COVID-19 impacts students’ study abroad plans

Hannah Ortega

Abril Barraza was supposed to study abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, this fall and graduate in fall 2022. Now, due to COVID-19, Barraza’s study abroad program has been canceled, and she will be graduating in spring 2021 without going abroad.

“My biggest struggle right now is, in my head, I had a year left to decide more or less if I was going to go into grad school … or if I was going to take the LSAT and go into law school, where now I haven't prepped,” said Barraza, an international relations and global studies and Latin American studies senior.

The international relations and global studies major has a study abroad requirement, and some IRG students are facing uncertainty and program cancellations because of COVID-19. 

“If you had planned to undertake a study abroad program that was canceled and you are due to graduate, we are not going to require that you delay your graduation because of that,” IRG director Michael Anderson said. “If students … are set to graduate beyond this next year … we're hoping there will be opportunities for them to study abroad.”

Barraza said she reached out to her academic adviser about her situation and was told she could graduate without studying abroad as long as she did so in spring 2021.

“This was the second time I had applied to study abroad,” Barraza said. “And so they were like, ‘Because you have so many credits and you're able to fit … you can choose to not study abroad. We'll waive that requirement for you, you just have to finish spring ‘21.’”

IRG junior Dila Sarikaya was set to go to Irkutsk, Russia, this May. She said her graduation plan should not be impacted by the cancellation, but it has changed her internship plans.

“I was planning on doing internship-types of things this upcoming summer, and now I'm going to have to do study abroad instead, which is usually something that's really exciting,” Sarikaya said. “But now … the timing is being forced, and we're going to have to reapply to the program.”

Hector Osegueda, a government and geography junior, was supposed to go to Botswana this summer but not as a requirement for his major. When his program was canceled, he said UT refunded all of his money except for his plane ticket.

“I bought insurance for the plane ticket just in case, and even though I did that, I wasn't able to recoup that money,” Osegueda said. “(The) insurance company said … because of a pandemic, I was not a circumstance they could basically insure, so I never got my money back for that. That wasn't really fun, but UT gave me a scholarship to cover that.”

Barraza said she wished the University addressed the widespread impact of COVID-19 on study abroad programs so students wouldn’t have to approach individual departments.

“In the case where it's a requirement, I would have liked some sort of acknowledgement from the University telling me, ‘This is what's going to happen.’ Because had I not been the kind of person to seek help, I would've still been thinking, ‘Oh, I have to study abroad,’ and that would have potentially altered my graduation plan too,” Barraza said.