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University of Delaware celebrates 100 years of study abroad following pandemic-related program changes

A photo taken during a University of Delaware study abroad trip.
Quinn Kirkpatrick
A photo taken during a University of Delaware study abroad trip.

This year, the University of Delaware is celebrating 100 years of global study abroad.

Today UD offers more than 100 programs in 40 countries and despite the pandemic disrupting global travel plans in recent years, the university has responded and adapted its study abroad program to fit post-pandemic needs.

Delaware Public Media’s Quinn Kirkpatrick recently spoke with Matthew Drexler – Director of Study Abroad at UD’s Center for Global Programs and Services – about the changes made to study abroad at UD and its centennial.

Delaware Public Media’s Quinn Kirkpatrick examines the changes made to study abroad at the University of Delaware and its centennial with UD's Study Abroad Director Matthew Drexler

In July 1923 eight University of Delaware juniors sailed for France aboard the Rochambeau.

100 years later, UD is a hub of globally-focused learning. The school now offers more than 100 programs in 40 countries, with over 3,000 international students and scholars living and studying on UD’s campus.

Matthew Drexler is the Director of Study Abroad at UD’s Center for Global Programs and Services. He says among the many benefits of study abroad, students gain more openness to diversity.

“They experience themselves as minorities or outsiders for the first time in their life in many cases,” said Drexler. “And that has a huge impact on building empathy and understanding with others, and being able to communicate across cultures.”

But in March 2020, global learning was jeopardized by the COVID pandemic, forcing about 120 students home during the Spring semester.

Drexler says while the pandemic halted traditional study abroad for a while, it actually helped to increase accessibility in the long run through online learning.

“If there’s one class for their major that they really need to take that semester back here at UD, they may be able to take that online while they take 12 credits abroad and 3 here back at home,” he explained.

UD students once again took to the skies for full-scale, semester-long study abroad trips in Fall 2021. This came with a slate of new protocols that were put together by the UD Risk and Security Assessment Committee to assure students were able to travel safely.

And now in 2023, interest and participation in study abroad is on the rise.

Drexler says that as the UD reflects on 100 years of study abroad, they’d like to share their gratitude for their global partners who helped them build the school’s global presence and keep students safe during the pandemic.

“We couldn’t do this without a network of more than 200 partners and universities around the world who support our study abroad program. So we have a tremendous amount of gratitude for them, and really appreciate all that they’re done for our students on the ground,” said Drexler.

And he adds as UD looks forward to the future, their hope is to help make sure every student has the opportunity to take part in a study abroad trip while at the university.

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Quinn Kirkpatrick was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, and graduated from the University of Delaware. She joined Delaware Public Media in June 2021.