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College announces plans for study abroad in spring 2021

| Friday, September 4, 2020

Though fall study abroad programs were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Saint Mary’s will plan to move forward with spring study abroad programs, Alice Siqin Yang, the associate director of international education, said. 

The Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership (CWIL), which is in charge of study abroad, has been monitoring the CDC’s global health status and the situation in the destination countries for months since the pandemic hit.

CWIL typically has one deadline for study abroad applications in March of the preceding year a student is planning to go abroad. This year, however, the office has added a deadline of Oct. 1 for students to apply to programs for the spring semester. The normal application fee of $50 has also been waived.

“We will make the final decision on the programs by the application deadline, Oct. 1,” she said.

Even though study abroad applications are open and the College is planning on going forward with spring programs at this time, students still express hesitancy towards applying. Senior Shayla O’Connor, who serves as the Coordinator of Peer Advisors for CWIL, said this was one reason for the waived application fee.

“There’s a lot of concern about whether the programs will actually be open or not, but that decision won’t be finalized until October,” O’Connor said. “Until then, we advise that they apply, as applications are still open. That way they have a choice when October comes on whether or not they’d like to go abroad.”

Saint Mary’s Health and Counseling Center and the CWIL Global Education Office are also working to set safety measures in place for students before departing to their host countries.

“Accepted students are required to attend a study abroad pre-departure orientation,” Yang said, noting that these orientations will cover health, safety, insurance and intercultural learning strategies. “Students need to complete a health self-disclosure form before departure and get required immunizations. They should consult with their doctor if they have a physical or mental health issue.”

Students may also read the State Department’s website to view their host country’s restrictions in regards to COVID-19.

As a few students were able to complete their study abroad experience remotely last spring, others may elect to take online courses through their host university this coming spring. Additionally, students may choose to participate in programs offered by third-party organizations that host online study abroad opportunities. Because these programs are not directly affiliated with Saint Mary’s, the credits will need to be accepted as transfer credits through Student Academic Services.

Around half of Saint Mary’s students study abroad. For many credit-heavy majors like nursing and speech language pathology, the fall of sophomore year is the only opportunity students have of studying abroad, so the cancellation due to COVID-19 came as disappointment to many students.

“There are very few schools that allow nursing students to study abroad,” sophomore Olivia Pilon said. “Clinical placements make that incredibly challenging. Part of the reason I chose Saint Mary’s was because of this opportunity, especially with the wide variety of places that I could go.”

Pilon, a nursing student, said though she agrees with the decision by the College to cancel the fall study abroad programs, it still comes as a disappointment.

“I do think that this was the right move by Saint Mary’s to close these programs, and although it comes as a difficult loss for the nursing students that won’t have an opportunity to study abroad anymore, it would only make this pandemic worse,” she said.

In times of global duress and uncertainty, Yang remains hopeful about the external opportunities students are offered.

“Pray. We need more prayers,” Yang requested of the Saint Mary’s community. “We pray for a more peaceful and healthier world so that our students can study abroad and discover the world.”

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