European study abroad programs remain on track for fall, could still change

'Rome in Focus' is one of the summer study abroad programs Tufts offers. Bert Kaufmann / Wikimedia Commons

One year into the pandemic, countries in Europe are beginning to witness a new wave of COVID-19 infections as vaccination efforts continue slowly throughout the EU. Despite the conditions of the pandemic in many countries in Europe, Tufts Global Education currently plans to continue with its fall semester study abroad programs, but will reconsider if necessary.

“We are monitoring, on an ongoing basis, infection rates, vaccination rates, and travel restrictions/conditions both here and in our program locations,” Assistant Director of Tufts Global Education Melanie Armstrong wrote in an email to the Daily. “It is not yet known if the current infection or vaccination rates either here or in Europe will have any appreciable impact on the viability of programs for the fall.”

Mala Ghosh, associate dean of Tufts Global Education, said that the Tufts Global Education department is working with each director abroad on planning for classroom spacing and necessary accommodations, as well as preparing for quarantine, vaccination and testing protocols.

“We meet regularly as a global team, and I work with each director [one-on-one] to continuously assess the current situation in each country,” Ghosh wrote in an email to the Daily. “We are cautiously optimistic that the vaccination roll-out will improve conditions in each country.”

Ghosh added that, because each country is handling vaccinations and the pandemic differently, she is in close communication with senior leadership at Tufts and local university partners as the situation evolves.

Armstrong said that as of now, there have been no specific formal program changes made because there is still a good amount of time before the fall semester. However, potential changes may include mask requirements in designated areas, housing shifts, class size limits and virtual orientation programming in case of arrival quarantine. 

Aliya Magnuson said she is studying abroad in the fall because she is a member of the track and field team and wants to participate in the spring season. She is planning on going to Aix-en-Provence through the Institute for American Universities, an external program that is pre-approved by Tufts.

“I did a bunch of research on the countries in Europe and which ones might have the vaccine by the fall because the fall is approaching pretty [quickly], so they kind of have to have plans already,” Magnuson, a sophomore, said. “France seemed like a pretty good option.”

According to Armstrong, the spring semester is usually more popular among students who apply to study abroad. This was the case for applications for 2021–22 as well, just with a slightly larger discrepancy. She added that more rising seniors applied for the fall due to the cancellation of study abroad this year.

Magnuson said the coordinators for her external program have not been in contact with her about the state of the fall semester. However, IAU runs a May semester as well as one over the summer, so she believes they are waiting to see how the spring and summer semesters play out before changing any plans for the fall.

“I think my biggest concern is that it’s an international university, and there are going to be students from all over, so they’re probably not all going to have the vaccine,” Magnuson said. “I think it’ll be interesting to see how [the program does its] in-person classes because they haven’t communicated that very much.”

Ghosh said that Tufts has not made any official decisions regarding a COVID-19 vaccination requirement, although it is possible that some partner schools or the governments of host countries may require vaccine documentation or proof of a negative COVID-19 test result for entry. 

“Students who are not vaccinated should expect additional entry, visa, and travel restrictions, all of which may combine to make their participation in study abroad impossible,” Ghosh said. “We do recommend that students receive the vaccination before traveling abroad.”

Armstrong said country- or program-specific suspensions may be necessary if local metrics such as vaccination rates and infection rates, as well as public health guidance, indicate that it may be unsafe to run the programs.

“We hope to avoid suspending our programs and we are working on various potential program modifications aimed at supporting operations on-site,” Armstrong said. “However, as we have all seen, the course of this pandemic is unpredictable and has had ebbs and flows.”

Until then, though, Armstrong and Ghosh remain hopeful.

“Our goal is to operate our European programs and do our best to ensure smooth operations on-site based on evaluating the recommendations and evolving situation on the ground in each country,” Ghosh said.


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