In an email sent on Wednesday evening, the Office of Off-Campus Study (OCS) announced that it would allow students to study abroad during the spring semester, with limitations. This decision came after all off-campus study was suspended for the fall semester.
According to the email, students will only be allowed to study abroad at universities that are offering guaranteed housing and a minimum of one in-person class. Additionally, students will not be allowed to study in any country with a Level 4 U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory.
Acknowledging the limitations presented by the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, Director of OCS and International Programs Christine Wintersteen is optimistic about the potential of studying abroad in the spring, as long as students remain vigilant.
“It should be a very intentional group of students who have shifted their expectations, those who are looking forward to the experience and who are flexible and resilient [who choose to go abroad],” said Wintersteen in a phone interview with the Orient.
Wintersteen added that while studying abroad is often used as a vehicle for further world travel, this might not be as feasible this spring. She added there are still many ways to experience living in a foreign country while in a pandemic.
“For this coming semester, I think that there are also some wonderful opportunities for discovery within a country’s borders…to be really focused on local culture and connection and integration and immersion,” she said.
According to Wintersteen, before the most recent email was sent, less than half the usual number of students have applied to study abroad this spring. She added that while the decision comes after thoughtful consideration by her office, as well as the Offices of Academic and Student Affairs, it is up to students to be aware of the risks and to make the most of their abroad experience.
“Any student that applied for study away last academic year, [who] submitted their application in February, [should] be recalibrating their goals and their intentions in thinking if they want to commit to this coming spring,” Wintersteen said.