The University’s International Studies Office has canceled all fall 2020 study abroad programs due to advisories from the U.S. Department of State and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This decision comes months after the ISO canceled spring break study abroad and summer programs. Students were notified of the decision June 26.
In addition to study abroad programs, all University-related international travel will be suspended in the fall 2020 semester, according to a public health advisory on the ISO website. The decision was made based on a “Global Level 4: Do Not Travel” health advisory from the U.S. Department of State — which has been in place since March 31 — and a “Level 3: Avoid Nonessential Travel” warning from the CDC — which was originally issued March 27.
Both of these travel advisory levels are the highest on their respective scales and have been issued due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The ISO’s decision to cancel fall 2020 studies abroad based on these advisories is consistent with its Policy on International Travel, PROV-010, which outlines the criterion that bars international University-related travel as a Department of State advisory of Level 3 and higher, and a CDC warning of Level 3.
In a statement to The Cavalier Daily, Dr. Dudley Doane, director of International, Summer and Special Academic Programs, described some of the options that the office is considering for future studies abroad.
“We hope that we can offer at least some J-Term abroad programs in 2021 and that spring 2021 will be open for students to pursue education abroad opportunities,” Doane said. “An assessment of the viability of J-Term abroad will be made by October 31 and spring by November 30.”
Doane also described the information the ISO has relayed to students who were registered to study abroad throughout the fall decision-making process.
“Students who were planning to study abroad this fall have been advised since April to enroll in fall classes at U.Va. as a back-up and to have housing arrangements for Charlottesville in place because of uncertainty about the pandemic,” Doane wrote. “They were also advised that the University would make a decision on fall mobility by June 30, 2020.”
Doane also mentioned that students who were planning to study abroad will likely be contacted about housing for the fall semester.
“Housing and Residence Life is planning on contacting the students who were registered for study abroad to assess interest in University housing in case some do not already have housing plans for fall 2020 or would like to switch to University housing,” Doane wrote.
Alicia Land, a rising second-year Engineering student who was planning to study abroad through the Engineering School in Valencia, spoke with The Cavalier Daily about logistical obstacles that students might face when thinking about studying abroad in the spring instead of the fall.
“I've been speaking to a bunch of people trying to figure out if we want to go in the spring,” Land said. “Especially with Engineering, because … Engineering is pretty strict when it comes to the curriculum and when you take your classes. So since they're changing it, they said on the survey that we would probably have to take classes online from U.Va.”
Lili Gomez, a rising second-year Engineering student who was planning to study in the same program as Land, spoke about how online classes would impact her decision to participate in spring study abroad.
“I'd be okay if there were a couple online classes, but I'm not sure how much of the ‘Spanish experience’ I would be getting if I'm just sitting in my room,” Gomez said. “I might not even have WiFi in my host house.”
Elizabeth Aramayo, a rising third-year Batten student who was planning to study in Valencia, spoke with The Cavalier Daily on June 27 about securing housing. At the time, she had found housing for the fall semester just prior to the interview.
“I just got this place on JPA with a few girls and I got to meet them today,” Aramayo said. “But I mean, [housing] was a huge stressor for me.”
Aramayo also reacted to the cancelation, describing the way in which, for herself and many students, this fall was the only opportunity to study abroad during a semester.
“Because of how Batten structures their classes, I don't know what I'm going to do, because [a study abroad] doesn't fall nicely with the rest of my time at U.Va.,” Aramayo said.
Studies abroad over breaks are generally more financially taxing for students, in comparison with fall and spring study abroads that occur during times when students are already going to be paying for tuition, room and board. Tuition at programs abroad is often about the same as tuition for a semester at the University. Aramayo hopes Student Financial Services and the ISO can help students who might be unable to reschedule their studies abroad as a result of course requirements and financial resources.
“I’m going to be a third year, so my time is already starting to be limited at U.Va.,” Aramayo said. “And I don’t want to diminish my opportunities just because of COVID. If it’s possible, I’d really like it if they could help more … They know the benefits of study abroad, so why not expand it to more students that may not have the ability just because of financial resources?”