Campus, Coronavirus, News

BU Study Abroad assesses potential of Spring 2021 programs


Boston University’s Global Programs building. BU Study Abroad is currently considering the possibility of offering programs for the Spring 2021 semester. LAURYN ALLEN/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Boston University is assessing the feasibility of moving forward with its Spring 2021 Study Abroad programs next semester, looking at each country on a case-by-case basis.

Final decisions have not yet been made, according to Executive Director of Study Abroad Gareth McFeely. 

BU Study Abroad has been accepting applications for its Spring programs this semester. 

BU canceled its Study Abroad programs last Spring and this Fall because of the coronavirus and subsequent travel restrictions. Over the summer, BU also announced that four of its programs would permanently close due to financial reasons related to the pandemic. 

BU spokesperson Colin Riley said that right now, Study Abroad programs are continuing to work on their 2021 programming, but rapidly changing travel restrictions and quarantine requirements make it difficult for the programs to make definitive arrangements.

“We know that there are varying situations from country to country and where our programs are located, so it’s just not resolved just yet,” Riley said. “I don’t know that it will be resolved but it may be improved to a point where we can make definitive opportunities available.”

McFeely wrote in an email that Study Abroad is assessing the risk level of different locations.

We’re looking at the options for the Spring on a site-by-site basis, monitoring conditions overseas daily in collaboration with our staff on the ground,” McFeely wrote. “The situation in each country evolves almost every day, as is the case here.” 

McFeely added that there is reason to be optimistic about the possibility of in-person travel. 

“There are both positive and more challenging pieces of news,” McFeely wrote. “The situation in Italy is quite hopeful at present, for instance, and some US students have traveled to there and other European locations even this Fall.”

BU will be able to accommodate students who remain in Boston if the Study Abroad programs are canceled, Riley said. He wrote in a later email that this includes housing availability as well as successful course registration.

“A lot of students plan a semester abroad in their junior year, and had looked forward to it and scheduled their courses around it,” Riley wrote. “So, if they’re not able to do SA, they would need to see either what required courses in their degree program they could enroll in or what electives fit in their schedules for the spring semester.”

He added that accommodations depend on where students are in their degree program and what specific courses they are looking for. 

Jinge Cao, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, said she is worried that her political science program at the National University of Singapore will be canceled because of coronavirus-related travel restrictions. 

Cao applied for the NUS program in March, before all programs were canceled for Fall. About a week ago, the program’s director informed Cao that the program is currently set to run during the Spring 2021 semester and she should reapply.  

“I finished [the application], and they admitted me,” Cao said. “But she told me that there’s a chance that it will be canceled because the program at … Nanyang Technological University, it’s also in Singapore, is already canceled because of [COVID-19], so students can’t get a visa from the U.S. now.”

Although Cao said she is excited about the idea of going to Singapore, she is prepared to take classes in Boston again if the NUS program does not happen next semester. 

Zihan Chen, a sophomore in the College of Engineering, said he is hopeful his program — Sydney Sophomore Engineering in Australia — will take place this Spring. Regardless, Chen said he has a backup plan.

“I feel like as long as a vaccine comes out, then I should be able to go,” said Chen. “I have figured everything out as well, in case I cannot go.” 

Study Abroad is highly important to the BU student experience, Riley said, adding that upwards of 40 percent of BU students choose to participate in the programs. 

“The programs are high-quality, well-designed and very valuable to our students, and we understand that,” Riley said. “But at the same time, everyone needs to be aware of what the reality is … and we’ll see what we’re able to do.”

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