Dulce Martinez
Asst. News Editor

The Office of International Programs has announced their study abroad courses are set to restart next academic year alongside the College’s reopening in Fall 2021.

During an Informational Zoom Session held on Feb. 4, Study Abroad Advisor & Program Coordinator, Amber Chiapparine, stated that the OIP is planning to continue their study abroad programs in Fall 2021, with only a couple of destinations set for Jan Term 2022.

“We encourage [students] to [monitor] the conditions in the host country that [they’re] interested in abroad, and doing [their] own research based on [their] own needs. Traveling on your own time requires you to be flexible and adaptable,” Chiapparine said.

The OIP offers Whittier students different lengths of time to study abroad, such as taking a whole semester abroad, or joining faculty-led programs in a three-week course. In the past, the OIP has taken Whittier students to places ranging from Europe to Latin America, and as far as countries in Asia. In Whittier’s words, “studying overseas takes students on a journey beyond Whittier and gives them an opportunity to explore, increase intercultural competence, engage in critical reflection, and personally transform.” 

The tentative destinations for JanTerm 2022 faculty-led programs include Cuba — with courses in Baseball and Religion taught by Dr. Joe Price, as well as Cuban Culture and Literature with Dr. O’Connor-Gomez. It is planned for students to stay with host families. Social Work and Anthropology courses in Trinidad and Tobago with Drs. Brown and Catilow will focus on the post-colonial culture in the Caribbean. For May Term 2022, literature classes focusing on the work of author Jane Austen are to take place in England. Environment and Sustainability courses in New Zealand or Italy are also on the OIP’s list for possible locations, though these are still being decided. Pricing for these courses also have yet to be decided, as the OIP is closely monitoring the conditions of COVID-19 cases in said locations.

Photo courtesy of AIFS Study Abroad.

“In a non-COVID year, we would have six or seven programs in January and about four in March. We are not going to get anywhere close to getting six to seven programs this January because there are too many unknowns for our planning process, but, hopefully, things will be improving that we can add more to at least the May Chart,” said International Student Services and Faculty-Led Programs Assistant Director, Kerry Gonzales. ”More information will be coming out this semester. We will put out the application, and it will probably be due at the end of this semester, so look for that information within the next month.”

Many students choose to study abroad as undergraduates because these courses give them the opportunity to travel while earning  necessary credits to graduate. A study by the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors (NAFSA): Association of International Educators found that, in the academic year of 2018 – 19, 55.7 percent of students studied abroad in Europe and that the percentage of students who choose to study abroad in 2018 – 19 grew 1.8 percent from the previous year. 

“Many of our Partners, whether our Exchange Partners or Affiliate Partners, are working on ways to navigate and run their programs [while] keeping the health and safety of our students in mind,” Chiapparine said.

While these study abroad programs are allowed to restart, some students may have reservations about traveling during the pandemic. Supporters of international travel may argue that popular countries for study abroad programs may have significantly smaller outbreaks compared to the USA. According to John Hopkins University, the 7-day average of COVID-19 cases in Cuba is 857, which is significantly smaller compared to the cases in California. However, those who do not support travel during the pandemic argue that it would not be fair to those living in those countries for Americans to travel there due to the U.S.’s large outbreak of COVID-19.

Some students have expressed discomfort with the idea of study abroad programs restarting. “I honestly don’t think that students should be studying abroad anytime soon unless there is a significant drop in cases due to the vaccine or anything else to help the cases go down. Studying abroad is an amazing experience, but I don’t think it’s worth putting people’s lives in danger, whether it be the students or the people in the countries that the students visit,” third-year Manzie Allen said. 

Given that COVID-19 cases in California are decreasing, the 7-day average being 7,273 as of Feb. 19 according to the New York Times, some students are hopeful for the future. Whittier College offering financial help to students who wish to study abroad is oftentimes a selling point for students choosing Whittier. While COVID-19 is still a prevalent problem, some would be willing to do whatever they need to in order to study abroad safely.

“I understand the risks with traveling abroad during COVID but would be prepared to do whatever means necessary to stay safe [14-day quarantine or multiple tests]. Additionally, I feel like a lot of other countries are taking COVID more seriously, and the people living there understand wearing a mask is a basic necessity,” said second-year Olivia Esparza. “The only aspects that would hold me back from traveling would be how high the COVID cases are and if business are open and such. If everything is closed and the numbers are high in a city, I would prefer to stay home.” 

To learn more about the return of Study Abroad Programs coming Fall 2021, readers can visit the Whittier College website for the Office of International Programs.

Featured photo: Courtesy AJ Watt/ Getty Images.

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