Citing in-country restrictions and State Department travel advisories associated with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Off-Campus Study (OCS) announced in an email Monday morning that it planned to suspend off-campus programs for the fall semester. This decision comes after 90 sophomores withdrew from fall study abroad in April, more than half of whom deferred their participation to the spring semester.
“The criteria for Bowdoin’s decision-making with regard to off-campus study are ensuring the health, safety and mobility of our students; verifying the academic integrity and cultural immersion components of off-campus study programs; and maintaining our commitment to equitable educational opportunities for Bowdoin students,” Christine Wintersteen, director of off-campus study and international programs, wrote in the email.
While Bowdoin will not accept transfer credit for the fall, international students who were previously given approval to study in their home country will still be permitted to do so.
Still, Shuhao Liu ’22, who was planning to study at Oxford University for the 2020-21 academic year, feels that the College’s decision is inflexible and unaccommodating to those such as himself. According to Liu, Oxford is currently preparing to resume on-campus courses in the fall and continue instruction as normal.
“[The College] really didn’t leave any room for special circumstances that different students might face,” he said in a phone interview with the Orient.
Liu, along with three other rising juniors planning to attend Oxford, is among a handful of students who expected to complete year-long study abroad programs. As an international student from China, he expressed his disappointment in an email to OCS and other members of the College’s administration.
“Instead of the cultural immersion of being in England and the academic environment at Oxford, the only remaining option I now have is to study online at Bowdoin from home, which leaves me no choice but to settle for 7 a.m. classes or classes that start after 10 p.m. because of the time difference,” Liu wrote.
As of now, the College is not accepting student petitions for special permission to study abroad during the fall 2020 semester. According to an online FAQ posted on the College’s COVID-19/Fall 2020 website, students currently planning to study abroad in the spring will be notified by November 1 about whether the College will support them in doing so.