University of Iowa students react to Spring study abroad cancelation

The UI’s Spring 2021 study abroad session marks the third consecutive term canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 64 UI students had applied to programs and were prepping for departure.


Ayrton Breckenridge

University of Iowa International Programs building decal as seen on Wednesday, Oct. 28.

Mary Hartel, News Reporter

On Oct. 21, the University of Iowa announced it would be canceling spring study abroad and all UI-sponsored student travel.

In an email to The Daily Iowan, Senior Associate Director of UI International Health, Safety and Security Autumn Tallman said the  state Board of Regents made the decision because of the prevalence of COVID-19 in the U.S. and abroad.

Tallman said many universities have made similar decisions in curtailing study abroad for the time being not only for health and safety concerns, but also because travelers may face fluctuating entry restrictions, visa restrictions, and limited flight options to or from some countries.

According to the International Programs 2019 annual report, 1,316 UI students studied abroad in the 2018-2019 academic year in 69 countries. Students were awarded $1,140,052 for study abroad that year, $734,291 of which was from university sources including the Iowa Abroad Scholarship, the Ann Morse Scholarship Fund, and the Stanley-UI Foundation Support Organization.

Sixty-four students applied for study abroad programs for the spring of 2021, Tallman said.

“Many of the students who applied to travel abroad this spring have now deferred their study abroad plans to a future session,” Tallman said. “Sadly, some students will not have another opportunity to study abroad before they are scheduled to graduate.”

Tallman said some donor money that goes toward study abroad scholarships will remain on hold, while money for need-based scholarships can go toward virtual global experiences administered by the UI study abroad office.

RELATED: Fate of fall study abroad remains uncertain

The spring study abroad session is the second most popular time for UI students to study abroad —  28 percent of students in study abroad programs in 2018-19 chose the spring semester. The most popular period was during the summer at 43 percent.

UI senior Madisyn Warrick said she planned to study abroad during the fall 2020 semester, but pushed it back to spring 2021. She expected COVID-19 restrictions to simmer by that time.

“I just decided to push it back to the spring just so that I know for sure I could possibly go,” Warrick said in an interview with the DI in May.

She said she ended up canceling her study abroad plans altogether in June, before the official cancellation of spring study abroad was announced earlier this semester.

“I just decided that because I knew we were probably going to be getting a second wave of COVID-19,” she said. “I didn’t want to fly out there and then be there for three weeks and then get sent home.”

Warrick said while she’s bummed she won’t be able to study abroad in college, she doesn’t think it will negatively impact her experience or résumé.

She added that the most frustrating part was the amount of time she wasted picking out courses and planning logistics.

“I told myself that I would save money and go on a vacation there when I can,” Warrick said.

UI sophomore Alex Bischoff said he had planned to participate in the CIMBA Italy program during the spring semester.

Bischoff, who’s majoring in accounting, said he wanted to go during his sophomore year, because junior year is big for job recruitment in his major.

He opted to live in the dorms another year solely because he didn’t want to risk paying extra rent for six months while abroad. He said he found out about the cancellation through receiving a text from his roommate asking about the living situation for next semester amid the cancellation.

“It’s kind of frustrating, but alarming,” Bischoff said. “I kind of knew it was going to happen once all this COVID-19 stuff started. Over the summer I applied because that is when it opened up, I said ‘screw it maybe it will be better by the winter’. I was disappointed, but not as disappointed as I would be, because I kind of figured it was going to happen.”

Bischoff said he’s hoping he will find another time to do the same program but it will all depend on the recruiting season and whether or not his masters can be done abroad.

Bischoff said while the situation is annoying, there is no way to blame the university.

“There’s a lot more to blame for us not being as ready as we should be right now. That’s a whole separate problem.” Bischoff said. “But I honestly think it’s kind of the same disappointment from the fall and winter.”

Bischoff said he doesn’t think this will affect his education too much in the long run as he already had a plan sans study abroad as a back up.

“It is what it is,” Bischoff said.