The Office of International Education has decided to re-open applications to Elmhurst University students for study away programs that will begin in 2022. Currently, the office is marketing its programs with a lot of disclaimers asking for flexibility from applicants.
“One question we are waiting on an answer to, is whether or not COVID-19 vaccination is going to be a requirement for international travel,” said Kathleen Head, director of international education. “We’re very carefully planning and monitoring what’s going on.”
After COVID-19 put travel plans on hold for most of 2020, Head is looking forward to early 2022 being the year students who were interested in studying abroad will be able to. “We canceled all of our Elmhurst programs, for the latter half of 2020 and 2021. Right now our position is that we are cautiously optimistic that we are going to be able to run programs in 2022.”
Head mentioned that there are programs that have suffered due to COVID-19 restrictions and unfortunately won’t be making a return for the time being. “A couple of the activities included going to concerts but there’s a possibility that they won’t be able to do that,” she said.
The concerts were unable to be added to the student itinerary because there would be gatherings of large groups of people. The decision was made partially due to the safety standards that are recommended by the university and the host countries.
Although studying abroad has come back, nothing is set in stone. “We are going to be really careful about where we send students, so if we feel if they’re going to be going to a place that is experiencing really high rates of infections, we are probably going to pull the program,” Head explained.
However, there are steps being taken that would allow students to enjoy studying abroad in other ways. “Something our faculty is reviewing; they are coming up with contingency plans,” said Head. “We are planning on making those decisions earlier than we normally would.”
With limitations put in place due to the pandemic, EU has allowed students during the fall and spring semesters to study internationally through virtual platforms. For instance, the Spanish immersion course in Argentina, and programs offered by Japanese universities were instructed as online courses.
Head hopes to keep some of these virtual opportunities around so students can still enjoy the experience without having to worry about traveling to another place.
With studying abroad returning in 2022, Head encourages students to keep an “open mind.”
“We provide the nuts and bolts, but we try to coach students so that they are prepared to make the most of their experience, knowing that there’s going to be an adaptation process,” she said. “This experience, no matter how short or long, it’s poised to be transformational.”
Head believes that COVID-19 has better prepared students for the adaptation process. “We’ve shown during this pandemic that when forced to, we are able to adapt. It’s shown us that we can be resilient and we can be flexible.”