Vanderbilt suspends all Spring 2021 Study Abroad programs

After informing students to proceed with study abroad applications normally throughout the month of September, Vanderbilt has suspended all Spring 2021 study abroad programs.


Emily Gonçalves

A table at a Maymester fair. (Hustler/Emily Gonçalves)

Brendan O'Reilly

Spring 2021 study abroad for undergraduate, graduate and professional students has been suspended, per the Global Education Office (GEO) website.

The GEO program search feature currently shows 108 programs as of time of publication. It remains unclear whether Maymesters are also suspended. 

“Vanderbilt University will continue its restrictions on university-sponsored international travel for undergraduate students as well as graduate and professional students for the 2021 spring semester. This includes the suspension of all Study Abroad programs,” the website reads.

GEO director Arik Ohnstad stated in the Sept. 2 Virtual GEO Fair that students should “prepare as [they] normally would but have a backup plan” for Spring 2021 study abroad. Ohnstad also said students accepted into the spring program would have the option to defer until the Fall 2021 semester as long as they remained in the same program.

A separate Sept. 28 email from GEO stated that “many partners” would allow for the deferment option, but the office did not confirm that possibility.

The decision to cancel all study abroad programs for the Spring 2021 semester is a reflection of the current travel bans and restrictions enforced by the U.S. government and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). While some countries, including Australia, France, China and Japan, remain categorized by the CDC as “Level 3: COVID-19 Risk is High” nations, other study abroad destinations such as Spain are currently not allowing any travelers from the United States.

The university has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Ally Stuart, a junior mechanical engineering student, said she was planning on spending the spring in Queensland, Australia. However, a Sept. 21 email from Institute for Study Abroad (IFSA) forced changes in her plans. 

“After a complete evaluation of the current global pandemic, and with your safety in mind, we have made the decision to cancel all Australia and New Zealand programs, including University of Queensland for Spring 2021,” the email reads.

Stuart said she was disappointed by this turn of events, but she applied knowing the program could be cancelled.

“I will try to apply for a Maymester program if possible, but otherwise, I want to be on campus for my senior year,” Stuart said. 

Junior Lexi Swanson received an email from the GEO office on Sept. 28 regarding the cancellation of her prospective programs in Madrid and London.

“I really wanted to go, and I was surprised because [other universities] are still letting people go abroad right now. I thought they would have waited a little longer [to make the decision],” Swanson said.