On the morning of Oct. 19, Dean of Faculty William Hoynes emailed the student body to inform them of Vassar’s decision to cancel study abroad for the coming Spring 2021 semester.
Hoynes cited many reasons, including differing quarantine requirements in various countries, unpredictable resources for evacuation should there be an emergency, diminished quality of education and cultural experiences, and concerns over future outbreaks. Additionally, according to the Vassar College Policy on Student Travel, students cannot participate in study abroad programs if the country is designated with a level 3 or above travel advisory by the U.S. State Department or the United States Center for Disease Control. According to Hoynes, nearly all of the countries in which students had planned to study are classified with a level 3 or above travel advisory.
He acknowledged the inevitable letdown this decision brings. “I understand that this continued disruption to study abroad will be disappointing, especially for the many juniors who have long planned to integrate study abroad into their time at Vassar. I regret how the pandemic has impacted these plans that many students have worked very hard to pursue, but I am encouraged in knowing that there are many potential routes towards achieving your global learning goals.”
Director of International Programs Kerry Stamp followed up with an email in which she shared that students, particularly juniors, will have the option to study abroad in the fall semester of their senior year. Alternative opportunities include fellowships and summer study abroad programs.
This decision comes on the heels of other colleges—including Wesleyan, Colgate, Harvard and Duke—canceling their abroad programs for the coming semester. For Camilla Meeker ’22, who was planning to study abroad at Queen Mary University of London, this decision was expected. “I wasn’t surprised at all at study abroad being cancelled, but I was disappointed,” she shared.
She continued, “I had just gotten confirmation of my acceptance into Queen Mary University, so I went from an emotional high point to a low point. Part of me was relieved, however, because I just wanted to know what the plan was so I could plan for the spring semester.”
Prior to Hoynes’ announcement, Jojo Summersett ’22 was remaining hopeful that her plans to study abroad at AIT-Budapest in Hungary would come to fruition. A major factor in her decision to come to Vassar was its study abroad opportunities and financial support in pursuing abroad programs.
“I’ve always wanted to experience society and culture outside of the U.S., and study abroad was a perfect opportunity to immerse myself in it,” shared Summersett, “I was trying to remain optimistic about going abroad, but I’m not very surprised about the recent verdict.”
Both students agreed that the College made the right choice, given the challenges of the ongoing pandemic. “I definitely think it’s a reasonable decision. While it’s definitely a letdown, it wouldn’t make any sense to let us go abroad…Considering how cautious [Vassar has] been with plans for returning students on campus, I can’t blame them for being cautious at all,” said Meeker.
While many juniors are experiencing disappointment about the loss of a semester abroad, some are looking to alternative options. Meeker expressed plans to study globally in the future. “I might do grad school abroad, likely in the UK, or maybe even somewhere else in Europe. I might also try to do a free summer program in Armenia with Birthright Armenia so I can have some more experience traveling.”
She continued, “Either way, I’m hoping I can find some way to travel for my studies in the near future.”