BU Suspends Study Abroad Program for Fall Semester Because of COVID-19 Pandemic

Decision based on ongoing concerns about global health risks and the safety and well-being of students, faculty, and staff

The University Times

BU has suspended its Study Abroad Program through the fall term because of ongoing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and its devastating global reach.

The University announced the suspension Wednesday in a letter to students who had planned to participate in fall Study Abroad programs and their families, noting that the decision to extend the summer suspension was difficult but necessary considering the global health risks of a virus that has spread to more than 200 countries and territories around the world.

“Several extenuating factors prompted this unfortunate decision,” says Willis Wang, vice president and associate provost for global programs, “including most importantly the risks associated with the pandemic and efforts across the globe to ensure the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff.”

In the 1970s, BU was one of the first universities in the nation to send students abroad as part of its college experience, as well as the first to offer internship opportunities abroad, so the suspension of the program was not undertaken lightly, Wang says.

More than 2,400 students from both BU and other US colleges and universities travel abroad to study in one or more of the University’s 90 plus programs each year, spread out over 25 countries and 6 continents. For many, a semester abroad is the realization of a dream to travel and explore the world, living—and in many cases working, via internships—in another culture. For some, it’s the culmination of years of classroom language study.

“We sincerely regret the disappointment our students likely will experience with the suspension of our upcoming fall study programs,” Wang says. “We know that many of our students look forward to studying and interning in another country or elsewhere in the United States, and to experience another semester where they are unable to go abroad is challenging and disheartening.”

Students enrolled in BU’s 2020 spring semester domestic and international Study Abroad programs began returning home in early March as the COVID-19 pandemic was sweeping across the globe. On April 7, the University announced suspension of all summer Study Abroad programs.

One need look no further than the extrication of BU students from Quito, Ecuador, in March to understand the risks of studying abroad at this time. After the pandemic caused the US Department of State to issue a Level 4 travel advisory for that country, students became stranded, and the University arranged a charter flight to bring a group back to the United States.

BU is urging students to cancel any travel arrangements they had made for fall as soon as possible and to contact their academic advisors as they register for fall classes. Study Abroad program deposits will be refunded.

Study Abroad students will be welcomed back to BU’s Boston campuses in the fall, where plans are underway to provide a safe learning and living experience.

The University announced this week that all returning students will have a choice of attending in-person classes or taking classes remotely under a new hybrid teaching format the University calls Learn from Anywhere (LfA). LfA was created to accommodate students who are able to arrive on campus at the beginning of the fall semester, those who choose to postpone their return to campus to maintain strict social distancing, and international students who may not be able to arrive for the start of the semester. LfA enables BU students to return to residential life in the fall.

The University has also reopened its Continuing Student Housing Application for students who want to return to on-campus housing.

Applications for the Study Abroad program for spring 2021 are currently being accepted. For those students who were enrolled in the fall 2020 program, there will be no additional application fee.

Gareth McFeely, Study Abroad executive director, says staff members are examining the ways the LfA format can be adapted for classrooms abroad. Students may be able to enroll in classes using LfA social distancing protocols or undertake international internships with companies remotely.

“We are excited about the prospects of applying the University’s Learn from Anywhere dual teaching modality to enhance the delivery of our programs around the world,” McFeely says. “Because many of our students seek meaningful academic internship experiences overseas and away from campus, several aspects of LfA lend themselves well to creating new and additional opportunities for our students to learn while providing a certain flexibility at our sites to support our community.”

The University Times

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