but I am dreaming about all the places I want to travel!  For those of you with students in Europe, you will be able to visit them again. For those of you exploring the options, this will likely be resolved well before fall of 2021. Until then, our services and our BTS community can serve as your supports and resources!