Many Wellesley traditions have been disrupted in this unusual school year, and study abroad programs have not been exempt. Out of the 13 Wellesley study abroad programs offered in the fourth term, the trips to France, Vietnam, Prague, Germany and Japan were canceled as of March 13 due to a combination of visa issues, closed borders and travel restrictions.
In Vietnam and Japan, closed borders and local states of emergency made securing visas difficult, while European countries have different quotas for students who qualify for student visas. In the Czech Republic, only students attending programs that are longer than 90 days are eligible, while the standard is raised to six months for Germany. In both cases, since the term programs are only seven weeks long, they do not meet the legal minimum duration.
In the midst of the pandemic, many countries are reluctant to allow foreigners to enter due to public health concerns. Since students were unable to enter the previously noted countries due to COVID-related restrictions and complications, it was not worth it to invest in more plans, such as housing, social distancing measures and in-person classes.
Overall, about 200 students signed up to study abroad in Term 4. Around 60-70 students were affected by the programs’ cancelation, according to Jennifer Thomas-Starck, director of International Study. These students were offered to move to a different program or chose to study abroad again on a later date. Additionally, for the next academic year, trips are already planned for Germany and Japan, and the students who were originally enrolled in those destinations have the choice to defer their travel.
For many students who were affected, the common response was a mixed feeling of disappointment and understanding.
“As the dates for [my] study abroad got closer, I was anticipating the program getting canceled due to the COVID situation, [but] it was still disappointing to hear,” Isabel Sathy ’24, who originally planned to study abroad in France, said. “I was really excited to go study in France, but [I] will definitely go [in] a different year.”
Veronica Lin ’24, who was slated to go to Prague, shared Sathy’s sentiment. Both students are still hoping to apply to other study abroad programs during their time at Wellesley.
“There [will] probably be more options and fewer travel restrictions once the pandemic becomes less severe,” Lin said. “Coping with frustration and uncertainties is something I’ve become better at this past year.”
After their trips were canceled, students also had to plan new schedules. For some, the new course registration was a bit challenging because of limitations on course choices.
“By the time the trip got canceled, all the classes I wanted to take at Wellesley were full,” Anna Vogler ’24 said.
However, for students such as Grace Chen ’24, who is planning to study abroad in Copenhagen, the excitement of studying abroad is high despite lingering worries about COVID restrictions.
“I am super excited to go to Denmark as I never really considered studying abroad until I got to Wellesley,” Chen said. “I am nervous that it might get canceled due to border restrictions, but [I’m] really thankful for this opportunity to experience another country.”
The first review of Term 4 study abroad programs was held on Feb. 15, which saw the cancelation of the Prague, Japan, Germany, Vietnam and France trips. For the remaining programs, the second review took place on Mar. 1, but the Office of International Study will continue to monitor COVID and travel concerns in the upcoming days until students depart on the week leading up to April 10th.