Students planning to study abroad in the spring of 2021 are looking at an especially unique semester.
Fairfield University’s study abroad programs have already been heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The Spring 2020 programs met an abrupt and untimely end and the Fall 2020 programs were cancelled altogether. Now, study abroad is communicating with its partner institutions at various locations to evaluate the viability of programs for the spring of 2021.
Study abroad is planning to continue with programs this spring, according to Global Fairfield. However, capacity restrictions, as necessary as they may be, have presented a host of unique challenges. The number of available study locations is lower than normal, as well as the amount of courses offered. Some programs have been pushed back to start later than scheduled as a result of Visa and capacity issues.
Programs for Spring 2021 will be offered in France, Italy and the United Kingdom. Applications are also being accepted for programs in Greece, Germany, the Czech Republic and within the United States, including Hawaii and Washington D.C.
Unfortunately, travel restrictions are still a very real concern. On Oct. 7 the Italian government extended its state of emergency until Jan. 31, 2021. Travel from certain countries and to certain areas within Italy is restricted. Currently, United States citizens are permitted to travel to Italy, but only for reasons including work and studying. No tourism is allowed. Furthermore, students will have to fill out a self-declaration form stating their reason for travel upon arrival in Italy, and then self-isolate. These restrictions could greatly impact the Florence study abroad program, which is particularly popular among Fairfield students.
On Aug. 7, the health advisory for travel from the U.S. to the United Kingdom went down from four to three. However, U.S. citizens are still advised to reconsider their travels. On Oct. 8, there was a spike of over 17,000 new cases in the U.K. Due to this spike, Fairfield’s two U.K. programs in London and Newcastle may be affected.
Assuming that the study abroad programs will take place as planned, protective measures will be taken to ensure students’ safety. Most of these measures revolve around reducing capacity. For example, the Institute for American Universities, (IAU), Fairfield’s partner school in France, is decreasing the number of spots available per class. IAU is aiming for in-person learning by Spring 2021, so size reduction will be a necessary precaution to keep in adherence with social distancing rules. Partner institutions at various study abroad locations will be offering fewer courses than normal, and in a variety of formats.
In order to preserve the health of students and host staff abroad, new policies will be put in place in regard to housing and independent travel. Before applying to study abroad, students are advised to review these policies and decide if they will be able to comply. Some students may have trouble abiding by strict regulations while in the throes of the thrilling experience of being in another country. Katherine Kelley ‘22, who previously considered studying abroad, feels it is better to just stay home.
“What’s the point of studying abroad if you can’t see other countries and local sites or experience the culture?” she asked. “There’s not much of a difference between being stuck on campus and being stuck in your host home, when you can’t really see the country you came to study in.”
Additionally, despite the protective measures, some students are still apprehensive about the virus and have decided not to study abroad this coming spring at all.
Although there is still considerable cause for concern, there is also plenty of time for the situation to improve by January of 2021. Students planning to study abroad for the spring semester are advised to check regularly for updates, and email their study abroad advisor with any questions.