Despite ongoing interruptions to travel, 338 University of Richmond students have applied to go overseas next semester, said Ellen Sayles, the associate dean and director of study abroad.
Some countries remain closed or have recently opened for study-abroad. Australia has decided to re-open its borders for study abroad programs, Sayles confirmed. Japan reduced its quarantine requirement and will also be reopening for study-abroad next fall. New Zealand does not appear to be reopening until the spring of 2023, she said.
“It does feel like travel and study abroad is returning to a more stable situation," Sayles wrote in an email to The Collegian. "I would say that COVID policies and precautions will continue to be in place for the future but that vaccinated individuals will be able to have a more normal study abroad experience as long as they stay vigilant and careful."
First-year Ben Cudmore said he believed that study-abroad remained essential despite the pandemic, especially for UR students.
“Going into another country, you are seeing different ideologies, different politics, a different environment entirely and I think it is very important for people developing their political views, cultural views and views on anything, to go abroad,” Cudmore said.
Cudmore will be attending the Institute for the International Education of Students Theater Studies program in London next fall. He will also be studying at the Palazzo Gallenga Stuart in Perugia, Italy, this summer. He is looking forward to traveling abroad because of recent changes to UR’s pandemic response, he said.
“As a theater person, what really made me uneasy was seeing that we are now no longer requiring masks in the theaters to protect the actors,” Cudmore said. “We test the actors during tech week to make sure that they are not positive, but the audience no longer wears masks … If Broadway, which has the most packed theaters on the East coast, is still requiring masks, it shouldn’t be an exception for us.”
Sophomore Sam Elsakr said that he could worry less about his mother when he goes abroad. Elaskr lives in the Richmond area and sees his mother more frequently than most students at UR, meaning he might one day unknowingly infect her.
“I wouldn’t want her to get [COVID-19],” he said. “She is a worker — she is the only worker in the household — so when she gets COVID and she stops working, we have no financial income coming in, and that’s a lot of pressure on her.”
Elaskr is studying at St. Catherine’s College at Oxford, England, next fall. He will be studying a variety of social sciences, including his major: psychology. Elaskr believes that traveling can be dangerous during the COVID-19 pandemic but he could not pass up a once in a lifetime opportunity, he said.
“Promoting travel in general would mean that there are some people who do have COVID who would go,” he said. “So we should still be taking precautions…We shouldn’t return it back to normal completely, but I think that we can start taking some steps to make travel happen in a safe and precautious way.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated many students’ dreams of studying abroad. Cudmore said that students should still travel if they can.
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“Some students will say that ‘America is the best place in the world. Why would I go anywhere else?’” he said. “But that is a very isolationist ideology, there are all these other cultures and histories that exist. America is a relatively new country in the grand scheme of things … if you have the opportunity to study abroad, that is to your advantage.”
Contact international writer Jack Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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