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Study abroad programs begin to return for students, faculty

After many study abroad programs were affected due to the coronavirus pandemic, those opportunities are slowly making their return for students, faculty and staff.

However, there are still precautions being taken to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved, Kirsten Dabelko, assistant director of global security, health and safety, said. 

“Anybody who travels anywhere, whether it's domestically or abroad, will need to follow all of the local and international guidelines regarding travel,” Dabelko said. “And that can be domestically — we definitely follow the CDC guidelines — and internationally. Students would also need to follow (not only) all of the guidance from the CDC, but also that country.” 

Additionally, Dabelko said there are university-specific travel guidelines for anyone engaging in university-sponsored travel. For international programs, students must request permission from Ohio University. For domestic trips, students must request permission from the dean of their college or other organizations like the Campus Involvement Center. 

“Not all travel is approved,” she said. “But a fair bit might be as long as the student really shows that they have a plan.”

The Office of Global Opportunities, or OGO has been ramping up travel opportunities, Dabelko said. Catherine Marshall, director of OGO, added that over the summer, OU ran both the OHIO-in-L.A. and Scripps in D.C. programs.

For the Fall Semester, OGO is expecting about 11 to 15 students to travel internationally, Dabelko said. She also said the small numbers are fairly normal, and no programs for fall 2021 were canceled.  

For other programs moving forward, approval from OU’s vetting process is required, Dabelko said. If travel is approved, the student is then taking on any risk associated with it. Marshall recommends taking a look at the U.S. Department of State’s Travel Advisories website to help assess the current risk level in any given country.

“It’s really important to note that things can still happen later, even after we look at them,” Dabelko said. “It’s muddy waters. We can’t for sure say that everything that we hope to run will also run in the end.”

Molly Morrison, an Italian professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, said she created a new winter study abroad program as a way to “pick up the gap” created by her normal summer program to Italy being canceled. Applications for the trip will be open soon, Dabelko said. 

“I worked very hard this winter… and created an entire new program that would be much shorter than the summer program, but it would still give students the chance to go abroad during a time when they're not in regular school,” Morrison said.

The program will be 10 days long and happen during winter break. Students will travel to Tuscany, Italy, and can earn four credits, as it is a learning-based trip. Morrison emphasized the learning experiences entwined with her trip as well as any other study abroad program.

“I would suggest that students really think about studying abroad,” she said. “I think there's one myth I want to dispel, and that is that only certain majors or certain students or people studying language … are the only ones that can benefit from study abroad. That is a huge mistake. And oftentimes, even other professors see it that way, and nothing could be further from the truth.”

For more information regarding OU’s study abroad programs, visit the OGO website.


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