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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, October 2, 2023

Study abroad programs resume with COVID-19 restrictions

A London street is pictured, taken by alumna Susan Wang during her time in England, where she got stuck when the COVID-19 pandemic struck during her semester abroad.

As students who plan on studying abroad in the fall semester are gearing up for their trips, many programs are proceeding as planned, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Mala Ghosh, associate dean and senior director of Tufts Global Education, said that it is exciting to watch students return to study abroad programs.

“Students have been arriving at our Tufts Programs Abroad centers in Paris, Madrid, London, and Tübingen as well as beginning other study abroad programs with various partners across Europe,” Ghosh wrote in an email to the Daily.

The university is also operating Tufts in Oxford, which is set to begin next month.

Tufts in Beijing will not be continuing this semester. Tufts@BNU, however, which is also hosted at Beijing Normal University and which started in the summer of 2020 to accommodate Chinese international students during COVID-19, is continuing this fall.

“Unfortunately, we are canceling our Tufts in Beijing program due to visa processing," Ghosh said. "Students are preparing for spring programs, and we are hoping countries begin to reopen travel and the pandemic restrictions ease when appropriate."

According to Melanie Armstrong, assistant director of Tufts Global Education, the university decided to defer a few programs that would normally operate in the fall to the spring due to country-specific travel conditions and local conditions. These programs include Tufts in Chile, Tufts in Ghana and Tufts in Japan.

“We are monitoring conditions in these locations to determine the feasibility of operating each program in spring 2022,” Armstrong said in an email to the Daily. 

Tufts has various students participating in external study abroad programs in nine countries, while other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, are not currently allowing travelers to enter their borders.

Despite the continuation of most programs, there are still travel restrictions and COVID-19 protocols that vary country.

“There are a wide range of travel conditions and restrictions that have variously been implemented by host-country governments that will have implications for travelers: vaccination and/or negative testing requirements, mandated post-arrival quarantine periods, cancellation or rescheduling of flights [and] delays in the processing of passports and visas,” Armstrong said.

Local COVID-19 transmission levels and regional prohibitions on travel as well as testing, treatment, vaccine and mask mandates will have an impact on students’ experience abroad. 

“We are relying on our students to be adaptable, patient, and resourceful in order to deal with these ongoing challenges,” Armstrong said.

Sabrina Wen said that COVID-19 has not affected her experience with Tufts in Madrid thus far.

“I was a bit worried about COVID hindering my experience," Wen, a senior, wrote in an email to the Daily. "I feel like I'm able to do a lot of the things I would have been able to do pre-COVID, just with a mask on now. I also think restrictions will loosen up while I'm abroad since Spain and Madrid in particular are steadily increasing their vaccination rates.”

Wen explained that Tufts in Madrid students must wear a mask indoors. Additionally, she and her host family must take at-home COVID-19 tests every week. Though Tufts in Madrid is allowing students to travel to other countries, Wen said she plans to stick with local travel until the COVID-19 situation improves in other European countries.

According to Ghosh, the program directors have created new opportunities for local travel for Tufts students in their host countries.

“Our Tufts Programs Abroad directors have crafted creative new cultural experiences, local travel excursions, field visits, and will offer more individual opportunities for travel within each country where it is allowed,” Ghosh said. 

According to Armstrong, Tufts Global Education instituted a requirement for all study abroad participants to be vaccinated prior to the start of their program, regardless of whether or not the program is through Tufts. Many countries require vaccination before travelers enter their borders as well.

As for the external programs, Tufts has remained in communication with partners abroad regarding health, safety and security.

“We also independently make our own risk assessments of each location abroad in collaboration with Tufts Global Operations and the International Travel Review Committee," Ghosh said. "Tufts does reserve the right to cancel or suspend study abroad for students on external programs based on local conditions or international travel concerns." 

Ghosh mentioned that the COVID-19 pandemic brings many new challenges and protocols for students and administrators alike regarding international travel and education.

“This has been a global crisis on a scale that we have never experienced and international education has been hit very hard," Ghosh said. "We will continue to navigate the impact, adapt, innovate with new models, and advocate for international education."