Spring 2021 study abroad ready for takeoff

Students and study abroad staff are optimistic about study abroad programs to occur during the spring semester.

Since she was a senior in high school, junior Abby Werner had planned to go to Washington, D.C. in the fall of 2020, her junior year of college. The fall semester of 2020 would coincide with the 2020 presidential election, which would make the opportunity to live and work in D.C. even more eventful. Then the COVID-19 pandemic changed her plans.

With questions as to whether she would be sent home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic or if internships would be remote, Werner decided in June to postpone her trip until the spring semester of 2021.

“I’m an RA and between that and my scholarships, when I'm in Columbia school is free,” Werner said. “A semester in D.C. is more expensive and I didn’t know what kind of experience it would be.”

According to the University of Missouri International Programs website, all non-essential travel is restricted in the U.S. In order to study abroad, Director of Study Abroad Miguel Ayllon wrote in an email to the Maneater that students must submit an appeal to the Student Travel Abroad Review Committee that requires them to answer questions related to COVID-19. The appeal process is part of the MU Student International Travel Policy, and non-compliance could mean losing scholarships and financial aid dependent on continuous enrollment or failure to receive academic credit for time abroad.

Ayllon wrote that as of Nov. 10, 30 students are planning on traveling to 11 different countries for study abroad programs in the spring semester of 2021. This is a stark contrast to past years, where cumulative participation throughout the fall, spring and summer semesters has been over 1,000 students.

With COVID-19 still a concern, study abroad programs like the journalism and strategic communications program in Washington, D.C. have had to make changes. Werner said that normally students are placed with roommates at Washington Intern Student Housing in D.C., but during the fall semester of 2020 students were placed in single apartments in order to promote social distancing.

Werner said she is not afraid of traveling to D.C. during the pandemic.

“I don’t feel like I’m going to be in any more danger there than I am just being on campus,” Werner said. “And I know I’m going to continue to make smart decisions.”

The Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy also runs a study abroad program in Washington, D.C. as part of the Kinder Scholars program, which provides students an opportunity to immerse themselves in the study of American constitutional democracy. In addition, students also intern in a field that relates to their studies, according to the Kinder Institute website. This program operates during the summer.

Kinder Institute Director Justin Dyer wrote in an email that the Kinder Institute is hoping students are able to participate in the program in the summer of 2021, but the university is waiting to gather more information before a decision can be made.

Ayllon said that currently MU Study Abroad is hoping that as future program start dates approach that the locations can “safely support study abroad.”

Werner said that while things may not be the same as pre-COVID-19 pandemic study abroad, being in Washington D.C. will still provide new opportunities and adventures.

“The pandemic is still happening,” Werner said. “I might as well be in D.C. while it’s happening.”

Edited by Sophie Stephens | sstephens@themaneater.com

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