The emergence of COVID-19 has ravished the tourism industry, bringing international travel to a near standstill and creating an uncertain atmosphere for the future of study abroad.
“COVID-19 has not yet impacted my plans for this upcoming May,” said sophomore Chase Henry, who plans to study abroad in Italy. “I am hoping by the time May comes around that the restrictions will be lessened. This experience is one I am extremely excited for and hope that the world can return to a modified ‘normal’ by then.”
For years, Simpson has prided itself in its distinguished department of international education. The department offers both semester-long study abroad programs and May Term travel courses, providing students with opportunities to study on six different continents.
While COVID-19 forced Simpson to cancel fall semester abroad programs, the college has yet to make a decision regarding study abroad programs for the upcoming spring semester or May Term, though no current students are planning to spend the spring semester abroad.
As it stands, Simpson currently plans to offer nine international May Term travel courses, spanning across five different continents. Some of the most popular courses include Media, Culture and Sport in London, South Africa and Ghana: Healing from Aparteid and the Slave Trade and New Zealand through Photography.
Unfortunately, the fate of these courses is contingent on factors beyond Simpson’s control.
“Many factors must be considered when making decisions about study abroad programs during this era of COVID-19,” said Jay Wilkinson, director of international education. “These include, but are not limited to, the wide-spread availability of a vaccine, the effectiveness of the vaccine, any entry restrictions for the destination country, the availability of commercial flights into and out of the destination country, the current and projected COVID rates in the destination country and the healthcare infrastructure in the destination country.”
Given the uncertainty surrounding study abroad, students are torn as to whether to study abroad or not. On one hand, students fear the risks associated with studying abroad and the possible cancellation of their study abroad program. At the same time, the cancellation of last year’s study abroad programs has prompted an unforeseen interest in study abroad due to pent-up demand.
Senior Jaquelinne Medonza, whose study abroad plans were last May, is holding out hope that she will be able to complete her study abroad experience in Mexico next year.
“If it were to get canceled again, I would be very disappointed as it is my only chance of studying in a different country and having more first-hand experience in my home country of Mexico,” Mendoza said. “I will understand and just have to accept it.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, it is currently impossible to predict whether or not the global atmosphere will permit students to partake in 2021 study abroad programs.
“My crystal ball is still rather hazy,” Wilkinson added. “But I am hopeful that conditions will allow Simpson students and faculty to engage safely in overseas study in 2021.”