GEO director says to ‘prepare as you normally would’ for spring study abroad

GEO held its annual Study Abroad Fair virtually on Sept. 2 and advised students to progress with their Spring 2021 planning despite current travel restrictions.

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Emily Gonçalves

Pamphlets from last year’s Study Abroad Fair on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019 detail aspects of Vanderbilt’s Maymester in India.

Rachael Perrotta

UPDATED: This article has been updated to reflect the timeline for the College of Arts and Sciences Maymester announcement and the update to the Vanderbilt’s Global Education Office Website.

The Global Education Office (GEO) held its annual Study Abroad Fair today over Zoom. GEO Director Arik Ohnstad directed students to proceed as normal regarding Spring 2021 plans.

As in previous years, students had the opportunity to explore some of the various programs that Vanderbilt is partnering with for the Spring 2021 semester and could speak to representatives of partners. Ohnstad stated that early and regular applications for the upcoming spring semester are due by Sept. 8 and Sept. 14, respectively. 

The College of Arts and Sciences generally announces Maymester abroad courses in November,” Ohnstad said in an email to The Hustler.

Although the College of Arts and Sciences’ website still claims that Vanderbilt offers 160+ study abroad programs, the GEO website now reads that only 120+ programs are being offered. The GEO website has been updated and says 150+ study abroad programs. Nineteen representatives from these programs were available for discussion at the GEO fair, in addition to members of various Vanderbilt offices.

“Prepare as you normally would but have a backup plan,” Ohnstad said.

This statement comes in light of sudden travel restrictions and complications last semester.

During the fair, students could arrange to speak with partner representatives as well as talk to Immersion and Career Center advisors. Spokespeople from Vanderbilt’s partner programs are also still available for students.

According to Ohnstad, “For Spring 2021, we will look at factors similar to the ones we considered in the fall, including governmental recommendations on international travel, restrictions on entry to countries where GEO offers programming, travel restrictions within and among countries, availability of visa processing and the feasibility of predicting specifics of the health and safety situation for our students.”

Recent Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines include Aug. 5 travel advisories for China, Brazil, the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Italy, all countries Vanderbilt students have been able to travel to in the past. Additionally, some countries like India are exempt from American travel bans but lack available services to obtain a visa.

Additionally, Ohnstad mentioned that some study abroad partners are shortening their program to fewer than 90 days to avoid participants’ necessity for a student visa and subsequent travel complications. However, Ohnstad said this move challenges if educational travel without a visa can still be considered essential.

If students are unable to study abroad during the upcoming semester, participants still have the option to defer their acceptances to Fall 2021 as long as they remain in the same program.

Ohnstad ensured that the “GEO and Vanderbilt will continue to make opportunities available to VU students as health, safety, and larger travel conditions allow.”