Michaela Lumpert, Campus Carrier staff writer
Among the many programs affected by COVID-19, the International Experiences Office has struggled to provide students with study abroad trips due the travel ban.
Students have had to rearrange their semesters and future trips as the State Department continues to advise students against going on trips.
Director of International Experiences Chris Borda said that the office receives its information about travel directly from the State Department. They provide colleges and study abroad programs with information regarding travel. They rate different countries on a risk scale of one to five. The different levels that the State Department ranks countries is based on how much risk a student is in as they travel throughout the country.
Berry students are not allowed to travel to level five countries, and must receive permission to travel to level four countries.
Currently, Borda does not know exactly when students will be allowed to study abroad. As of right now, there are no Berry students abroad. When students will be allowed abroad all depends on the recommendations of not only the State Department, but also the program providers.
Most program providers are postponing or deferring trips until later semesters or summers when they hope there will be less of a risk for students.
Other providers are changing programs so that they are more flexible for students still wanting to study abroad. Some of these changes include altering the amount of days students are away so that they are not travelling for more than 90 days and pushing trips back to later semesters.
Berry departmental trips that were cancelled are looking to be rescheduled to this summer or later. Borda stated that although these students lost the opportunity to travel, most were able to continue taking their classes online. Even some program providers, as Borda explained, offered students the opportunity to take online classes so that they could receive credits and stay on track to graduate.
The biggest piece of advice that Borda is giving students is to have multiple plans. If a trip ends up being cancelled, they can still have a plan for the semester and not have to worry about their graduation status.
“I’m telling students to have parallel plans, have both plans going at the same so that you are ready for whichever outcome happens,” Borda said.
These parallel plans, as Borda described, means that students have a plan for studying abroad and a plan for remaining on campus. That way, no matter what happens, the student has space at Berry and a chance of studying abroad.
Looking to the future, students are more hesitant when booking and planning their trips. Because of this, Borda said that program providers are working with students to provide multiple contingency plans. Some of these plans include students receiving a full refund even if their trip is cancelled a day before the departure date.
“A lot of the providers that we work with are being more flexible with their policies because they know people are hesitant to put all that money down on a trip with so many uncertainties out there,” Borda said.
Borda is optimistic for study abroad trips that are planned within the coming months, but he still is warning students to be cautious as the International Experience Office continues to monitor the situation. They are trying to guess when the next possible time students will be allowed to study abroad.
“We are still watching the spring semester, to see if that’s going to be a possibility, it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility, but we just don’t know,” Borda said. “We can’t be certain. We know how quickly things change so we can’t guarantee anything but we are hopeful about summer travel and [study abroad] moving forward.”