As the fall semester draws near, Meredith’s Office of International Programs (OIP) has announced that study abroad programs will resume in fall 2021 after being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic since the middle of the Spring 2020 semester. OIP director Dr. Brooke Shurer explained to The Herald that this decision was made thoughtfully and with extensive research.
“Our decision-making process throughout the past 18 months has been to collect daily information from multiple sources, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), State Department, Overseas Security Advisory Council, World Health Organization (WHO), professional listservs and many other informational resources on travel safety. We've also been attending trainings and workshops from experts on best practices for reinstating study abroad programs,” Dr. Shurer said. “After many months of gathering information, and in consultation with the Provost's Office and Health Center, we felt confident in approving programs to proceed for fall 2021.”
While Meredith students have the opportunity to study abroad this semester, there will be some new requirements. Students must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to participate.
Dr. Shurer said the OIP has worked hard to ensure the safest, healthiest, most academically engaging study abroad experience this fall. “Students who are studying abroad this fall can travel independently and explore their host countries, but will not be permitted to travel outside of their host countries until after their programs conclude,” Dr. Shurer said. “There is also the reality that COVID-19 restrictions vary by country, region and city.”
“The pandemic is still very much here,” Dr. Shurer said. “At the same time, we cannot simply wait for a world without COVID-19 before we offer study abroad programs again. We have to embrace the challenge to reimagine what pandemic-resilient study abroad looks like.”
Overall, Dr. Shurer classified the reinstatement of study abroad as a “careful re-emergence” as opposed to an “open the floodgates” approach. Additionally, the OIP will continue the process of evaluating location and program feasibility on an “ongoing, case-by-case basis as the health and safety situation continues to evolve in the U.S. and abroad.”
Dr. Shurer provided The Herald with a perspective from a current Meredith student and study abroad alumna, Molly Perry, ‘22. She stated that “we should still hope for travel after the pandemic because studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and our world has a strong need for informed global citizens. Studying abroad helps Meredith students become more deeply educated about the world in which they live and will one day lead."
Students who are studying abroad this fall said they believe the proper precautions are in place, and they are looking forward to the life changing experience that comes from studying abroad.
“Fellow students and faculty, including myself, have patiently waited an additional year for this trip to come to fruition,” Hannah Tarkelly, ‘23, said. “So, to hear that this trip was actually happening brought a genuine feeling of excitement and relief.”
Both Tarkelly and Angelina Morin, ‘23, will be studying abroad in Sansepolcro, Italy. “There's lots of unknowns whenever you travel abroad, but I’m vaccinated and I know that the OIP is taking every safety measure to ensure this trip's success,” Morin said. “After multiple semesters of postponing the trip, I feel comfortable and confident about studying abroad.”
Meredith students who are interested in studying abroad in future semesters or summers can attend the Study Abroad Fair on Sept. 28 from 4 to 7 p.m.
By Hannah Porter, Opinion Editor