“With the covid-19 vaccines rolling out in the US, we are feeling confident about our ability to re-open our international program next fall 2021,” Jan Bender Shetler, director of global engagement, reports. Study-Service Terms (SST) are planned for Ecuador and China in the fall, Ecuador and Indonesia in the spring of 2022 and Senegal and Ecuador in the summer of 2022.
The current NYT coronavirus world map shows that all of these countries are in the two lowest categories for covid-19 cases (while the US is in the highest). If current trends hold, the biggest hurdle for study abroad programs will be fear of people from the US bringing infection.
By the time students travel in August 2021, approved vaccines should be widely available in the US, including for our students. We will have good data both on efficacy in reducing risk to the individual vaccinated as well as reduction in ability to transmit the virus to others.
For students who prefer not to travel abroad, domestic options are available. During May Term, students can encounter religious and ethnic groups from Chicago to Amish country, including their histories and the he global immigration stories that shape this region. They can also experience community-engaged learning through a course on environmental disaster and response. A summer term SST on Native Americans will travel to Hopi and Navaho reservations in Arizona.
“The health and safety of students remains our top priority. We will continue to monitor the global health landscape, including travel restrictions, quarantine requirements, infection rates, and future vaccine availability in each of our program locations,” Shetler says. This includes protecting students, faculty leaders and national staff, host families and partner organizations, while still preserving the academic quality of our programs.
Health protocols will be specific to each individual program and the recommended practices of the CDC and local authorities. These protocols may include social distancing, frequent hand washing, cleaning/disinfecting, regular use of PPE, testing, quarantining and vaccinations. All students, faculty, and staff are expected to respect and comply with specific requirements they may encounter on their program to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Although early vaccine access will be dominated by wealthy countries, the countries students will visit will have access to vaccines by the time students arrive.