All Wesleyan study abroad programs have been suspended for spring 2021, due to safety concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an all-campus email sent on Oct. 13 by Director of the Fries Center for Global Studies Stephen Angle and Director of Study Abroad Emily Gorlewski.
All spring 2021 study abroad programs have been canceled, including the Wesleyan programs in Paris, Bologna, and Madrid.
“It is not really about what we know now as much as about what we don’t know now,” Angle said in an interview with The Argus. “The second wave concerns seem to be real when you look at what’s happening in Europe in particular, but in many places around the country and around the world, our inability to predict and our inability to control, and thus to be sufficiently confident that students studying elsewhere would be safe, that’s that’s the underlying problem.”
Last spring, the University’s Pandemic Planning Group suspended all study abroad programs for the fall semester. However, some international students are participating in home country study abroad programs this semester. These programs are currently limited to primarily Chinese international students, however, the Office of International Affairs is looking for further opportunities to expand the programs available for next semester.
“I should say that right now we have a small number of students who are engaged in what we’re calling home country study abroad,” Angle said. “We and the Office of International Student Affairs have been in touch with international students to try to get a sense of where there might be further opportunities.”
Staff at the Fries Center are still available to meet with students who are interested in pursuing study abroad programs in the future. The University is also continuing to provide assistance with applications for international fellowships and grants for students after graduation as they have done in the past.
“The Fries Center does support students applying for fellowships, most of which are for after you have graduated, in fact we continue to support alums who are applying for fellowships,” Angle said. “It’s a great way to grow, as academically and then also as a person, so that’s why we want to continue to encourage students to think about opportunities down the road that might be available, whether it’s studying abroad next year, or thinking about some of these other opportunities after college.”
While there is no replacement for the study abroad experience, the Fries Center and Office of Study Abroad are working to develop ample opportunities for students to continue engaging with communities around the world, even while on a virtual platform.
“There are ways in which we’re all getting better at doing virtual things, and I think it will enable some new cool kinds of opportunities to emerge,” Angle said. “It’s not going to replace actually physically being there, but we’re doing what we can.”
Oliver Cope can be reached at email@example.com.
Hallie Sternberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @halsternberg.