After the announcement of spring study abroad trips being called off, the University contemplated the decision on summer 2021 trips over winter break. A week before spring classes began, those trips were also canceled.
Though all travel has been changing since the summer of 2020, Director of the International Involvement Center Philip Hull said he believes that there is a chance for programs in fall 2021.
“We have someone from our faculty who is planning on running her program to the United Arab Emirates that was canceled from this winter,” Hull said. “There is a lot of forward thinking and engaging with a lot of our overseas partners.”
The decision to cancel came from the overall unpredictability for the way international travel is going to look and that many other providers, such as International Student Exchange Program, Academic Programs International and International Studies Abroad, and partner schools have canceled their programs for the spring and summer.
“I think everybody is in the same boat with recognizing that there are too many uncertainties,” Hull said. “We extended the application and deposit deadlines for the faculty programs so that we could make a timely decision with keeping the best interest of the students financially.”
Now that there is a vaccine for COVID-19, there was question as to whether students studying abroad would have to receive it. As of right now it is too early to say.
Though the news of approved vaccines came to light around the time of deciding if study abroad trips would continue, it wasn’t a factor in their decision to deny the trips for summer 2021.
“It could have been significant and it could change the equation, but likewise we’re still at a point where there are too many unknowns,” Hull said. “I think things are moving in a positive direction; we just can’t say with any certainty that everything is going full-steam ahead.”
On Dec. 15, one-page proposals were submitted to the International Involvement Center from faculty who are interested in winter break trips in 2021 and 2022. Some of those proposals came from faculty who had their trips from the past year canceled.
“They were planning to go and it was out of their control that it was cancelled, so we gave them the opportunity to offer that to students again,” Hull said.
Hull explained that there are virtual options for students to continue to study abroad during the pandemic. There are online internships and classes that students take through partner universities, such as Perrotis College for Agriculture and Food Science in Greece, Toyo University in Japan and University de Alcala in Spain.
Taking classes through the partner universities would be nearly the same as taking an online class through Northwest during the summer.
The involvement center has been looking forward to future programs rather than virtual opportunities to offer students the full experience of being an international student.
“I think there is a general spirit of understanding and cooperation,” Hull said. “There is also a general feeling of optimism and hope. We were hopeful that there would be a different story for summer 2021, but it’s not like everything is shutting down and we will never have study abroad ever again.”