Study abroad in the spring semester of the 2022-23 academic year will be possible for University of Richmond students, according to the Office of International Education.
The rapid spread of the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus had led some UR students to reconsider their plans regarding study abroad in the near future.
Ellen Sayles, the associate dean and director of education abroad, said she recommended that students wait a little longer to purchase tickets, emphasizing the importance of getting vaccinated to meet entry requirements for certain countries.
“We are advising students more strongly that they should get vaccinated before they go, and we have been advising them all along about health and safety with additional information about Covid-19 and vaccine requirements abroad, as well,” Sayles said.
The OIE will advise students to purchase their tickets a month prior to departure. This measure will help the office better monitor the global situation in the locations that students can travel to before sending them abroad.
Though the possibility of traveling abroad seems more likely than last year, there are some programs that have not opened up to students because of regional safety regarding COVID-19 infection rates.
“We are sending many of our students to western Europe, and we also have students going to other places, such as South Korea. We are not sending students to Australia or New Zealand because those countries aren’t open, and they aren’t accepting incoming visitors or students,” Sayles said.
The office provided UR students with an updated list of the programs available for next semester under the first question in its FAQs webpage.
In addition to COVID-19 concerns and restrictions, delays in passport renewals and visa applications could also occur. In such cases, the OIE advises students to start the process as early as possible.
“For most countries, in the visa process, the students have to take care of that themselves with some guidance and assistance from us in terms of documents that support their applications,” Sayles said. “If the student is having difficulty and concerns about the timing, we do reach out to embassies or consulates to ask if they can expedite the process, but we can’t promise that our reaching out will help. We try to support the student application in as many ways as possible.”
Despite the uncertainty regarding international travel during 2021, the OIE was able to successfully run two programs from July 24 to Aug. 12 -- one in Copenhagen and another in Stockholm.
Both programs were slightly different from previous years, as they involved three weeks of online classes prior to going to the country and just over two weeks of being in those countries. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, summer abroad programs would be in a set location and last anywhere from five to eight weeks.
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“We wanted to give the students an opportunity to travel if they could, but we also knew that we had to have a safety plan in case travel wasn’t possible,” Sayles said.
The Danish Institute for Study Abroad is a partner of the program that provided students with information regarding COVID-19 testing requirements and vaccine requirements and assisted students with any testing that they had to do prior to re-entry to the United States.
Sophomore Dani Valderrama participated in the Copenhagen study abroad program this summer and completed several requirements in order to enter Denmark. These included showing proof of a negative COVID-19 test result and vaccination records to avoid quarantine, she said.
She found her experience to be safe and worthwhile as a result of the strict health measures taken by Denmark, she said.
“I was not worried about COVID in Denmark,” Valderrama said. “They had really low cases and required people to have a corona pass [vaccine proof or negative test proof] before entering any facility, restaurant, bar, or cafe.
“My professor was extremely helpful. He guided us to the testing centers and made sure everyone was comfortable during the trip,” Valderrama added. “I am very happy with my interaction with International Education. They were very helpful throughout the entire process with scholarships and a ton of information on the trip.”
Valderrama feels hopeful about future study abroad programs in the spring semester, she said.
“For my friends who are studying abroad, I hope that they have a wonderful experience,” she said. “I had the time of my life in Copenhagen, and I wish everyone could have an experience like that.”
The OIE is holding a study abroad fair on Sept. 29 at the Forum from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. The event will highlight more than 75 study abroad programs with opportunities for students to talk to program experts, exchange students and advisers from the OIE.
Contact international editor Nicole LlaczaMorazzani at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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