Loyola suspended all study abroad programs for fall 2020, including study at the university’s John Felice Rome Center and Vietnam Center, due to the continued spread of COVID-19, according to a June 22 announcement.
All summer study abroad programming was cancelled in March, and Loyola said their decision for fall 2020 study abroad programs was “up in the air” since, The Phoenix reported. During the 2018-19 academic year, 869 students studied abroad, according to Loyola’s Undergraduate Study Abroad Participation Annual Report. During both previous academic years, 793 students studied abroad.
This means approximately 250 students studied abroad each term: fall, spring and summer, according to Dr. Brian Johnson, associate director for study abroad in Loyola’s Office of International Programs. This fall, about half that number of students were approved to study abroad, he said.
“Largely informed by those strong, strong warnings to not travel, Loyola University found it to be prudent to suspend fall study abroad,” Johnson said in an interview with The Phoenix.
The European Union (EU) also released a list of countries June 30 for which travel restrictions will be lifted — the U.S. was absent from this list.
The EU considered the following criteria when finalizing its travel list, according to a June 30 press release: the number of new COVID-19 cases over the last 14 days are close to or below the EU’s average and there’s a stable or decreasing trend of new cases over this period in comparison to the previous 14 days. The EU also considered a country’s overall response to COVID-19 such as testing, contact tracing and treatment.
Johnson said the office has been in contact with students who were planning on studying abroad in the fall since mid-March and has advised them to keep an eye on travel advisories, while also waiting to see if it would be safe and healthy to travel despite the pandemic.
“That, unfortunately, has not happened, “Johnson said. “The timing is such that if someone is going to go abroad for fall semester, they really have to know whether they’re going or not right around now because of the time it takes to get a visa. So we couldn’t wait until the middle of July or early August to tell students they have that green light.”
Students who applied to study abroad this fall are being refunded their money automatically. Students must reapply if they choose to study abroad for any future term, including spring 2021, as the Office of International Programming doesn’t defer applications or carry forward payments, according to a study abroad COVID-19 information page.
Loyola previously encouraged students who applied to study abroad to also register for Chicago fall courses by early April and apply for on-campus housing as a back-up plan.
Emily Sands, a junior majoring in environmental studies, said she transferred to Loyola in August 2019 because of her interest in studying abroad at the Vietnam Center. Sands said she applied to study abroad in the fall but dropped out in mid-June, just a few days before Loyola cancelled all study abroad programs.
“I was too nervous about waiting,” the 20-year-old said. “I was super worried about finding housing. … I didn’t want to be without housing or have to try and petition [Residence Life] to let me live on campus.”
Sands also said she feels Loyola officials didn’t communicate enough with students who were planning on studying abroad. Although she knows Loyola took their time to make the best-informed decision, she said a lot of study abroad emails were “just kind of evading the questions” about a final decision.
Uma Radhakrishnan, a 20-year-old Loyola junior, said she was planning on studying abroad at the John Felice Rome Center this fall but dropped out around two weeks before programming was officially cancelled.
Radhakrishnan, a business major, said “there was a lot of uncertainty that [she] needed to get out of the way” and feels as though Loyola could have made a decision sooner.
“I feel like there was a lot of doubt with both sides,” she said. “It was a lot of waiting around and I think that was a lot for my friends who were going to study abroad.”
Johnson said the Office of International Programs “wanted to wait long enough to see if the pandemic would be brought under control, but not wait too late to make a decision and kind of pull the rug out from students.”