COVID Maelstrom Grounds Friar Flights: Study Abroad Programs Canceled for Fall 2020
by Kyle Burgess ’21
As the world continues to reel from the devastating impacts of the novel COVID-19 pandemic, students and faculty of Providence College received the latest updates as to how the “new normal” of the 2020-2021 academic year will look. On June 2, Dr. Joseph Stanley, dean of global education at the College, confirmed that all study abroad opportunities for the fall semester had been canceled. This difficult decision came after a month of dialogue (April-May) amongst PC faculty, administrators from other universities in the United States and abroad, the Registrar’s office, the Office of Public Safety, General Counsel, and other PC departments all the while closely following CDC and Department of State recommendations.
“Late on into our discussions, it became clear that advisory levels for international travel were not changing,” Dean Stanley explained. “In addition, foreign consulates were not operating normally here in the U.S. which severely complicates the bureaucratic process of obtaining an international student visa.”
PC’s Center for Global Education had the benefit of already navigating these advisory levels beforehand with its partner abroad centers, and particularly the College’s own PC in Rome program back in March when COVID-19 ravaged parts of Italy and other parts of the world and students were forced to scramble to return home. “The students and their families were amazing to work with during that process,” Stanley added, “especially considering the milestone moment the fields of higher education and education abroad have currently been experiencing.”
Currently, the College plans to allow students to study abroad during this upcoming spring semester and is continuing to monitor developments across the globe. The Center for Global Education has been tasked with examining the impact on regions where students are likely to travel, with some nations such as New Zealand and Denmark opening borders due to dropping infection rates. Students and faculty can expect an update by early October detailing the College’s decision regarding the status of spring 2021 travel opportunities.
Students who saw their fall semester abroad plans canceled have the opportunity to participate during the spring 2021 semester or to forgo the process altogether, although most students have already exercised the latter option. Only 70 students were still registered to study abroad in the fall by the time the decision was made public, compared to the record 300 fall applications that the Center for Global Education received in December. The office expects roughly 300 students to partake in semester-length study abroad during the spring and maintains that any students who saw their fall abroad plans canceled may still join them or wait until their senior year to travel.
For those students who elected to come to campus this fall, the Office of Residence Life stepped in to ensure that housing options were available to them. Additionally, all fall 2020 study abroad candidates were required to register for on-campus classes so that they could meet their credit requirements for graduation senior year.
While the entire Providence College administration worked around the clock to establish some return to normalcy in time for the arrival of students to campus for the 2020-2021 academic year, they also acknowledge that they cannot replace the potential experiences and opportunities which have been lost as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. “I want to apologize to those students whose plans have been impacted by our decision,” Stanley stated. “And I understand that this is not what they had hoped to hear. However, the health and academic well-being of our students always came first in our conversations with the faculty, and we made sure that the students affected were the first to learn of all developments from our task force.”
Those with questions regarding the recent decision to suspend fall abroad programs may reach out to Dean Stanley directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit the Center for Global Education’s website (https://global-education.providence.edu/covid-19-updates).