After the University of Richmond canceled fall 2020 study abroad programs because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some students held out hope and registered for a spring 2021 semester abroad. Other students who had always planned on going abroad in the spring but are now worried about the new spike in COVID-19 cases around the world influencing their plans.
The Office of International Education updated its Spring Semester 2021 Study Abroad page on Oct. 5, alerting students that it was proceeding with a limited number of countries and programs abroad for the spring semester. The list of available programs, as of Oct. 27, included eight programs in six locations: Denmark, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Ellen Sayles, associate dean and director of education abroad, wrote in an email to The Collegian that the OIE considered information from governmental sources, its on-site partners, insurance providers, travel organizations, peer institutions and the Johns Hopkins and Harvard COVID ratings when making decisions about study abroad programs.
“We also consider[ed] whether or not the country was allowing students from U.S. institutions to enter, what the quarantine policies are, access to quality health care, and whether the institution abroad provides flexible teaching styles (in-person, hybrid, fully remote) and living conditions in order to prepare for possible changing conditions,” Sayles wrote.
Sayles also wrote the OIE would be offering special regional study abroad programs for any international students who are unable or have chosen not to return to the U.S. for the spring semester.
Spring study abroad programs will largely operate as they have in previous semesters with a few exceptions, Sayles wrote.
“Travel outside the host country will be limited or prohibited depending on the regulations in place for the program and/or for entry and exit of the host country,” she wrote. “Some locations will require a 2-week quarantine for students while others require proof of a negative COVID test prior to entering the country.”
Junior Anna Tartline was scheduled to study in the Dominican Republic on a UR-sponsored program this fall, she said. After her program was canceled, she began searching for other places to go, she said.
Now, Tartline plans to study abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico, in the spring with an affiliate, or non-UR-sponsored, program, she said. She applied to the School for International Training's program in Oaxaca and hopes COVID-19 cases are low enough that she will be able to go, she said.
Tartline had to petition to the school and the OIE to study abroad at an affiliate program, she said.
“I’ve researched the safety; I’ve cited books; I’ve gotten approval from my parents, faculty advisors, et cetera,” she said. “I’ve done so much work, and I hope it pays off and things stay where they are so I can go.”
Junior Joy Lim was scheduled to study in South Korea this spring, but she got nervous when fall programs were canceled and more people started applying to her intended program, she said. However South Korea is an exchange program, so they send as many students as they can, which gave Lim a sense of comfort, she said.
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Lim believes she will go to Korea this spring because the country has strict COVID-19 guidelines and has been able to contain the coronavirus pretty well, she said.
“My friend and I already promised each other if we don’t get to go to Korea this spring, we will go in the fall of 2021,” Lim said. “And if that doesn’t work out, I plan on working and living abroad after graduation — so it’s just a matter of when I go.”
Tartline and Lim applied to UR mainly because of its study abroad programs, they both said.
“College isn’t the only time to travel abroad, but for me it’s the best time,” Tartline said. “I know I’ll get to be abroad at some point in the future; it’s just frustrating that I thought it would be during my college years and now that might not be the case.”
Contact international writer Kaitlin Edwardson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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