The University of Maryland, Baltimore County suspended all university-related domestic and international travel for the Winter and Spring 2021 semesters on Aug. 31. The announcement came just one month after the Education Abroad Office posted a notice to the MyUMBC group page informing students that study abroad applications were open for the Spring 2021 semester. The cancellation applies to all in-person international programs for the remainder of this academic year, including those led by their twelve affiliate partners.
“We feel the risk hasn’t really subsided enough for [study abroad programs] to be possible,” said Associate Director of Education Abroad, Caylie Middleton.
Despite the Department of State rescinding the Global Level 4 Health Advisory on Aug. 6 with the backing of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC urges travelers to refrain from nonessential international travel. Middleton also explained that most countries remain at a Global Level Health Advisory of three or four, preventing any student from travelling to these locations per UMBC travel policy, which requires a level of two or less.
In addition to most study abroad locations falling outside of UMBC’s travel safety standards, most countries are still denying entry to U.S. citizens.
Overall, Middleton stated that the Education Abroad Office tried to make a decision that balanced the current coronavirus situation and what the world might look like once students choose to apply to a program. With the logistics that go into planning an abroad program, Middleton said the office could not send students abroad during such a volatile and unpredictable time.
Senior Asian studies major Ian Kibria, who planned to study abroad in southwestern Ireland this spring through an affiliated program, said he was disappointed by the announcement.
“I was hoping that UMBC would allow study abroad programs to determine independently if they were going to run or not, rather than just banning students from participating in study abroad programs altogether,” Kibria said.
Kibria said that his program is, at least for the time being, moving forward with its plans for the spring and he expects it to continue as planned since the severity of the pandemic has improved in Ireland and the country has developed a comprehensive list of Entry and Exit Requirements.
Garrett Posey, a junior political science and history double major, planned to attend Swansea University in Wales this semester until the program was cancelled. In addition to wanting to leave the U.S. for the first time, Posey is in the Humanities Scholars program which requires him to go abroad to retain his scholarship.
However, he is uncertain whether he will be able to go abroad now since many programs will not have courses that will count as his majors’ upper level requirements.
“I’ve never been able to experience going to another country and understanding how another country works,” said Posey. “And I feel like that opportunity was just kind of taken away from me.”
The cancellation is equally disappointing for the Office of Education Abroad, explained Middleton. She said the office has been on a growth trajectory for the past four years with consistently increasing interest in their program offerings each year. Middleton stated that winter study abroad programs are where she and her team have seen especially large growth.
While UMBC will not process any undergraduate study abroad applications for the winter or spring terms until travel can continue safely, the Office of Education Abroad will continue to advise and assist students in considering study abroad options for future terms. She encourages any underclassmen who are thinking of studying abroad to use this time to start planning their trips and go through Study Abroad 101.
In addition to preparing younger students to study abroad, the office is furthering their work on a long term internationalization plan for UMBC’s campus. Middleton defines internalization as the process of integrating international, global and intercultural perspectives into teaching, learning, research and engagement. She hopes that this will help expand UMBC’s diversity and bring some international experience to the U.S.
Written by Sarah Khanna (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Morgan Casey (email@example.com)