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Future study abroad programs remain unpredictable

About 2,000 Miami students participate in study abroad programs every year, according to Miami’s Education Abroad website. But, given the current circumstances, traveling to other countries has all but halted.

This fall semester, Miami students were only able to travel to Miami’s sister campus in Luxembourg, and in the spring, the university will allow students that opportunity again.

But some students, like sophomore pre-med student Jillian Petit, say they want more options and opportunities to go to other places around the world.

“I know we can go to Luxembourg, but I am really interested in Latin America,” Petit said. “I just want to be able to choose from a long list of options.” 

Some majors, such as those in the international studies program, require a semester abroad. Other students are betting on their semester overseas to count for language and culture credits, Petit says. 

“We are aware of these students' situations, and we will work with them,” said Annalee Jones, a study abroad advisor. “We would not make students stay an extra semester. There will be some way to replace this requirement.” 

Along with concern for specific majors, some students, like sophomore art major Sophia Rosen, say they are concerned about what happens if they decide to study abroad and their program gets canceled.

“I am worried I won’t have a place to live in Oxford or I will lose money or even have to pay a fine,” Rosen said. 

As students look to find answers, Miami is doing its best to make any possible scenario run smoothly, Jones said.

“If a program were to get canceled, we would refund the student,” Jones said. “Miami is not always able to cancel transfer programs, and it is usually left up to the program. As for housing, that's more difficult, but we would try our best to work with residence life and help the students find off campus housing.” 

Jones is optimistic that students will be able to go abroad in the summer term of 2021, as well as next fall semester. Registration for some of those programs is now open.

One option available to students is online programs, where students can take classes and dive into a foreign culture virtually. These programs offer workshops online for the students to learn about a country's culture. 

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Although some virtual options are available, Petit and Rosen say they are eager to travel and fully immerse themselves in a culture. But as much as Miami hopes for programs to take place, the university has no control over different countries' border restrictions and regulations on international travel. 

“I really want to do the Barcelona program, but I know borders are closed,” Rosen said.

As of now, students are still able to apply into programs in countries that are currently not allowing U.S. travelers, such as all of Europe. Miami remains optimistic that circumstances will change but cannot promise that programs will continue as scheduled. 

“We cannot control the possibility of a program getting canceled, so we suggest registering for classes in Oxford as well,” Jones said. “You can always cancel the classes once you find out the answer on your program.”

Miami will continue to update students as COVID-19 conditions change, because nothing is set in stone.  

“I am eager to travel abroad,” Rosen said, “but am confident Miami will make the best decision for our safety.”