Long-awaited study abroad trips are back on track, with additional steps


So far, around 1,500 University of Michigan students have applied to travel to 33 countries during the winter of 2022, a number quickly approaching pre-pandemic levels.

In the winter 2020 semester, before the spread of COVID-19 significantly disrupted education abroad, 2,294 UM students applied to travel to 50 countries.

Patrick Morgan, head of international security at UM, says vaccines have been a game-changer as student interest in travel has grown.

Patrick morgan

“The ability to travel has been expanded in recent months, and the safety of traveling for vaccinated travelers has improved significantly,” Morgan said.

“Many winter semester programs at UM have been approved to accept students; students just need to prepare better. Together with our international education partners at UM, we have created a unique process to guide them and make their experience abroad safer and more successful.

Study abroad programs are reopening. What has changed for undergraduates who want to travel?

Morgan: There are more considerations for international travel that just weren’t there before. Each University of Michigan travel student must now complete either a COVID-19 travel plan or a safety plan that will be reviewed by our International Travel Oversight Committee, as there are many other factors to consider. counts for health, safety and well-being.

This process guides students through pre-departure preparations and ensures that they meet UM and host country requirements.

How does this new process work?

Morgan: We have created unique travel plans that prepare interested students to go abroad. This process of reviewing COVID-19 travel plans and security plans involves the traveler, guides them and educates them on what they need for a successful trip.

Members of the Global Engagement team will work with students to bring the plan to a sufficient level if necessary.

In particular, we want to make sure that students understand the entry requirements and that they allow for the possibility of testing positive for COVID-19 before boarding their return flight and may need to stay abroad longer. longer than expected.

More than 500 students have completed a COVID-19 security plan or travel plan this quarter, showing that students are indeed prepared to go through the process to travel abroad.

What is UM doing to get students safely back on planes and abroad?

Morgan: We have thought carefully about how to prepare students and manage expectations. We have over 30 international education units at UM, so we brought everyone together to generate ideas, hear different points of view and create an effective process. It is teamwork with internal and external voices.

As an example, colleagues from the Center for Global and Intercultural Study made suggestions to make our processes more efficient and student-friendly, and we have incorporated these comments.

The Provost’s Office Global Engagement team, together with our colleagues in International Education and ITOC, have all played – and still play – a pivotal role in reviving education abroad from intentionally. Together, we defined the parameters of what we wanted to achieve, our end goals and how we could get there.

From this ongoing effort, we have developed a structure to assess eligible locations for student travel in a manner tailored to the needs and mission of the university.

Are there still many restrictions on where students are allowed to travel?

Morgan: There are positive trends indicating an increase in vaccination rates around the world and a decrease in entry restrictions, especially for vaccinated travelers. As conditions in countries improve, more and more opportunities are opening up for UM travelers.

For example, as of April 2021, there were only 29 country options for UM-related undergraduate travel. There are now 120 countries that are options. Although restrictions have eased, travel during a global pandemic still requires careful preparation and the flexibility to adjust plans as conditions change.

UM travel designations include medium risk and high risk COVID-19, and travel warning and travel restriction. We take a close look at countries and iteratively update their status using various external and internal travel sources.

The Medium Risk COVID-19 and Travel Warning locations are open to all students who meet the travel requirements. There are 120 locations in this bucket. While undergraduates cannot travel to high-risk or COVID-19 travel-restricted locations, these locations are open to graduate students who meet UM’s travel requirements.

Once the travel plan is submitted, ITOC members will review it and make a decision.

Do graduate students have to follow the same protocols?

Morgan: The process is the same for graduate and undergraduate students. However, graduate students have access to more destinations and we take into account that they may have extensive knowledge of the international destination.

Can we say that the pent-up demand for study abroad is over and the programs could be back in full swing for the spring and summer of 2022?

Morgan: The high level of pent-up demand is undeniable. Countries are reopening, study abroad programs have been given the green light, and travel is resuming.

Travel limitations and uncertainty remain, so I think the desire to travel is still much greater than the actual travel that we observe. We are cautiously optimistic and expect demand to increase in the future.

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