For WA students, studying abroad during a pandemic can be complicated

At Western Washington University, student petitions must state how they have taken steps to be careful about COVID-19, including proof of vaccination and how they will comply with public health measures in their host country .

Western students should also review federal travel recommendations, develop a safety plan, and include credible information about their host country’s COVID-19 vaccination and infection rates. It also ensures that students understand the risks of their program, according to Larsen of Western’s Institute for Global Engagement.

Rachel Lewis, a Western senior majoring in German, was planning to study abroad in Lüneburg, Germany in 2020, but her program was canceled due to the pandemic. She intended to complete her major requirements at Lüneburg, but ended up completing her coursework at Western. Lewis was finally able to complete her study abroad program the following year in Germany, where she earned credit for her minor in International Studies.

Lewis said the biggest difference between the applications was the petitioning process, as she didn’t need to petition the first time she applied.

“I think traveling in general right now takes a bit more extra steps, whether you’re studying abroad or looking to drive across the state,” Lewis said.

Gina Lopardo, director of education abroad at Seattle University, said several students who submitted study abroad applications during the winter 2021 term were ultimately denied the approval of the program when their host country has been notified by a non-travel notice before the winter holidays.

This situation is something SU sophomore Roshni Patel fears in light of her recent acceptance to study in London in the fall later this year.

Patel had previously applied for a study abroad program in Ireland in 2021, but it was canceled due to COVID-19. She is also worried about applying for housing in Seattle if the program is discontinued. If she is able to study in London, she will have to break her tenancy or continue to pay for a flat she does not live in.

Lopardo said the SU office told students to proceed as if they were going to stay on campus, which means enrolling in classes for the next term and getting housing. Loparo also said the office has told League housing that students may end up not going overseas, so they will still have to find accommodation.

“Ultimately, I’ve put my life on hold for the past two years,” Patel said. “I’m going to take a chance and do my best to go for it and, if it doesn’t work out, that’s it.”

She and other students who have studied abroad agree that the rewards outweigh the risks of a program that doesn’t work.

“I would rather spend all that time and effort applying and not being able to go than not applying and still regretting not trying,” said Holsten, the WSU senior.

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