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Study abroad: what to expect for the start of the 2021 academic year?

Despite the health crisis, international mobility should continue to take place from the start of the next school year. If Europe still appears to be the safest solution, other possibilities seem possible. Recap.

What international mobility will be possible next year? In higher education establishments, the time is still for the greatest caution in this area, but also for the beginning of hope. “It won’t be like before the Covid, but it will already be better than this year“, projects Omar Elmazria, director of international relations at the Polytech Nancy engineering school. “We are all waiting, there are still many uncertainties. What will be decisive is the evolution of the pandemic and vaccination“, also underlines Jocelyne Brendlé, president of the international and development commission of the Conference of directors of engineering schools (CDEFI). Despite the lack of health visibility, mobility is being prepared and assignments are in progress, or even already closed. in some cases.

Because overall, institutions have the desire to maintain exchanges as much as possible. For example, Lyon 2 University has chosen “to do not block any mobility. If there is an obstacle, it is up to the host universities or the governments to decide. It is not up to us to give health instructions”, explains James Walker, vice-president in charge of international relations. For its part, the Audencia business school, in Nantes, has established the following principle: “Wherever possible, even if it is complex, we support students“, explains the director of programs, Nicolas Arnaud. Especially since, as in many business schools, but also engineering schools or even at Sciences po Paris, mobility is compulsory in the course.

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International mobility, yes, but with caution

The establishments comply with the recommendations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the health restrictions specific to each country, the decisions of local partners, etc. Case-by-case management, subject to last-minute changes.

The world map of possible destinations therefore appears to be fluctuating. It can also vary from one institution to another, depending on the policy followed and the strength of the link with the foreign partner. : it is better to inquire with each department responsible for international relations. For example, Polytech Nancy advises against Brazil and Argentina, but also Asia, to direct rather towards Europe and Canada. In the United States, the doors are starting to open, thanks to massive vaccination: some universities have announced that they will open face-to-face and welcome foreign students, but others have made the opposite choice. “For North America, we recommend the greatest caution”, indicates Emmanuelle Garnier, president of the commission for international and European relations (CORIE) of the Conference of university presidents (CPU), who invites in all cases to “consider alternative plans”.

Almost everyone agrees that departures to India and Brazilor even all of South America, are currently very difficult to plan, given the health chaos. In Asia, the situation is mixed: in addition to India and China, which has not reopened its borders, South Korea is able to welcome students. Some countries are also waiting “to see the evolution of the situation in France” to organize themselves, informs Jocelyne Brendlé.

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Europe, safety net

On his side, Europe therefore appears to be a safer option, where mobility is more likely to materialize. “European universities have kept their exchange programs open much more than those in North America or Asia,” underlines Vanessa Scherrer of Sciences po Paris, who has increased the number of places for the Old Continent. “We really promote this local mobility, we play it safe“, also indicates Jocelyne Brendlé.

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Distancing not recommended

Faced with the pitfalls, hybrid or remote mobility also appears to be more obvious. Those who have experienced it this year, from abroad or even sometimes from France, “find value in it”, relates Nicolas Arnaud, from Audencia: “They still have an experience, with different teaching methods, of group work with other nationalities.” Classes all in English also allow you to progress. The school has even developed a distance course offer, as a fallback solution and for those who do not wish to leave. Others are thinking about developing “internationalization at home”, as a complement or preparation for a real exchange.

But generally, the establishments contacted do not recommend the distance formula abroad. “If we do not have guarantees that something will happen on site (courses, cultural activities, etc.), I think that we will block some mobility that is too degraded, indicates James Walker, from Lyon 2. There is no point in going to the other side of the world to find yourself locked in your dorm room.”

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