Study Abroad Opportunities on the Horizon

Director of Study Abroad is Confident in the Future Prospects of Safe Travel in 2021

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Photo by Ady Dewey

While canceled due to COVID-19 in May 2020 and May 2021, May Term travel courses expect to run in 2022. A combined Music and Communication Studies class visited Mozart’s birthplace in Salzburg, Austria, May 2018.

Sienna Sullivan, Staff Writer

Bridgewater, Va. – Study abroad and May Term opportunities canceled due to the inception of the CODIV-19 pandemic are planned to resume in 2021 and 2022 for Bridgewater College students.

The committee in-charge of vetting prospective foreign experiences at BC met this past week to evaluate May Term 2022 trips for risk management purposes. The committee released a list of approved travel courses that will run in 2022. 

“We are advising for semester study abroad for next year, as if it will happen,” said the Director of Study Abroad Anne Marsh. “Obviously, vaccine roll-out is gearing up, other countries are doing even better than we are, so at this stage we are hoping to go forward with Fall 2021 study abroad and of course Spring 2022 study abroad.”

The decision-making process concerning international travel has been a lengthy and complicated one and while Marsh expressed the school’s hopefulness in regard to future trips, navigating the parameters of safe travel during the pandemic is an on-going and constantly evolving process.  

“One of the things we are definitely monitoring is what are quarantine requirements for the travel courses. Are they going to change? If they haven’t changed by a specific date, we might have to look at canceling the course,” said Marsh.

Quarantine requirements present challenges to May Term travel experiences as these courses are already condensed, and two weeks in isolation, which some countries require upon entrance, leave little room for exploration and cultural immersion.

Marsh and other faculty involved in these decisions understand and share the uncertainty felt by students regarding study abroad opportunities.

“The college is absolutely moving forward with students’ best financial interest in mind,” said Marsh. “We don’t want a situation where students have put down non-refundable deposits and everyone’s paid for a course that has to be canceled last minute. That’s the last thing we want to happen.”

There are several BC students taking advantage of the college’s optimism for future travel with study abroad applications already in-progress.

Junior Olivia Kloster is planning to study abroad in fall 2021. If the pandemic permits, she will attend Paul Valéry University in Montpellier, France.

“Even if it is during COVID, I won’t know any different, so the experience will be kind of a new thing anyway,” said Kloster. “It might not be the same where I will travel to another city every weekend, but it can still be something great.”

Marsh suggests that any students interested in a travel course or study abroad should investigate doing so confidently, but adds that travel insurance is always a good idea.

“At this stage, any student who is interested in a [May] travel course should absolutely go to information sessions, talk to faculty leaders, and get as much information as possible,” said Marsh. “There are also options for students to purchase cancelation insurance and it would be a very good idea for some students to look into this.”

Marsh is ready and willing to work with students to make a study abroad or May Term experience possible, even for graduating seniors.

“I work with alumni,” said Marsh. “I answer questions after students have graduated. There are programs for teaching abroad, there are fellowships students can do that they can research about before going to grad school.”

Though studying abroad may look different in 2021-2022, Marsh urges students to be hopeful, be flexible and understand that no one has all the answers right now. 

“There are always people at Bridgewater who are willing to help students find opportunities. It’s just a matter of keeping hopeful,” said Marsh.