COVID-19 still Wreaking Havoc on Study Abroad

Wrriten by Emily Gorlewski

It was going to be the biggest semester in years. 215 students had applied and been accepted for Fall 2020 study abroad programs. Their application deadlines had been February 22 and March 1, just the time that outbreaks of COVID-19 forced Wesleyan to first cancel its ECCO Bologna program and then call all Spring 2020 students home from study abroad worldwide. This recall was for students’ own safety during the pandemic, but also due to travel restrictions which might have left them stranded in their host countries for weeks or months.

Students who had planned to study abroad in the fall began to rethink their plans. Some canceled their participation soon after the spring 2020 students were recalled. Some held out hope that their study abroad would still be possible after lockdowns and other measures had their desired effects. In April, however, when they had to decide whether to stay on the study abroad list or participate in housing selection, many of them dropped.

Then, programs started canceling. All of these events have left us at 51 of the original 215 study abroad students. Now, in late June, the travel restrictions are still in place, despite some hard-hit countries beginning to recover and reopen. The State Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  are still at their highest travel alert levels worldwide. For the students who are still hoping to participate – dubbed “the intrepid souls” by the Office of Study Abroad – it is starting to look unlikely. Many colleges and universities have canceled all fall study abroad; Wesleyan has not as of this writing, but continues to monitor the changing situation.

Hannah Parten, Study Abroad Advisor, is “heartbroken. I know how hard our students have worked to apply, be admitted, and prepare for their study abroad programs. Plus, Wesleyan students who have studied a language were really eager to put all that practice to use.”

Some students are deferring their participation to spring or fall of 2021. “I’m hopeful that study abroad will come back stronger than ever,” says Parten. “I’m glad to hear from the majority of students who can no longer study abroad in the fall that they plan to defer to another semester.” But not all students will be able to defer. For those who are not, Parten has this advice: “I hope they will look into international fellowship opportunities. They have so much to offer–I’ve seen it in their study abroad applications!”

Intrepid souls, hang in there! Your commitment to global and intercultural learning is inspiring. We hope that you will be able to participate in the fall or in the future. Please also keep international fellowships in mind – these are fully-funded opportunities, often taking place after graduation, for you to do graduate study, research, or teaching abroad. Stories about students who have competed for and won these fellowships appear here in the newsletter quite often. Contact for more information.