UVM cancels spring study abroad

President+Suresh+Garimella+addresses+assembled+media+at+a+press+conference%2C+Nov.+14.+

Sawyer Loftus/Vermont Cynic

President Suresh Garimella addresses assembled media at a press conference, Nov. 14.

For the second semester in a row, study abroad programs have been canceled at UVM due to travel risks and restrictions brought on by COVID-19. 

The decision to cancel study abroad for Spring 2021 was announced in a Sept. 30 email from the office of the Provost, signed by Kim Howard, director office of international education and J. Dickinson, associate provost for academic affairs.

“Due to continued uncertainty regarding travel and the stability of health and safety conditions globally, at this time the University is confirming the cancelation of all study abroad for Spring 2021,” the email stated. 

According to Howard, 242 students had applied to go abroad, but dozens had already withdrawn by the time the announcement was made.

The Office of International Education, Risk Management and Legal Council made recommendations to the president and provost, who then made the final decision to cancel study abroad. 

According to Howard, the most significant factor in her recommendation to cancel spring study abroad was the lack of stability in international travel, citing quarantine and border restrictions and guidance from the U.S. Department of State. 

“I recognize that students could say that they understand the risk of getting stuck somewhere,” Howard stated. “But I’m not sure that even I could fully understand what it might be like to suddenly find that I am physically unable to return to the U.S. to my family and friends because borders or airspaces have closed.” 

Howard said some students found themselves in this situation during the height of the pandemic  this past spring. Some also traveled away from their host country for the weekend only for the borders to subsequently close, barring students from getting their belongings back.

In an Aug. 25 email sent to students slated to study abroad in the Spring, the Office of International Education encouraged students to have academic and housing back-up plans, and told students not to make non-refundable deposits. 

UVM had cancelled Fall study abroad just a few months earlier in a June 1 memo from Howard, forcing 69 students to abandon their plans to go abroad.  

The memo also said updates to UVM’s travel policy will be updated by Nov. 2020.

Currently, the policy restricts travel to only essential research and requires approval for any business travel.

The school has not yet decided whether Summer study abroad and travel study programs will be canceled, but the decision will be made around Feb. 1, 2021, according to the Sept. 30 email.

This story was updated Oct. 7 to include additional comment from the Office of International Education.