Study Abroad Programs reopen

Programs scheduled to resume after the year-long closure due to the pandemic

Mary Bruggeman, Staff Writer

View of Eiffel Tower at night from below. (Courtesy of Maddy Knapp)

Study Abroad Programs were forced to close last spring, but the COVID-19 vaccine has made it possible for faculty-led and partner programs to take place this fall and in 2022.

The faculty-led international business program scheduled to go to Rome, Prague and Paris was canceled two weeks before departure last spring. The students were refunded for the program, but SPU’s Study Abroad Manager Annie Gray said it was still really disappointing for everyone involved. Later, programs going to several different countries, including Japan, New Zealand, and India, were also canceled before they could leave in the summer and fall of 2020.

“At that point COVID was still pretty new for everyone,” Gray said. “We didn’t really have a trust in them (the overseas companies the University partners with) at that point that they knew how to handle the situation and could ensure that our students would be safe. We made the decision along with SPU Risk Management to cancel all the programs.”

Faculty-led programs are two to four weeks and are led by at least one professor. Students earn credits for one course and pay a separate fee for these programs. Partner programs are semester-long courses done through third-party schools abroad. Students pay SPU tuition and an additional fee, the amount depending on the program.

Gray highlights that both time and money are not at risk by filling out an application. If a program gets cancelled, students may transfer their application for that program to the following year. There is an application fee to apply as well as an administration fee once the student is accepted into the program. Both of these fees prior to COVID-19 would not have been refundable, but now because of the uncertainty of the pandemic, if the program is cancelled by SPU they will be fully refunded.

Louvre Museum in Paris, France. (Courtesy of Maddy Knapp)

“Some students have that opportunity [to transfer their application for the next year if this year’s trip is canceled] because they’re at the start of their college career. Other students, they want to try for it because this might be their last chance,” explained Gray.
Students who apply will know by May 5 whether the program will happen or not. The deadline allows enough time for students to still get their classes in order for the fall quarter should a program be canceled.

The ability to go on the program depends on the ever-changing regulations of the country the student will be visiting. Gray highlighted that some other schools were sending students abroad all through the pandemic. If other schools were doing it already, she believes it is entirely feasible for SPU to do study abroad as well.

Gray is trying to help students navigate several uncertainties with the programs. Some countries may be closing their borders and others have mandatory quarantines that would interfere with the itinerary.

The program going to New Zealand was cancelled because of the country’s decision to close its borders in March.

Outside view of Notre Dame. (Courtesy of Maddy Knapp)

There is also a program scheduled to go to South Korea this coming fall but there is a mandatory two-week quarantine for anyone going into the country right now. Gray explains that since the program itself is only three and a half weeks, a two-week quarantine would make it difficult to carry out the program.

“The study abroad experience is an amazing opportunity for students to grow personally and professionally,” states psychology professor and faculty leader of the trip to South Korea, Professor Paul Kim. “We are optimistic about the program going, but we also realize the reality of the situation – there are factors beyond our control due to the pandemic – and are being as transparent as possible with the students who are interested in the program.”

Gray recognizes that there are a lot of new anxieties with studying abroad this year. Parents and students were already nervous without the pandemic, especially if it was the student’s first time overseas. Nevertheless, she hopes students will get excited about the opportunity to go abroad.

As the pandemic continues far longer than many had anticipated last year, faculty are adjusting with caution to the new way the study abroad programs must be carried out and hope students will choose to participate.