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Rice cancels summer 2021 study abroad programs


Illustrated by Dalia Gulca

By Megan Xiao     3/2/21 11:11pm

Rice plans to extend the suspension of study abroad programs into summer 2021 due to ongoing health and safety concerns as well as restrictions related to COVID-19, according to the Dean of Undergraduates Bridget Gorman, in consultation with the Provost and Rice’s Crisis Management Advisory Committee. This includes the Rice in Country programs offered by the Center for Languages and Intercultural Communication, in-person study abroad programs from the Study Abroad Office and certain fellowships that require international study abroad from the Center for Civic Leadership. 

Certificates in Language and Intercultural Communication require completing an approved study abroad program. However, according to Maryam Emami, Rice in Country coordinator and program lecturer of French, there is motion towards creating other ways to fulfill the study abroad requirement of the certificate. 

“I know that this is one of the things that we are working on to make sure that basically the students do not get penalized for not being able to go abroad and then not being able to apply for the certificate,” Emami said. 

Beata Loch, director of the Study Abroad Office, agreed that the pandemic has created a unique situation, and said there will be understanding regarding requirements.

“Already last spring when we had to recall all students from overseas in the middle of their semesters, at a time when it wasn’t even clear in some cases how the online continuation of the courses can be ensured, there was an outpouring of support from faculty, and a reassurance from the dean of undergraduates that accommodations will be made,” Loch said. 

Emami said that there are still some available programs not held through Rice, but the ongoing health and safety concerns due to COVID-19 will vastly change the study abroad experience. 

Max Ruiz, a sophomore at Duncan College, said he plans to eventually study abroad in Spain for the Spanish certificate, but that he agrees this summer would be too soon. 

“I don’t think I would have gone this summer even if it wasn’t postponed,” Ruiz said. “I’m pretty sure I’m going to wait until 2022 when there hopefully aren’t as many COVID restrictions.” 

Aylia Rizvi, a junior at Will Rice college, said she also had to alter her plans to study abroad due to COVID-19. Rizvi said she planned to be in London for fall 2020, taking classes that would have counted for her major. 

“If I had known that I was staying, I would have been more involved last semester,” Rizvi said. “I’ll be a senior next year, and I need to finish my graduation requirements and capstone so I won’t be able to go abroad during my time here.”

Loch said another option would be to study abroad virtually, but that it cannot be seen as a real alternative. 

“Being immersed in an unfamiliar environment, culture, possibly language, and living in this environment day-to-day, away from family and friends, cannot truly be replicated in an online format,” Loch said. 

Loch said that instead, students should delay their study abroad plans if at all possible as there will be better opportunities in subsequent semesters. 

Similarly, Emami said she believes that there will also likely be more chances for students to participate in Rice in Country and study abroad in the future.

“We often have lots of freshmen applying for our programs, which gives them luckily a lot of time to still complete a study abroad program,” Emami said.

According to both Emami and Loch, things remain hopeful for the rest of 2021 and 2022 as many departments eagerly await the green light from the university to resume study abroad programs.

“It has been the most heartbreaking thing for me, knowing that we had a very large number of students who were actually accepted to go to France. And it was very hard. We actually waited until the last minute when the university made the decision,” Emami said. 

Loch said that lifting the study abroad suspension will greatly depend on virus trends, rollout of vaccines, travel restrictions and more. Study abroad may resume earlier in some parts of the world than others, and it will be essential for these countries to not only be safe destinations but also be willing to accept visitors.    

“The overall trajectory is positive, but I’d rather not make any predictions,” Loch said. “Right now we are supporting students with plans to study abroad in fall 2021, but with the understanding that nothing can be guaranteed just yet.”

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