Study abroad — former college students have probably reminisced with you about it, sharing stories about how some of their craziest college experiences took place in a different country. Your friends have most likely been talking about it since the beginning of freshman year. Some of you have probably already sent in applications and been accepted to programs.
UW-Madison students have the opportunity to travel to a different country to learn, grow and make memories that will stick with them for the rest of their lives. Many students have always wanted to go abroad, and plan to do so as long as the programs are up and running this spring, craving a change after the year and a half long monotonous pandemic lifestyle.
Abroad is one of the many opportunities for students halted by COVID-19. It was ripped away from students interested in studying abroad during all semesters following the Spring 2020 semester during the initial outbreak of the pandemic.
UW-Madison alumna Ellie Petruska studied abroad in Italy during the start of the Spring 2020 semester. Her time abroad was cut short after she was sent home in March 2020 during the emergence of COVID-19.
“I was really disappointed and upset to be sent home from abroad when I had already been there for a month and a half,” Petruska said. “I was just starting to get into my routine and the experience was amazing while I was there. [I was] just really sad to be sent home.”
If given the opportunity, many current seniors would have loved to have had a traveling abroad experience during their junior year.
“Going abroad is an experience that allows students to immerse themselves in new cultures, meet people around the world, and develop both personally and professionally. My trip this past spring was cancelled so I am really hoping there will be opportunities abroad in 2022,” said UW-Madison senior Leah Lidsky.
For the time being, study abroad is still set to happen during Spring 2022. In a brief meeting between The Daily Cardinal and an abroad advisor, the advisor noted that certain programs had just been cleared for abroad, and that something drastic would have to change for those programs to be pulled.
According to the UW-Madison Study Abroad website, there are currently fifty-three programs with open applications. The application deadline for a number of programs has passed, and some have even sent out acceptances. For example, UW in Florence has already started to deliver acceptances to students who applied and is moving ahead as scheduled for the spring. The demonstrated interest in this particular program, and study abroad as a whole, has been right on target with the department's expectations.
“By early August, approximately 70 spring 2022 programs have started receiving applications. So far, more than 1,300 students have started applications, a very strong response even compared to pre-pandemic interest,” said Steve Barcus, Director of Communications for the UW-Madison International Department. “One of our most popular spring programs, UW in Florence, received a record number of completed applications — 77% more applications than spaces in the program and 28% more applications than the previous record high total, which was pre-COVID.”
Barcus highlighted that the International Department is taking measures to ensure that traveling abroad is as safe as possible for students. According to Barcus, the safety and sentiments of security from students choosing to go abroad is the department's number one priority. After having to send students home in the spring of 2020 and having to suspend the spring 2021 programs, the department is doing all they can to guarantee these programs will be up-and-running safely for the Spring 2022 semester.
“We have opened programs on an individual basis, allowing staff to assess health and safety conditions for each location and program,” Barcus said. “As health and safety remain our number one priority, we continue to monitor conditions and make modifications to programs as needed to best support our students.”
Many UW-Madison students are taking the opportunity to go abroad and running with it. Traveling to a new place and immersing yourself in a new culture catalyzes both academic and personal growth in a way most students have never experienced before.
“I’m so excited to study abroad because I think it’ll change the way I view the world,” said UW-Madison junior Kelsey Barrett. “Being immersed in a different culture is a valuable experience and I feel lucky and grateful to be able to do so.”
While many students have not experienced normalcy at UW-Madison for a year and a half, many are holding onto the possibility of traveling abroad and are scared of losing another pivotal college experience. Junior Nia Diaby expressed how important the prospect of studying abroad in the spring is to her.
“I’m excited to study abroad and I hope it doesn’t get cancelled because I think a lot of people value it as a learning experience that you can only get in college,” Diaby said.
As of now, study abroad programs through UW-Madison are scheduled to happen during the Spring 2022 semester. While the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic continue to change with varying positive case numbers and new variants, the UW-Madison community remains optimistic for future semesters.