Most study abroad programs return in fall 2021 semester

Published September 8, 2021, University of Mary Washington Weekly Ringer

by Jean Mondoro

Senior Writer

Study abroad programs are returning after being postponed due to the pandemic.

“[The Center for International Education] followed UMW decisions to allow sponsored travel for all, that is, faculty, staff and students,” said Dr. Jose Sainz, director of the Center for International Education. “The decision has taken into consideration the improved health and safety conditions in several countries, greatly expanded access to COVID-19 vaccines and careful planning with our international partners.”

The return of these international trips adheres to the Return to Campus Fall 2021 Plan. The safety protocols in place are set by the countries to which students and faculty are traveling.

“For instance, in many cases, students need to show proof of vaccination and a negative PCR test upon flying to their destination abroad,” said Sainz. “Many programs and universities are only hosting foreign students who are fully vaccinated.”

Despite the return of study abroad for UMW, trips to Australia have been canceled completely because the country has stopped taking visitors in due to COVID.

“I was supposed to study abroad in Australia fall 2021, which was then postponed to spring 2022,” said Josephine Good, a junior international business major. “Within the last few days, I received an email saying I will not be going to Australia. Sydney specifically is having a huge second wave of COVID. It’s tragic, it really is.”

UMW study abroad programs provide a wide variety of international experiences and immersion opportunities. These trips have received positive feedback from many students who have gone on to work in or volunteer with the Center for International Education (CIE).

Sammi Sisk, a senior international affairs and religious studies major and student employee for CIE, attended the Lingnan exchange program in Hong Kong in 2018, but her plans to join UMW in Japan were canceled because of COVID. 

“Those experiences helped me grow as a more independent and self-sufficient person,” said Sisk. “The best moments of my study abroad trip were the people I met and the exposure to a culture outside of my own.” 

Senior international affairs major Xavier Gillett also had positive experiences studying abroad.

“Over the course of my time at Mary Wash, I’ve been on two faculty-led study abroad trips,” Gillett said. “My first was the UMW in London program, and my second was the UMW in Guatemala program. Both were extremely insightful and overall amazing experiences that I haven’t been able to stop talking about since I came back.”

During the spring 2020 semester, study abroad programs were postponed indefinitely because of safety concerns during the pandemic.

“I believe that studying abroad is an eye-opening and enriching opportunity to live, learn and explore the world, so it was difficult not being able to make that happen for students in my capacity as a peer advisor at the CIE,” said Gillett.

Even as COVID put these trips on hold, students continued to appreciate the opportunities the programs had to offer.

“Despite COVID, I was able to attend my program, but I had to abide by both American and Korean law, so I had to quarantine and follow extra precautions that were in place, but they were not so different from what I was used to,” said junior biomedical sciences major Molly Newman. “Overall, one of the best experiences I have ever had.”

Many students are excited that the University and the Center for International Education have brought back study abroad programs.

“I’m so excited to see that study abroad is opening up and that more and more students are beginning to sign up for these trips again!” said Sisk. “I hope that more students continue to go abroad, as everyone’s experience is completely unique, and traveling in general can help you discover so much about yourself.”

Gillet agrees.

“Now that education abroad opportunities are fully open to students, I’m looking forward to seeing my fellow students getting back out into the world!” Gillett said. “I’m most excited for everyone’s cool Instagram posts.”

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