BU Suspends Summer Study Abroad Programs for Second Year
For Second Year, BU Suspends Summer Study Abroad Programs
COVID-19 upends overseas plans for fifth straight semester
- COVID-19 forces suspension of summer Study Abroad
- University considering virtual courses, internships as alternatives
- Fifth semester of overseas study disrupted by pandemic
Another season’s dreams have been dashed by COVID-19, which has forced the suspension of BU’s 2021 summer Study Abroad in-person programs.
The decision affects BU-operated sites in Dublin, Geneva, London, Madrid, Paris, Padua, Venice, Sydney, and Shanghai. Study Abroad also has US summer programs in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. that are now suspended.
About 350 students had begun applying for summer programs, which typically draw up to 500.
It’s the second summer, and fifth straight semester, the pandemic has disrupted students’ overseas plans. “We hope to offer limited remote academic internships and courses this summer, similar to our current efforts this spring semester,” and planning continues for in-person programs in the fall if conditions permit, says Willis Wang, vice president and associate provost for global programs, and deputy general counsel.
For Grace Ferguson (COM’22), who had hoped to take a politics class and a journalism internship in D.C., this is the second summer that COVID-19 has upended her Study Abroad plans.
“It’s frustrating. It’s really, really frustrating,” she says. “Especially because, the moment they canceled last year’s Study Abroad, I knew that I was going to apply for the next one.” While she understands why BU pulled the plug, Ferguson says, “a lot of the excitement of Study Abroad is being physically somewhere else, especially with the summer semester, where you usually wouldn’t be taking classes.”
Now she’ll have to decide whether to apply to go abroad during her last semester at BU next spring or stay on campus for her undergraduate swan song. “I love being in Boston,” the Utah native says.
Worldwide, the pandemic has killed 2.6 million people. And now that three vaccines are available, nations are hoping that by this summer there will be stepped-up inoculation of citizens. But “the planning associated with offering in-person Study Abroad programs begins several months ahead,” Wang says.
“Planning for any in-country programs during a pandemic requires additional efforts and commitments, including contractual, that need to be put in place well in advance to ensure the academic quality of the programs and the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff in a particular country,” he says. Travel restrictions to and within countries remain in effect, as do remote work conditions at internships abroad.
Given the uncertainties, Wang says, “the University needed to decide about the summer programs” now.
“Sadly, our students have had to endure a lot of disappointment this year with respect to their plans to study away from campus, and especially in another country,” says Gareth McFeely, executive director of Study Abroad. He notes that BU this semester was able to offer a limited number of remote academic internships and courses at several sites, including a remote course about the pandemic, race, and gender through the BU Hub’s Cross-College Challenge. That class is taught by Study Abroad teams in Padua, LA, and Sydney, McFeely says.
Students with academic questions in the wake of the program’s summer suspension should contact their academic advisor or the advising office at their BU school or college. Study Abroad had recommended that students avoid booking flights and other financial commitments. A small number of students who paid a deposit for summer foreign study will be reimbursed.
“We are sincerely sorry for the disappointment our students, faculty, and staff are experiencing by not being able to offer in-person study abroad programs for another term,” Wang says. Recalling how his team a year ago successfully scrambled to return almost 1,000 students home as COVID-19 spread rapidly throughout the globe, he says that since then, “the pandemic continues to severely restrict the ability of our students to experience firsthand another culture, community, or workplace that for decades has enriched the academic experiences of our students.”
BU in the 1970s became one of the first American universities to offer foreign study to undergraduates. Today, the University’s 70-plus overseas programs in 15 nations draw 2,400 Terriers and peers from other schools each year.
“We long for the time when our students, faculty, and staff can safely engage in meaningful international academic experiences,” Wang says.
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