Students planning on studying abroad in spring 2021 are awaiting a decision from the Office of International Programs (OIP) about whether it will hold its expected programs. Nick Gozik, the director of OIP, said that a decision is expected to be made in “mid-Fall.”
Gozik told The Heights in an email that some spring programs have already been canceled by partner institutions and external programs, but BC has not made the final decision on the rest of its spring abroad programs.
Other schools such as Harvard University, Brown University, and Princeton University canceled their Spring 2021 study abroad programs in early October, citing the ever-changing nature of COVID-19 and the increased likelihood of its spread with travel.
Catherine Hoff, MCAS ’22, told The Heights that she would definitely go abroad if her spring program does not get canceled. Hoff is supposed to study in Quito, Ecuador next semester, and she said that the experience would be invaluable for her minor in Hispanic Studies. At the same time, Hoff said that OIP could have done more in terms of communication and transparency with students.
“In general with COVID, I think BC could be more transparent,” Hoff said. “But especially when leases and housing depend on what people are doing, I think a little bit more transparency and openness would be appreciated.”
The CDC has many destinations for spring study abroad students—including all of Europe—listed at a level three risk assessment level, the highest risk assessment level the CDC has.
Given the number of students and departments on campus that will be affected by the decision, various offices and departments beyond OIP will be involved in the decision-making process, Gozik told The Heights in an email.
“Within the decision-making process, the OIP will be collecting information and providing recommendations, based on reports from peer universities, national and international health agencies, and the U.S. Department of State,” Gozik said.
Gozik emphasized the importance of keeping students, their families, and community members in other countries safe, and noted that many decisions that are not up to the University due to travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines.
“We are monitoring immigration regulations,” Gozik told The Heights. “Many countries are not permitting U.S. citizens to enter, due to the high rates of COVID-19 here, and in other cases students may be permitted to enter yet they would be subjected to a quarantine upon arrival. A quarantine could be quite stressful and isolating for students just arriving in a new country, and would want to prevent that as much as possible.”
If spring study abroad programs were to be suspended, students will not be charged any withdrawal fee, Gozik said.
Gozik told The Heights that students have been advised not to make any travel arrangements until a final decision has been made. Therefore, BC will not be refunding any travel related expenses.
Quinn Welsh, MCAS ’22, is scheduled to study in Madrid, Spain next semester. Welsh echoed Hoff’s criticism about OIP’s communication and expressed hesitation about going abroad during a global pandemic.
“Honestly I’m not really sure where I stand at the moment,” Welsh said. “I think I will go if it’s not canceled but Madrid is literally in a state of emergency, so it’s going to depend on how things look when we get closer to that point.”
In the event that spring 2021 study abroad programs do take place, as currently planned, the University and partner schools will put special precautions in place to protect students.
“We will be amending our pre-departure sessions and providing additional information to address COVID-19,” Gozik said. “Onsite, each program is different based on the regulations of the respective country and city. All are looking closely at housing, classrooms, and excursions to minimize risk.”
Gozik noted that study abroad experience will not be the same as students may be expecting. If students are going to have the opportunity to study abroad, BC will have to take significant measures to ensure student safety.
“They will have to follow local health regulations, such as around masking and social distancing, as is the case in the U.S.,” Gozik said in the email to The Heights. “Moreover, travel between and within countries may be significantly restricted. The experience will look and feel different than what students might have initially imagined; we want to be honest and transparent about these realities, so that students are best prepared.”
OIP suspended all Spring 2020 study abroad programs in the middle of the spring semester during the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and then canceled all Fall 2020 study abroad programs in June. OIP additionally suspended Summer 2020 study abroad programs in March, shortly after the University moved online for the remainder of the semester.
In a recent email to students who applied to study abroad for Summer 2020, OIP informed those students that they will receive priority for Summer 2021 programs.
Featured Image by Maggie DiPatri / Heights Editor