Plans for study abroad programs in the summer remain uncertain amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, but students should expect a final decision to be made on March 5.
The decision in March will determine whether students will be able to attend summer trips planned for all three of study abroad’s locations. This includes Leipzig, Germany, Oxford, England and Montevideo. This comes after study abroad canceled their fall 2020 and spring 2021 trips due to coronavirus.
According to Stephen Shewmaker, the executive director of ACU Study Abroad, many factors will determine if ACU students will return to Europe and South America.
“We would first need to have the ability to get into the countries as well as examine the COVID risk at each one,” said Shewmaker, “but that’s something we really don’t have control over. We’ll also look at each country’s operational situation, like if students need to quarantine on arrival, show a negative test or get a vaccine. There are many unknowns and variables we need to get comfortable with if we are going to send students abroad.”
One student waiting on study abroad’s decision is Colleen Gostomski, a freshman digital entertainment technology major from Pipe Creek. She currently plans on attending the college of business administration’s summer study abroad trip to Oxford, England.
Gostomski trusts that the faculty will make the right decision on whether to move forward with study abroad. But she admitted if it did get canceled, she would be disappointed.
“I’d be super disappointed but not surprised,” said Gostomski. “I knew when I signed up that there was a definite chance we would not get to go. It would definitely be a major bummer if I didn’t get to go.”
Though there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding study abroad, Shewmaker encourages students to keep planning to participate as well as sign up for programs and that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“To participate in study abroad, whether being a certain time or an uncertain time like now, you have to plan ahead,” Shewmaker said. “That is hard for all of us to do when our spirits are deflated, and a lot of us have had plans canceled in the past year. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Life is going to start opening up again, and we need to plan for that when it does.”
Even if her trip is canceled due to coronavirus, Gostomski plans to sign up again and remains determined to study abroad during her time at ACU.
“The opportunity to go with my college and take classes I need for my major is kind of rare,” said Gostomski. “If, in the end, I don’t get to go this year, I would still try to go at a different time. I plan on studying abroad at least once while at ACU, and I will do everything I can to make that happen.”
Despite everything going on with the pandemic, Shewmaker remains hopeful that study abroad will make its return to campus very soon.
“We are hopeful and excited for the time that we will be able to send students abroad again,” said Shewmaker. “Our department is excited for the opportunity students will have in the future and working hard to make that happen. We hope our return will be much sooner rather than later.”