Most study abroad programs have been canceled for spring 2021 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with the exception of the Tufts-in-Oxford and Tufts@BNU programs. The Tufts-in-Madrid program, which the Tufts Global Education office took more time to consider, was officially canceled on Friday.
“The decision to suspend was made in consultation with senior leadership, the Covid Coordinating Committee, legal counsel, and global operations at Tufts, guided by recommendations and restrictions laid out by industry and governmental bodies, both national and international,” Mala Ghosh, senior director of Study Abroad and Global Education, wrote in an email to the Daily.
As a result of ongoing developments surrounding air travel and entry restrictions, it is not safe to send students abroad, according to Ghosh.
The Tufts-in-Oxford program, however, is uniquely different.
“[Oxford's] academic model is based on tutorials where the students have individualized faculty interaction, advising and independent studies. Oxford is also able to commit to academic continuity for the entire year if the University had to close or if students were required to isolate or leave the country,” Ghosh said.
She explained that students in the program also have private single rooms and bathrooms, allowing for quarantine or isolation if necessary, and the University of Oxford is able to provide meal delivery and health services.
Similar to the Tufts-in-Oxford program, the model of the Tufts@BNU program allows for it to remain in place in the spring but with strict adherence to COVID-19 guidelines.
“The Tufts@BNU program is a special new local program for Chinese students in Beijing where they are in their home country of record with a closed campus management system,” Ghosh said. "Students are able to have a residential experience with stringent mitigation plans in place."
Some students who were planning on studying abroad in the spring are disappointed but understanding of the situation and the reasoning behind the decision.
“I’m upset, but I’m not surprised. I’ve been expecting this since April to an extent, so it’s not necessarily a shock to me. It’s obviously a bit crushing to hear it officially, but I don’t think this came out of nowhere,” Josie Wagner, a junior who was planning on attending the Tufts-in-Madrid program, wrote in an email to the Daily.
Junior Emily McMullen, who was also planning on participating in Tufts-in-Madrid, said she feels the same frustration but understands the decision.
“The safety of the students is most important,” McMullen wrote in an email to the Daily.
Alongside the decision to cancel almost all study abroad programs for the spring, the university announced it would not accept transfer credits for external programs students enroll in, a decision that upset some students.
“I think it’s unfair that they will refuse to accept transfer credits. That should be a student and their family’s decision to go/ not to go, not the university’s,” McMullen said.
Ghosh explained that the university cannot be sure of what students will experience when they are abroad in other external programs.
“We provide Tufts approval for specific external study abroad programs and direct enrollment international institutions, therefore we do have responsibility while our students are abroad,” Ghosh said. “Due to the conditions outlined, we cannot mitigate health and safety abroad nor plan around international travel restrictions at this time.”
Ghosh added that the university is moving forward with planning for study abroad programs in the 2021–22 school year, but that they will continue to be vigilant of the way the pandemic unfolds in each country.
“Our staff and our partners are currently conducting student outreach, expanding advising opportunities, creating a global dialogue series, designing virtual learning modules, expanding local partnerships to enhance academic options, developing new internship programs, and enhancing student support services,” Ghosh said.
Although study abroad programs may be possible next year, some students in the Class of 2022 feel they are missing their opportunity to study abroad because they would like to remain on campus their senior year.
“I do not plan on studying abroad anymore because I want to spend my senior year here,” Daniel Alderman, a junior, wrote in an email to the Daily.
Wagner echoed this opinion.
“I would love to, but it may end up being something I do after graduating since the idea of going abroad senior year isn’t appealing,” Wagner said.
The Tufts Global Education office is looking optimistically toward the 2021–22 school year.
“We all hope that conditions will improve, travel restrictions will be lifted, and that there is a widely distributed effective vaccine,” Ghosh said.