UT-Austin continues study abroad programs, international travel with restrictions

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Photo Credit: Juleanna Culilap | Daily Texan Staff

Editor's Note: This story first appeared in The Daily Texan's February 5 online edition.

UT is allowing students to study abroad during the spring semester, despite continued national and international travel advisories because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Students can also apply to Maymester and summer programs, but UT will not announce a decision on these programs until March 12, according to the Texas Global website

Some students slated to study abroad this spring chose to defer their study abroad programs because of COVID-19 concerns, while other students are continuing with their travel plans.

All countries are currently considered a restricted region, according to the Texas Global website. This means students who plan to travel abroad must submit a petition that asks students where they will be traveling, the reason they are traveling and an acknowledgment of COVID-19 restrictions. 

Randy Penson, the director of global risk and safety for Texas Global, said Texas Global still encourages students to study abroad if they feel comfortable.

“We’re constantly reviewing what’s going on in other countries, (and) we’ll cancel a program if we need to,” Penson said. “If there’s somebody who wants to study abroad, then we want to stand beside them and help them find a way to do that in a very safe way.”

While decisions about University-sponsored Maymester and summer study abroad programs will be made March 12, according to the Texas Global website, programs could still be canceled after this date.

Katarina Tyll, a government and international relations and global studies senior, said she plans to study abroad in Vienna, Austria, on a Maymester, but thinks UT should decide whether programs will go forward earlier.

“I am applying to jobs and internships, and a lot of the applications are going to be due before we find out if we can go or not,” Tyll said. “It's frustrating, because it is impacting my application because companies might not want to hire me.”

Penson said if students are in a Maymester study abroad program, plane tickets, housing and other plans have already been determined, so students should not worry about planning what they are doing on the trip. 

Caroline Onwuzu, a human development and family sciences junior, said she had her study abroad program canceled last year and is currently planning on studying abroad in Tokyo, Japan, on a Maymester.

Onwuzu said she was excited about the living arrangements the program has set up for them, but she is still worried about the risk of COVID-19 infection in Japan. 

“We were going to stay with families that live in Tokyo and it was going to be spread out, maybe two to three students per family,” Onwuzu said. “Our program director wanted us to get a real authentic feel of how it is living in Tokyo and how it is to be immersed in that culture.”

Srija Reddy, a management information systems and radio-television-film junior, said she was slated to spend the spring in Budapest, Hungary, but ultimately decided against attending because of health and travel restrictions abroad. 

“When you study abroad, you want to meet people, you want to go out, and that's the whole point is to experience a different culture,” Reddy said. “But if you have to quarantine all the time, it's really hard to do that.”

According to the Texas Global website, decisions about the University travel policy after Aug. 31 will be announced on or before May 15.