COVID-19 Fears Postpone Spring Abroad Programs
by Hannah Langley ’21
For many college students, traveling abroad for a semester or two is an exciting and memorable opportunity. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, study abroad programs across the country had to be canceled or postponed.
On Sept. 18, Providence College’s global education department announced their executive decision to suspend study abroad programs for spring 2021. The decision was made by a task force composed of PC students, faculty, and administrators.
Christian Wilwohl, dean of global education, said multiple factors went into the decision to suspend the programs so far in advance. These factors included the high level of uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic, adherence to Department of State and CDC guidelines, delays in passport and visa processing, and potential host country conditions and restrictions affecting the studying experience.
Another consideration was the fact that students would have to make non-refundable payments for necessities such as flights, passports, program deposits, and more.
Grace Cleary, assistant dean of global education, stated that while these were all large factors in making this decision, “Our decision was rooted in our obligation to look out for student health and safety.” Overall, issues involving students and different CDC regulations in every country could create potential problems.
“If a student were to experience a medical issue abroad,” said Cleary, “new hospital regulations could prevent local support staff from accompanying him or her to assist with translation and insurance paperwork and provide pastoral support. Students arriving in-country would face quarantines and in some cases, lock-down conditions.”
Although students are upset about their semester abroad being canceled, many also understand the necessity for this decision. Cassie Mirasolo ’22, an economics major with a Spanish minor, was planning on doing an international business and culture program in Seville, Spain this upcoming spring. “Honestly, I’m not surprised it was canceled considering the current circumstances, but I’m very sad about it,” said Mirasolo. “I was looking forward to practicing my Spanish and experiencing a Spanish lifestyle.”
She continued, saying that although she feels like she is missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, she knows we are living in unprecedented times. “I know a lot of people talk about their time abroad as one of the best times of their lives, which makes it all that harder. It’s something I was lucky to get the opportunity to sign up for through PC, but I guess we have to make the best of these crazy times!”
While abroad this spring is no longer an option, Cleary is still hopeful for abroad programs in the future.
“Study abroad has become such an important part of the PC experience and the Center for Global Education staff is ready to assist students who are planning for fall 2021 and beyond.”
For those interested in studying abroad in the future, the study abroad fair will be held virtually on Oct. 5. All freshmen, sophomores, and juniors who want to go abroad in fall 2021 are encouraged to attend for more information.