In the light of uncertainty due to the global pandemic, colleges and universities across the United States have called off events and programs that involve international travel for the rest of spring semester and all summer sessions. Some institutions are going even further to suspend study abroad programs scheduled for this fall.
Trinity University in Antonio, Texas, announced last week that this fall semester’s study abroad programs, including those in Spain, Mexico, and South Africa, will not proceed as planned. Students looking to participate in programs abroad will now have to register for housing and schedule their courses.
“We never, ever send a student to a place that we have any worries regarding safety,” Katsuo Nishikawa, director of Trinity’s Center for International Engagement, told student newspaper Trinitonian. Nishikawa said the shutdown of consular services around the world also prevents some students from applying for necessary travel documents.
Similarly, Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, told its students last week that it has made the “difficult and disappointing” decision to cancel fall study abroad programs based on “health and safety concerns associated with global and domestic travel and the uncertainty of conditions in various countries abroad.”
In Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh also announced it canceled all fall and full-year study abroad programs for upcoming semesters. Over the past months, the university had students studying in Italy, Japan, and South Korea, return to the United States before directing students in France, Germany, and Spain to also depart from their programs early and come home.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has yet to directly address fall programs, but it has advised schools and students to exercise caution.
“The COVID-19 situation is dynamic. Given the speed of spread and the number of countries experiencing community transmission, Institutes of Higher Education (IHEs) should evaluate the risks associated with choosing to maintain programs abroad and take the appropriate proactive measures,” the CDC said in a directive in early March. “IHEs that continue to maintain programs abroad should monitor COVID-19 for additional information.”
The U.S. Department of State, however, has warned citizens that decide to stay abroad that they may have trouble returning to the United States when or if they need to.
“There is no guarantee that the Department of State will be able to continue to provide repatriation assistance and transportation options to the United States may be unavailable in the future,” the foreign affairs agency said in a travel advisory. “If you choose to remain overseas, you should be prepared to remain where you are for the foreseeable future.”