By Anne Walker | Staff Writer
Baylor is moving ahead on plans for multiple study abroad opportunities for summer 2021 while continuing to monitor international COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines.
The summer programs would offer Baylor students the first chance to study abroad since last March when Baylor mandated that students return early from their study abroad experiences due to COVID-19. The university cancelled the subsequent summer, fall and spring study abroad programs. While some study abroad programs have been cancelled for the upcoming summer, such as the Baylor in Maastricht Program, the university has continued to organize several other study abroad options.
Bo White, Baylor’s director of study abroad, shared that even though some students are hesitant to study abroad due to current COVID-19 restrictions, the summer 2021 programs have drawn interest from many students.
“Student interest remains high,” White said. “Interestingly, students know that their progress toward graduation continues and students want international education to be part of their college experience. Some programs [are] filling all their open application slots.”
Dr. Richard Easley, director of Baylor’s European Business Seminar, wrote via email that students are keen to capitalize on the chance to study abroad.
“We had a large group that was going for last summer (2020) that obviously were unable to go, so COVID-19 put a damper on that! So, many of those students are eager to go this year,” Dr. Easley wrote.
The European Business Seminar, which is known for offering participants the chance to drive Lamborghinis in Italy, provides students of all majors the opportunity to visit six countries throughout a 24-day summer program.
Although students remain enthusiastic about the program, Easley admitted parents seem tentative to fund the study abroad experience this year. He clarified that “deposits are fully refundable if a program is cancelled due to COVID.”
Baylor in Britain is also aiming to take students abroad this summer. The London-based program allows students to reside at Imperial College while taking Baylor courses.
Dr. James Henderson, the co-director of Baylor in Britain, revealed that many Baylor families have questions about studying abroad this summer.
“They ask … ‘Will you be able to manage any kind of quarantine if a student were to get sick when they’re over there? What kind of medical capabilities are available for us?’” Henderson said.
The Baylor in Britain program, along with others, are working to address these questions and more. If travel conditions allow study abroad this summer, directors must adapt the program to new challenges, such as restrictions on group sizes and testing requirements.
The United States currently requires all returning travelers from the United Kingdom to provide a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours prior to their flight. Easley expressed confidence that the European Business Seminar could accommodate international COVID-19 guidelines.
“Our program is unique in that we are a traveling program, and we use a private luxury touring coach exclusively for the majority of our city-to-city travel,” Easley said. “This means that only Baylor faculty & students are on our coach, so Baylor’s COVID protocol can be precisely applied to our primary means of travel in Europe.”
In addition to preparing programs for the new challenges associated with COVID-19, program directors must consider factors that would make study abroad unfeasible.
“The question is obviously going to be what’s going to be open? Museums, shops, places, restaurants … I mean, if nothing’s open, then there’s no sense in going,” Henderson said.
Henderson also identified quarantine requirements as a potential impediment for study abroad.
“If we had to quarantine for one third of the session, it probably wouldn’t be worth it going,” Henderson said.
The United Kingdom currently requires all incoming travelers to quarantine for 10 days after arriving.
White said March 1 is Baylor’s deadline to make a decision regarding travel for session one summer programs. In the case that the University cancels summer 2021 programs, Henderson urged students to keep pursuing options to study abroad.
“If those summer programs are canceled, the university is working on a plan to make study abroad in 2021 still an option for some students … We’re actually making plans for a Plan B in the fall,” Henderson noted. “There may be other options available later in the year. Stay tuned. We’re not giving up that easily.”