UTs Education Abroad department plans to keep its COVID-19 regulations in place through the end of 2021, according to director Heather Thompson.
After the global study abroad program restarted in February, the University implemented the Restricted Regions travel policy which requires students to fill out a travel request form in order to be eligible to travel abroad. Previously only applicable to select areas of the world, the Restricted Regions travel policy now applies to all nations.
“Each country’s entry requirements are adjusted to the level of risk to that country, so it can change rapidly with little to no notice,” Thompson said. “Texas Global Risk and Safety will continue to monitor the situation worldwide.”
The University waived study abroad requirements for majors such as international relations and global studies since students were not able to travel during the pandemic. Thompson said study abroad will become mandatory again for international relations and global studies majors in summer 2022.
Thompson said the Education Abroad department expects to see a rapid growth in students studying abroad in the 2021-22 school year. Some regions, such as Australia and New Zealand, still do not permit international students to travel.
“UT-Austin historically sends a large number of students to these partners, and now we must adjust our approach to find placements for these students with other partners, primarily in Europe,” Thompson said.
Despite travel restrictions, students continue to study abroad and record their experiences in the Education Abroad Blog run by the University.
Finance senior Afiya Maknojia traveled to Vienna, Austria, during the spring 2021 semester. Although travel within the country was less restrictive than she anticipated, all restaurants and cafes were closed for dine-in, Maknojia said.
“I was really surprised to see how much mobility there was in Austria,” Maknojia said. “You could travel everywhere with train passes, and my friends and I went to multiple cities around the country.”
Maknojia said travel around Europe was easily accessible as she and her friends traveled to Croatia and Spain during the later part of the semester, but she did face some COVID-19 restrictions.
“I am only a little disappointed because the day after I got back, they opened up the cafes and restaurants in Vienna,”Maknojia said.
Sociology and economics junior Jinnan Ren, who is currently studying abroad in Shanghai, China, said she has been able to experience Chinese culture despite the COVID-19 restrictions.
“Last Saturday, I went to the art exhibition of impressionism and watched Oscar-Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies”,” she said.
Ren said although China is still restrictive in terms of letting people travel inside the country, most facilities and areas inside the country were open to the general public for her visit.
Elizabeth Warren, a supply chain management junior, is planning to travel to Vienna, Austria, this fall for her study abroad experience. She said she is filling out the same paperwork as her friends who traveled before her but anticipates looser restrictions in Vienna.
“The situation is definitely still more tricky than pre-COVID, but compared to the past couple of semesters, a lot more people are going abroad,” Warren said.
Warren said she does not mind extra rules and travel bars because it gives her a chance to immerse herself in Austrian culture.
“I think part of the magic is learning to find the cool stuff,” Warren said. “You’re forced to explore more of where you’re actually studying and not just trying to see as much as possible,” she said.