Decision to stay overseas during quarantine turns into business opportunity for student

Nate Anderson is pictured in Australia
Nate Anderson, a senior majoring in marketing, decided to stay in Australia and finish a study abroad program during the spring quarantine. His decision to stay led to a business venture.
Image Credit: courtesy photo

Senior Nate Anderson already has an answer when potential employers ask him about adversity during a job interview.

Anderson, who will graduate in April with a bachelor's degree in marketing, said he will talk about the challenges of spending COVID-19 quarantine in a country 9,000 miles from home. Last spring, Anderson was living in Australia and participating in a study abroad program at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. 

When Australia closed its borders in mid-March, Anderson and other students were one month into their new semester. International students from Switzerland and Norway had long left for their home countries.

"I lost a lot of international friends," Anderson said. "I was staying in an apartment complex of all international students. There were 700 people in February, and it dwindled weekly to about 160."

The Padnos International Center sent emails to Anderson, and other students who were studying abroad, strongly encouraging him to return home. Anderson needed to sign a waiver accepting the risks and stating he understood the university did not support his decision to stay.

"I put my decision in God's hands," he said. "One day I was out walking, listening to a podcast about leadership and about how more people need to step up and make a difference."

Anderson decided to stay and finish the semester at University of the Sunshine Coast. The decision spurred a business venture: Anderson and a team of international friends created bracelets branded with M.A.D. (Make A Difference) on one side and Change One Change Many on the other. 

He said the bracelet serves as a reminder of how positive interactions can brighten someone's mood. The team sold 300 bracelets in two days and raised $1,000 for mental health awareness. He continues the business in Michigan and recently partnered with Hope Network and shares proceeds from bracelet sales with the nonprofit organization.

"I was 9,000 miles from home when COVID-19 hit. I turned a problem into an opportunity to serve and help others," he said.

As study abroad programs remain canceled through the winter 2021 semester, PIC staff members are offering alternatives to international education. 

Michael Vrooman, interim chief international officer, said faculty members are working with international partners to provide students with virtual language and cultural exchanges with peers in Chile, China, France and Germany. The virtual Study Abroad Fair was held last week and other virtual events are planned; visit gvsu.edu/studyabroad to learn more.