USF changes study abroad programs amid COVID-19 – The Oracle

Studying abroad through USF will be different this summer, as students will be able to attend seven in-person trips and numerous virtual excursions despite the mitigation efforts that will be required. UNSPLASH / Margo Brodowicz

Even with travel restrictions in place due to the pandemic, USF has approved seven study abroad programs for the summer of 2021 for students looking to expand their studies beyond campus borders.

While this year’s selection is limited to seven programs due to security concerns related to COVID-19, students will have the opportunity to explore programs outside of their comfort zone, from visiting the Cathedral of Florence to the exploration of marine life in the Galapagos Islands.

The programs chosen had to be approved by the USF COVID-19 task force according to KiKi Caruson, acting vice president of USF World. These are the USF in Florence Science, the USF in Florence Business, the USF in Florence Psychology / Social Behavioral Science, the USF Caribbean Marine Conservation in Curaçao, the USF Romania Human Osteology and Bioarchaeology, the Green Program in Iceland and USF in the Galapagos Islands.

Selection criteria also included USF’s ability to provide a safe experience and the ability of its national partners to provide support services to academics and students amid the pandemic. Caruson said that while there will be fewer students going on study trips abroad this year, she is happy that USF World may still have options available.

“We will have significantly fewer students traveling abroad this summer compared to the pre-covid periods, but we are excited to be able to offer even a limited group of programs,” Caruson said. “Our goal has not changed: to provide USF students with safe, high-impact experiences abroad that contribute to academic and professional success as well as personal growth.”

According to Jim Pulos, associate director of Education Abroad, around 150 students are expected to travel this summer and the majority will travel to Florence. He said that in addition to the academic and cultural opportunities that students usually have while studying abroad, they should also anticipate social distancing requirements and smaller class sizes this summer.

“As in the United States, students can expect social distancing requirements, mask requirements, COVID testing requirements and [other usual mitigation procedures]Said Pulos.

“Students are discouraged from traveling independently before and during the program. All students are strongly encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccine and students heading to Florence will be directed to “COVID-tested” flights across Rome. “

Faculty members who are part of the programs will also follow safety guidelines and leave the United States already vaccinated, according to Pulos. In addition, Pulos said each program has its own COVID-19 mitigation strategies that have been reviewed by the International Bureau of Risk and Safety and the COVID-19 task force, including asking travelers to passing COVID-19 tests and maintaining social distancing in communities. who will be visited.

In the Florence program, which is the most popular among students this year, a mitigation measure in place is the mandatory vaccination of all staff and faculty at the University of the Arts in Florence – American University of Florence. Pulos said the host institute has also adjusted the program’s tours to make them safer.

“Our partners have changed the location of their integrated site visits to keep them in Florence, Tuscany region, rather than the surrounding areas,” said Pulos.

“As Florence is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Site with an abundance of cultural and historical sites and world-class cuisine, there is much to see and do in Florence. It is also expected that there will be fewer tourists, which makes this a unique opportunity for our students and teachers to experience the city without crowds of tourists.

Other study abroad opportunities have been reshaped or canceled due to the ongoing pandemic. Judy Genshaft Honors College (JGHC) will not be sponsoring any trips this summer, according to Megan Braunstein, academic advisor and international programs coordinator at Honors College. Given the uncertainty of travel restrictions, she said the college decided not to go ahead with the programs.

“We didn’t really feel comfortable telling students in January and February, ‘Yeah, put several hundred dollars into a program deposit, and start investing in flights and things like that,’ when we didn’t know if we were really going to be able to do it or not, ”Braunstein said.

Instead, the college will host an online global exchange program where engineering students learn from faculty members at Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences. During this program, Braunstein said students will work on projects, listen to guest speakers, and gain engineering knowledge from professionals.

“We originally planned for the students to go to Germany for six weeks, but because of COVID they told us, ‘It’s not going well in Germany, don’t set your expectations with the students they gonna be able to come here, ”Braunstein said.

“And so they said, ‘You know what, let’s just plan a virtual experience. That way, we’re not going to disappoint the students at the last minute, and we can always have enough time to prepare a really robust virtual experience for them at that time. We are therefore very happy with the opportunity that [the students are] going to have.”

During the spring semester, the JGHC directed further study abroad opportunities towards virtual learning experiences. A course that was to be offered in South Korea has become a series of workshops on the culture of that country, while a medical trip to the Dominican Republic that usually takes place at the end of the spring semester has become a virtual experience of that country. observation during which students observed interactions in a Dominican clinic.

Braunstein said there is no timeline for restarting all of JGHC’s study abroad programs, but she hopes by the winter break it can accommodate one.

“There is still some uncertainty there, it is not just about the US regulation, but also about the regulation in the Dominican Republic and in other countries that we would intend to study in there. ‘foreigner,’ Braunstein said. “It still changes a lot from day to day, which is why I’m a little hesitant to say that fall or winter is definitely for us. But we are optimistic, our fingers are crossing. “

While USF World wants to give all students the opportunity to travel, the limited number of trips means graduating students will be given priority for selection.

“This summer, studying abroad won’t be for everyone, but for students who are nearing the end of their careers at USF,” said Caruson.

“Those who will not have another window to travel abroad due to schedules and degree requirements and those who are intrepid travelers who have realistic expectations of experience and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic will have the chance to study abroad as long as national borders remain open. and conditions allow travelers to leave and re-enter the United States safely. “

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