International education takes on new look as winter study abroad programs are suspended

Globe in Padnos International Center
A globe in the Padnos International Center is pictured; winter semester study abroad programs have been suspended.
Image Credit: Sarah Anderson

Grand Valley's Padnos International Center has suspended study abroad programs for the winter semester due to COVID-19 health and safety concerns.

Michael Vrooman, interim chief international officer, said 38 students had planned to study abroad for the semester, and one faculty-led program had already been canceled. PIC staff members have notified all students and are working with them on alternative education plans.

International education has become more important, he said, during a global pandemic. Over the summer, PIC staff members partnered with faculty members to develop several initiatives like language and cultural exchanges, as well as a virtual exchange with a partner university.

"We are in the midst of a global pandemic that affects us all. To overcome it will require a global response," Vrooman said. "Our goal is to help students develop comprehensive awareness of the global nuances of their chosen areas of study and to help them build a global network of relationships. 

Vrooman said students will need strong intercultural communication skills to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

"Students will need to learn how to build relationships with people from different backgrounds and cultures,” he said.