By: Grace Coughlan, Associate Editor and Mikey Olszewski, Contributing Writer
While Towson University’s (TU) study abroad programs have been cancelled through the Summer 2021, the Study Abroad Office expects to resume travel plans in Fall 2021 with COVID-19 restrictions permitting.
“We look forward to resuming study abroad activity as soon as it’s safe to do so,” said Liz Shearer, director of TU’s Study Abroad Programs. “We’re hopeful that students planning to go abroad in Fall 2021 will be able to move forward with their experiences but specific criteria will need to be met in order for that to happen.”
TU is following their own policies while complying with the U.S. COVID-19 guidelines.
“TU’s International Travel Policy provides a framework for the decision-making process,” Shearer said. “Although there are many factors to take into consideration, at a minimum, host countries must have a U.S. Department of State and CDC travel advisory level of 1 or 2 and be permitting entry to students from the U.S.”
The Study Abroad Office has been working closely with international programs in order to provide an adaptable study abroad experience.
“Many of our international partners are adapting their academic calendar to allow for later start dates and to negate the need for students to obtain entry visas which can be a lengthy process,” said Shearer. “We’re also being as flexible as possible with application fees, deposits, and payment deadlines and recommend all students purchase cancel for any reason insurance to cover all study abroad related expenses.”
According to Shearer, there will be a decision made by July, regarding fall study abroad. However, programs for 2022 have already been announced. Shearer said that the office has developed several new study abroad opportunities for 2022.
“We have 10 faculty-led study abroad programs scheduled for Minimester and Spring Break 2022 and another 15 are in development for Summer 2022,” said Shearer. “The programs cover a broad range of academic disciplines and destinations from Sociology in the UK to Kinesiology in Iceland and Health Professions in Australia and New Zealand.”
Freshman Shauna Pichette said she’s interested in both studying abroad and seeing how it’ll be done post-pandemic.
“I do plan on doing a study abroad program at Towson. I have always wanted to travel and it would be very beneficial to my major,” said Pichette, who is majoring in International Studies and Spanish. “I trust that if the University opens back up then they must think it is safe enough for us to go abroad.”
Freshman Emma Carey said she’d be interested in participating in the program and thinks it’ll be safe to travel internationally by the summer.
“I believe the best part of college is the opportunities it has to offer. Studying abroad is certainly one of those opportunities I want to explore,” said Carey. “Personally, I would feel comfortable about participating since vaccinations are becoming more widespread.”
While many students are awaiting the chance to be able to travel outside of the United States for study abroad programs, TU, partnering with the National Student Exchange Program to create “TU Study Away.”
“The program will include short-term domestic faculty-led academic programs as well as semester or year-long opportunities at other institutions in the U.S. and beyond through the National Student Exchange,” said Shearer. “In alignment with the University’s mission and strategic plan, these unique academic experiences will further expand TU’s emphasis on experiential learning and help prepare graduates who will serve as effective, ethical leaders, and engaged citizens.”
According to Shearer, students can travel to and study at partner institutions across the United States, Canada, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. She said that study away programs provide students with the opportunities to experience different regions and cultures of the U.S.
The first of these Study Away faculty-led experiences will be offered starting spring break and summer 2022, said Shearer. She says the anticipated destinations for the trip include Montana, New York and California.
According to Shearer, another alternative to a normal study abroad experience at TU is the Global Lecture Exchange (GLE). She explained that the GLE is a new program that TU has created in partnership with its current exchange institutions where interested TU faculty can partner with professors from exchange universities virtually to collaborate on lectures, course materials and more.
“Our office matches the TU professor with a faculty member from the same or similar discipline at one of our existing exchange partner schools abroad so they can “swap” one or more lectures in a virtual format,” said Shearer. “The program will allow students to gain a global perspective in enhanced courses taught right here on the TU campus.”
Aside from TU-affiliated abroad programs, there are other options leaving for Fall 2021. Semester at Sea is an accredited program that travels across the oceans and brings students, professors, and faculty into a multitude of different countries to further advance their studies in whatever field is being pursued.
Senior Sara Perrotti, who is studying International Studies and Italian language is a Semester at Sea alum.
“My journey was cut short because of [the COVID-19 pandemic], but the time that I did spend abroad was something I will never forget,” said Perrotti. “The field study classes were extremely life changing for me. If you are interested in any type of travel this program will change your perspective on the world.”
According to Shearer, the COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped student interest in study abroad.
“TU students recognize the importance of gaining an international academic experience and demand remains high so I’m excited to get back on track and ‘reboot’ study abroad!” said Shearer. “But the fallout of COVID-19 has actually created a space for creativity resulting in innovative new initiatives and practices that will expand opportunities for global learning for students and faculty both domestically and abroad moving forward.”