With more than 25 percent of the United States populace now fully vaccinated, the end of the coronavirus era seems to be approaching, and with it, a new hope for University of Miami students planning to study abroad.
According to the Study Abroad Office, they have hosted over 20 Study Abroad 101 Information Sessions this semester, to get the word out to students about what to expect from study abroad next year and why they are hopeful it will take place.
“The Study Abroad Office remains hopeful that study abroad programs will be able to resume in the fall,” said Program Coordinator of Study Abroad Tara George. “Although nothing has been finalized at this time.”
When the coronavirus pandemic began in the spring of 2020, students studying overseas had their trips cut short. Nate Smith, a senior studying marketing, was studying abroad in a non-university affiliated study abroad program in Florence, Italy, when the virus struck.
“People from our program began dropping like flies,” said Smith. “The program didn’t really say anything to us. They were like ‘you can do what you want.’”
Smith spent the early weeks of what would grow to become a global pandemic traveling throughout Europe with friends.
“Everyone had this weird mentality that everything was going to be fine,” Smith said. “It was chaos.”
While abroad, one of Smith’s friends had a slight cold and lost his sense of taste. Smith and his friends thought nothing of it until several weeks later, when the CDC added taste loss to the list of COVID symptoms.
On March 10 at 3 a.m., Smith and his friends were on the streets of Vienna when they were turned away by local establishments. Smith said even though he and his friends were confused, in hindsight the city was preparing for a lockdown.
On March 11, 2020, President Donald Trump announced that the United States was closing borders to travelers from Europe. Within hours of the announcement, Smith and his friends booked flights back to the U.S.
The coronavirus pandemic would go on to force the cancellation of the next two semesters of UM’s study abroad programs.
Sydney Lineberger, a junior studying marine science and biology, had her study abroad with UGalapagos canceled twice as a result of the pandemic.
“Nobody really understood the virus or what it could do to the world,” Lineberger said. “I wasn’t super upset because everyone was confused.”
However, Lineberger said she feels confident the UGalapagos study abroad trip will proceed this coming fall.
“I’m so excited since it has fallen through two semesters in a row,” said Lineberger. “I think that we have a decent chance to go.”
The Study Abroad Office said they are preparing to resume international programs in fall 2021. All programs are subject to change, George said, as UM is adapting to updates on health safety guidelines and communicating with partner universities to ensure safe student accommodation.
While the Study Abroad Office has begun welcoming new applicants for the fall 2021 and spring 2022 study abroad programs, there is a backlog of students who were unable to go abroad during the 2020-21 academic year.
“More than 100 students have already signed up for study abroad this fall,” George said, “many of them students who had their study abroad plans canceled during the past year due to the pandemic.”
Although George says the Study Abroad Office remains optimistic that study abroad will commence in the fall, the office anticipates many challenges as they move forward.
“We are requesting that students stay flexible in their plans, and understand some modifications may be required as we get closer to the fall,” George said.
Fall semester registration has closed, however, students may apply to go abroad in the spring of 2022 starting May 15 on UM’s Study Abroad website.