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Many students have been frustrated by the lack of transparency about the status of fall study abroad programs, many of which are set to start in just two months.

June 24, 2020

As Travel Lockdowns Continue, Cornell Study Abroad Remains in Flux

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As the United States and nations around the world restrict travel to limit the spread of COVID-19, many American colleges have already cut their fall study abroad programs.

But after chaotic mid-semester cancellations of abroad programs last semester, the University is not rushing to finalize a plan just yet. In tandem with Cornell’s approaching decision on the fate of its Ithaca campus, students are monitoring the decisions of host schools and program coordinators — prompting some to question if they should push off their abroad semester, or even go at all.

The Office of Global Learning, which coordinates Cornell’s foreign offerings, will provide further guidance regarding study abroad applicants once the University officially announces their fall plans next month. In the meantime, students have been instructed to participate in pre-enrollment as a hedge, according to Brandon Lanners, executive director for the Office of Global Learning in an email to The Sun.

Lanners also recommended that students not make deposits and other financial commitments without fully understanding refund policies.

But some students, including Anna Siegel ’22, called the communication they have received from the Office of Global Learning vague and unhelpful.

Planning to study at University College London, Siegel has not yet received notice of whether the program will go on, despite the semester set to start in just two months.

“It is not going to be the study abroad experience I expected, if it happens,” she said. “However, I don’t feel any less safe going abroad than on Cornell’s campus.”

However, students whose study abroad programs have already announced fall semester plans have more information to work with to make their decisions.

Ariana Croese ’22 had been planning on spending a year abroad in Germany through the Berlin Consortium for German Studies. The program is managed by Columbia University, which suspended all travel until further notice in March. Although the fall semester study abroad program was canceled, Croese will receive automatic admission in the spring.

Before it was canceled, students enrolled in the program were informed that the homestay portion of the program would not happen, and all students would live in single rooms. She said she believes that if the program’s spring semester happens, similar safety measures would have to be taken.

Croese said she is relieved that the fall semester was canceled, rather than continuing with restrictive social distancing measures.

“I would rather not go like this,” Croese said. “A big part of study abroad is the connections you make with other people, the new friends that you make. Especially if the goal of the program is language immersion, needing to socially distance would take away from that experience,”

Not all programs have been canceled, however. Emma Moulton ’21 is enrolled in classes at the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark, and may still be able to study abroad in the fall. According to Moulton, at least 50 percent of all classes at the school will be online, with some courses consisting of blended learning while others will be entirely virtual.

“I am working to be flexible because of the challenges everyone is facing, so before I make any final decisions I want to know my options and what I would be returning to,” Moulton said.

Depending on Cornell’s plans in the spring, Moulton may choose to take 20 credits in the fall and graduate early instead of returning to an isolated college experience after a semester of travel.

“I could either have a fun semester in Copenhagen and come back to a more isolated than normal Cornell campus,” Moulton said. “Coming back to that would be tough, or I could graduate early and take the time in the spring to travel on my own or start a job early.”