Section: News

Amid pandemic, vision for 2021 study abroad remains uncertain

On March 1, the Center for Global Engagement (CGE) announced off-campus study updates for the 2021-22 academic year, informing some students that their applications have to undergo further review. 

According to Marne Ausec, the director of the CGE, the announcement doesn’t mean that those students would not be approved to go abroad. Rather, it meant that their applications failed to show a strong understanding of the program by lacking good rationale and concrete goals. 

The number of students applying for off-campus study this year did not decrease considerably during the COVID-19 pandemic. As per a normal academic year, there are more students looking to go abroad in the spring than the fall. 

The CGE cancelled all study abroad programs for this academic year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Ausec, the decision to shut down the off-campus study program for the whole year was  a lengthy process. “It’s one decision after another,” explained Ausec. 

After closely monitoring the global situation, the CGE decided on March 12 last year to cancel all spring programs and students who were already abroad were instructed to return home. In June, fall 2020 programs were cancelled. Then, in late October, spring 2021 programs were cancelled as well.  

Due to the cancellation of study abroad programs for the 2020-21 academic year, the Department of International Studies is now encouraging juniors within the discipline to pursue off-campus study in their senior year to fulfill their major requirements. Though pursuing off-campus study in senior year is now an option for International Studies (IS) majors (as going abroad is a requirement to graduate with an IS degree), many junior IS students are currently searching for other ways to fulfill the major requirement, as they have already spent a semester studying remotely.

Aaron Lambert ’22, an IS major, is now planning on going to Peru during the summer as an alternative. 

“Most of us don’t really want to have another semester off campus,” Lambert said.  

Keiran Lorentzen ’22, who is double majoring in international studies and music, is currently looking at virtual internships and language study programs to fulfill the major requirement, as his status as a double major will make it difficult for him to go abroad during his senior year. “Because I’m a double major, I’d have [senior exercises] in the fall and spring of senior year,” he explained. 

Lorentzen also expressed concerns about the potential financial burden of doing a summer program as an alternative, and the risks of studying abroad during the ongoing pandemic. 

According to Ausec, the CGE is still closely monitoring the global situation in order to provide helpful guidance to students in the department of international studies and students for the fall semester — even though Ausec believes the semester may still be “a little bumpy,” citing different countries’ travel restrictions, vaccination requirements and border closures. 

So far, the CGE has been informed that the programs in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are closed for the fall. Overall, though, Ausec’s tone was optimistic. “I still worry a little bit, but I do think we are making progress,” she said.

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