Due to the pandemic, cancellation of study abroad programs for spring 2020 semester, summer 2020, fall 2020 semester and outgoing exchange students for spring 2021 semester has plagued UCA. However, there are high hopes for the program’s future.
“Of course we are disappointed by the situation, but we know study abroad is going to come back,” Education Abroad Director Natalie Flemming said.
The program plans to carry out summer 2020 study abroad despite uncertainties.
“Obviously we can’t predict if students will be able to go or not, but we’re hopeful and we’re planning. We are working with faculty, having online interest meetings, encouraging students to get their passports and apply for the study abroad scholarship,” Fleming said.
Fleming and Bailey are confident that if the summer 2021 semester is unable to be fulfilled that the repercussions of the cancellation will only be a slight hiccup.
“We proved that in our spring 2020 scramble to help our kids that we can respond to an emergency,” Bailey said. “We have clear and well thought out procedures to follow, so I am comfortable with where we are at, but we just can’t predict the future.”
There is no way to know when COVID-19 will subside, but the study abroad program plans to keep up with and adhere to government guidelines provided by the CDC and U.S. State Department. The CDC’s highest travel is a level three.
“Right now, with the whole world at a level three, we cannot send people. Will that be the same situation in February? We do not know, but we can wait. We can still make all the plans and all the prep,” Bailey said. “When COVID backs off, we are well positioned to take off again.”
Bailey said that there is a possibility of incoming exchange students from partnering universities around the world to come for the spring 2021 semester.
“We had a Zoom meeting for students to understand that we are not actually back to normal operations with all the online classes. We have to make sure that the international students, if they come, understand that things will be a little bit different.” Bailey
Additionally, the study abroad office is launching the National Student Exchange organization. It is similar to the national study abroad partnership exchange program, but it only applies for universities in the U.S., Canada and U.S. territories. With this program, a student is able to pay in-state tuition at a partnering university in the places listed.
“That’s a major project. At the time when the study abroad office was not sending students that we would otherwise be sending, there was still a lot of work to be done to get that program up and running. We hope to send our first student, and maybe receive students, in the fall,” Bailey said.
The office does have a partner in Mexico and plans to execute the exchange program through online courses for a student. The partner reached out to a student who planned for an exchange, but was inevitably canceled. The plan is for the student to attend online classes with the partner
“That opened up a new opportunity that he hadn’t explored previously. It’s not something we have done before or something we have anticipated, but I am personally excited since it is this student’s last semester,” Fleming said. “He wants the international experience through our trusted partner, even if it’s online.”
Positive opportunities, like the partnership in Mexico, are developing in the study abroad office despite major setbacks.
“I often think life is ironic in that way that good things happen in bad times,” Bailey said. “Last spring, we were able to get the university to change a scholarship policy that had been preventing international students from being eligible for study abroad scholarship money.”
The previous policy was that if a student was on an academic scholarship at UCA, your scholarship wasn’t transferable to pay a partner institution. This obstacle is now resolved to where a student can use their academic scholarship and pay the partnering National Student Exchange institution that they plan to attend.
“This university led by President Davis, Provost Poulter, Diane Newton, has removed almost every obstacle I can think of in the way of students that want to go places,” Bailey said.
For any students interested, applications for summer 2021 are still open at https://uca.edu/studyabroad/apply-now/.