NewsLocal News


Florida Gulf Coast University using pandemic technology to expand and grow study abroad program

Posted at 6:00 PM, Nov 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-29 18:00:14-05

FORT MYERS, Fla. — In 2018, things looked very different for Florida Gulf Coast University’s study abroad program

Matt Ryan, the Assistant Director of Global Engagement at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) says their last "normal year" for study abroad was the 2018-2019 school year.

“In total, we had about 240 students during that year study abroad,” said Ryan.

Due to travel restrictions caused by the pandemic, the Eagles had to cancel many of their student's plans to study abroad, and by 2019...

“We had a lot less because of the pandemic, maybe between 20 or 30,” said Ryan.

The university’s Global Engagement Office knew they had to find a way around the limits created by COVID-19.

That’s when they started to utilize a program called COIL.

“And that’s Collaborative Online International Learning,” said Ryan.

A program that allows instructors like Jacqueline Salmond to connect with a teacher from another country and combine their classes online to create a cultural experience for students.

“One of the projects that the students worked on during a COIL that I did in the spring of this year and that was in partnership with an institution in Austria and they worked on looking at how they could take ideas from Austria and apply them here in Southwest Florida,” said Salmond.

Now FGCU is on the rebound- telling me they are planning international trips for students scheduled for next summer.

Ryan says they plan to use programs like COIL to help more students realize the benefits of studying abroad.

“And also looking at ways where we can partner with study abroad so that we could have this as a precursor,” said Salmond.

On Monday, FGCU said they are starting to see an increase in students interested in studying abroad,
and unlike in the past where juniors and seniors make up most of the international programs, the buzz this year is coming from their freshman class.

"A lot of them are just kind of assuming it’s going to be an integral part of their undergraduate career," said Ryan.

"And not only could students get to have some sort of understanding of a culture before they go somewhere but also they could make friends,” said Salmond.