Study abroad programs canceled in Ukraine and Russia due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Ali Juell, News Reporter

Providers for UT study abroad programs in Russia and Ukraine canceled the programs for the foreseeable future due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to an email from Julia Pfeiffer, Texas Global program coordinator. Students and faculty involved in the programs say they are disappointed with the cancelation but understand that safety for them and people in those countries is more important.

The School of Russian and Asian Studies, a study abroad provider with Texas Global, indefinitely suspended their programs based in Kyiv, Ukraine and Moscow, Russia, and Texas Global and the College of Liberal Arts canceled a Maymester primarily based in Moscow. Programs in other countries are currently still scheduled to occur as Texas Global continuously monitors the situation, according to an email from Education Abroad director Heather Thompson.

“We based this decision first and foremost on the safety of our students and faculty given the instability of the current political climate in Russia,” said the email from Pfeiffer addressing the cancellation of the Maymester in Russia obtained by The Daily Texan. “We did not make this decision lightly and appreciate your understanding.”

Marina Alexandrova, an associate professor of instruction in the department of Slavic and Eurasian studies, said she planned the Maymester program in Russia to allow students in her department to experience Russian culture firsthand, some of whom previously had their study abroad canceled due to COVID-19. 

“It’s part of our trajectory for students who are majoring in Russia, East European and Eurasian Studies to end with a trip abroad,” Alexandrova said. “We had several different programs, and I wanted to offer this one because not everybody knows how rich and varied the spiritual traditions are in Russia.”

Texas Global offered students the option to either apply to a different study abroad program with open availability or receive a refund of any paid deposits, program fees or overseas insurance fees already paid. Texas Global also offered alternative programs to students with possible locations including Australia, Poland and other international destinations, according to the email from Pfeiffer.

For history and Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian studies sophomore Collin Woolheater, who planned to participate in the Maymester in Russia, the cancellation came as a disappointment even with other international study options. He said none of the other offered programs aligned with the Eastern European interest that motivated his original decision to study abroad.

“They could have offered us something along the lines of history and culture, and maybe we would have been more happy with it,” Woolheater said. “Because they were offering things that were not relative to our majors, we were really disinterested.”

Thompson said in an email that the department does its best to find similar study abroad experiences for students when a program is unexpectedly canceled, but programs with specific focuses can be difficult to reproduce.

“Some regions of the world like Eastern Europe and Africa do not have as many study abroad program options, so sometimes that can add to the challenge of finding an alternative option within the region,” Thompson said in the email.

Woolheater said Alexandrova encouraged her students to raise money for Ukraine and attend protests to show support. 

“The people’s focus doesn’t need to be on the Maymester now,” Woolheater said. “Our sentiment needs to lie with the Ukrainian people and doing whatever we can to voice our opinions and make the Ukrainian people be heard.”