ANN ARBOR, MI – The University of Michigan has suspended its undergraduate study abroad programs for the winter 2021 term, due to ongoing concerns about COVID-19, including continued travel restrictions and the planning time needed for students.
Almost every country is under a UM travel restriction right now and it’s difficult to do an accurate risk assessment of COVID-19 conditions, predict entry and exit bans and confirm the availability of quarantine housing and other safety measures at all study sites across the globe, UM Associate Vice Provost and Director of Global Engagement Amy Conger said.
“We’re trying to make careful decisions that are in everybody’s best interest,” Conger said in a news release. “Because there’s still uncertainty, we just don’t want to put the students at risk.
“We also have to remember, it can take nine months to a year to plan a program. And most of our students usually have to make financial commitments at least three or four months before travel.”
There is no clear timeline for when students are expected to be able to travel again, due to COVID-19 conditions in countries throughout the world, Conger said.
Significant planning goes into students’ study abroad choices, Conger said, with students often planning at least a year ahead to prepare applications, map out their courses, make financial arrangements and select housing.
The university noted its schools and colleges also need time to design the learning experiences, reserve sites, hire instructors and secure accommodations, with contracts signed and students making deposits several months in advance of departure.
UM typically offers study abroad programs in more than 80 different countries per year.
The university is continuously reviewing each country and will gradually be lifting restrictions as the State Department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other sources indicate it is safer to travel, Conger said.
“It’s going to be more a process of slowly opening up,” Conger said. “And if the travel restriction is not lifted, then by default, we can’t run a study abroad program because we don’t want to place students at additional risk during their travel experience.”
Last week, UM President Mark Schlissel predicted UM and other colleges won’t return to normal until the 2021-22 academic year, but that depends on implementing a vaccination program.
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