The pandemic “lingers and creates insurmountable obstacles for international study away."
With Spring abroads canceled, many students have been forced to reevaluate their four-year pathways.
On Sept. 28, students learned that all Spring 2021 study away trips were canceled due to COVID-19. According to this announcement, Furman’s Study Away Safety Compliance and Assessment of Risk Committee (SASCAR) made the decision based on advice from the U.S. Department of State, the CDC and epidemiologists on the Furman faculty. The committee also corresponded with Furman’s international insurance provider and numerous partner institutions abroad.
Despite the decision, Nancy Georgiev, Director of the Rinker Center for Study Away and International Education, emphasized that “Study away has continued to be a priority for Furman.” Associate Provost for Engaged Learning Beth Pontari echoed Georgiev’s statement. Both noted the SASCAR Committee began deliberating MayX 2020, Spring 2020, and Fall 2020 Programs in February. Spring 2021 deliberations began early in the Fall 2020 semester.
Georgiev and Pontari also pointed out that the Spring 2021 cancellation does not include MayX 2021 trips. A final determination is expected soon, but deliberations are still underway. As for other abroad opportunities, Georgiev and Pontari added that Furman is not planning to offer any abroad programs in Summer 2021, but “students have always been able to apply for summer opportunities outside of Furman.”
Many students rely on abroad trips to fulfill major requirements. Junior Lydia Stubbs said she now cannot complete her German Studies major. Stubbs is frustrated with the decision, and “knows Furman likely did not have a choice but wishes they had not waited so long to decide.” Stubbs mentioned she would have adjusted her Fall schedule to take GERs or classes related to her Sustainability major had she known sooner.
Junior Gracie Bartel planned to study in Spain and was “banking on immersing herself in the Spanish culture and language to round out her Spanish major.” Bartel now fears she will not reach her full language potential. Junior Jack Markowitz worked closely with his Spanish advisor over the summer to improve his language skills. Markowitz noted that COVID-19 has not stopped him from majoring in Spanish, but he is disappointed to “have worked so hard to get accepted into the program and ultimately not be able to take part in it.”
Several students had been concerned about Spring 2021 trips upon the cancellation of Fall 2020 trips. For example, junior Natalie Wolf was disappointed “but not surprised with the situation,” and remarked that while she was expecting the email any day, seeing it in her inbox was upsetting.
Georgiev and Pontari noted that the Study Away Office is now encouraging students to set up advising appointments. Students should also contact their academic advisors when exploring other options. Both expressed that Furman is also disappointed with the decision to cancel Spring 2021 trips. They concluded that the pandemic “lingers and creates insurmountable obstacles for international study away,” and the Rinker Office had held out hope until now that a vaccine would be developed in time.
For now, students impacted by the cancelation should continue consulting with the Rinker Center or their academic advisors to develop a new plan for their studies.