Fate of fall study abroad remains uncertain

After having to recall students from spring programs and cancel all summer programs amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Iowa International Programs is still planning and preparing for Fall 2020 study abroad programs. Students however are still being advised to register for courses at the UI, and the final decision will be made no later than mid-June.


Tate Hildyard

The University of Iowa Study abroad office is seen on Monday, October 21st, 2019.

Mary Hartel, News Reporter

Following the early end to spring study-abroad programs as an immediate ripple effect of the COVID-19 pandemic — the University of Iowa brought students home early in the semester and canceled all summer programs — the fate of fall UI study-abroad programs remains uncertain.

UI International Programs Dean Russell Ganim said that at this point study-abroad programs are still slated to operate as usual in the fall, though no firm decision has been made.

“The simple fact is that the university plans to be open in the fall semester, and so we are taking our lead from senior administration and that means starting to plan for the fall,” Ganim said.

Ganim added that the spring and summer terms are more popular times to study abroad.

According to the UI’s Study Abroad Annual Report, 9 percent of the 1,309 students who studied abroad during the 2018-2019 school year did so in the fall semester.

“The fall gives us a little bit of time to kind of recalibrate and redetermine our priorities, but we’re still taking queries from students and advising them in every way we can,” Ganim said.

Ganim said that students are currently applying to international programs for fall 2020 but are also still being advised to sign up for UI classes next semester.

“We have to be prudent given the circumstances,” Ganim said.

Ganim added that a firm decision regarding study-abroad programs for the fall 2020 semester will be made in early to mid-June at the latest.

Related: University of Iowa anticipates drop in new international-student enrollment for fall 2020 due to COVID-19

Ganim said that outcomes will hinge on what other countries do in the fall as well, noting that the two most popular study-abroad destinations, Italy and Spain, have both been hit hard by the virus, and travel restrictions remain in place across the globe — not just in the U.S.

The University of Illinois, a peer institution of the UI’s, announced April 22 that it would suspend all study-abroad programs through Jan. 15. Ganim said it is the only Big Ten institution to make a definite decision on the matter thus far.

Autumn Tallman, associate director of international health, safety and security in UI international programs, said safety is “paramount,” and the number one priority when making decisions like these.

“When we can safely send students abroad again, we will be prepared to do so. Assessment is ongoing,” Tallman said in an email to The Daily Iowan. “Significant consideration is given to Department of State travel advisories and CDC travel guidance when decisions are made about international travel for students.”

UI junior Madisyn Warrick said she was supposed to study in the Gold Coast of Australia through The Education Abroad Network in the fall 2020 semester.

Although it has not officially been canceled, Warrick said that after meeting with her study-abroad advisor and because of uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, she opted to move her travel plans to the spring of 2021.

“I just decided to push it back to the spring just so that I know for sure I could possibly go,” Warrick said.

Ganim said UI International Programs and Study Abroad is dedicated to its students no matter what happens, and the value of an international education and an understanding of the world are more imperative now than ever before.

“Recovery from this global pandemic depends on us working as one worldwide community,”

Ganim said. “The only way that we will really resolve this problem, and all of the problems that have resulted from the pandemic is by working across different cultures, across different languages, across different belief systems, so that our entire global community can recover and prosper.”