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BC Cancels All Fall 2020 Study Abroad Programs

Boston College has canceled all study abroad programs, both internal and external, for the Fall 2020 semester, according to an email from the Office of International Programs sent to students enrolled in fall programs on Friday. 

Students will be given first priority for enrollment in Fall 2021 for the same programs they planned to participate in this coming fall, according to the email. 

The email also directed students to an FAQ page that says students cannot switch directly into a program for Spring 2021 but can request to be placed on a waitlist for a spring program, although the chances that students will move off the waitlists are low. The page says that students cannot defer their semester abroad to the spring term even if their program has said they can do so.

The FAQ page also encouraged students to consider programs for the Summer 2021 term. 

“We certainly wish that we would have had a different decision yet wanted to make sure that you have all of the information as soon as possible, so that you can make alternative plans,” Director of OIP Nick Gozik said in the email.

OIP announced in an email sent to students enrolled in Fall 2020 programs on May 1 that it intended to move forward with scheduled programs, but that it would make a final determination for all programs on a case-by-case basis. The email also announced OIP would alter its normal policies to allow for more flexibility regarding program cancellations and refunds. 

OIP said in Friday’s email that it had postponed making a decision until now with hopes that the situation would change, but current travel restrictions and recommendations against international travel from the U.S. Department of State and Centers for Disease Control led the office to cancel the programs. Increasing cases of the coronavirus in certain parts of the world and the possibility of a “second wave” in places that had already seen improvements were also factors in the decision.

“It has become increasingly difficult to imagine being able to provide you with a truly immersive experience, with many universities unsure of whether they will be able to resume in-person teaching, limits in terms of housing and activities, and strict rules around travel between and within countries,” Gozik said in the email.

Students who withdrew from their programs prior to the cancellation notice will also be given priority for Fall 2021 programs, according to the FAQ. 

Semester abroad programs are typically open to juniors only. The majority of incoming BC students receive three years of guaranteed on-campus housing. The University’s policy is that students with three years must live off-campus their junior year.

The Office of Student Services and the Office of Residential life will contact students enrolled in Fall 2020 programs to assist them in enrolling in on-campus BC courses and to assist them with housing accommodations, the FAQ says.

The FAQ directs students planning on enrolling in Fall 2021 abroad programs to notify their study abroad advisers no later than the Jan. 5 study abroad deadline.

Students who decide to attend a BC or external program on their own must be approved by OIP to transfer credit to BC. Those who choose to do so but are not approved must take a leave of absence from the University, subject to approval by their academic dean. These students cannot transfer credit and will forgo all BC financial aid, scholarships, and grants.

OIP suspended all Spring 2020 programs on March 13, as per CDC recommendations and a travel advisory from the U.S. Department of State, and advised students to return to the United States as soon as possible. All international Summer 2020 faculty-led programs and internships were suspended on March 17. 

In 2018, OIP introduced limits on the number of students who could study abroad in the spring due to an imbalance in the number of students studying abroad in each semester. BC was facing over-enrollment for courses in the fall and under-enrollment in the spring. The Office of Residential Life struggled to make housing accommodations for all students on campus in the fall semester, while in the spring semester many dorm rooms were vacant.

Fifty percent of undergraduate students study abroad during their time at BC, according to the OIP website. Of the 945 students who applied to study abroad this upcoming academic year, 72 percent received their top-choice program in both location and semester. Fifteen percent of students did not receive one of their top six choices, and OIP assigned these students to a program of their choice during the fall semester.

Featured Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

June 12, 2020