University suspends study abroad programs for fall 2021

By Aliza Majid, Assistant News Editor

The University announced on March 23 that all study abroad programs will be suspended through December due to health and safety uncertainties.
“Despite positive developments in some areas, significant uncertainty remained with regard to the impact on health and safety for students and local communities, vaccine rollouts and travel requirements,” said Joy Phaphouvaninh, director of Illinois Abroad and Global Exchange team.
In attempts to accommodate courses that were originally conducted abroad, the University has implemented virtual global experiences and global classroom courses in order to adapt to this online format.
Students can sign up for either of these courses and programs in the upcoming fall semester since the University is still collaborating with international faculty for a majority of these classes.
“Virtual global experiences provide students with research-based or internship projects that students participate in,” Phaphouvaninh said. “Global classroom courses are Illinois courses taught by Illinois faculty, with part of the course learning goals focused on a collaborative online project that students will work on with students at an international partner faculty member’s course taught at that partner institution.”
Many instructors who teach these study abroad courses have discussed how the pandemic has affected their academic plans and how they’ve had to adjust their schedules.
“I mean for the field school, there’s just nothing we can do because that depends on being able to go into the field obviously,” said Kasia Szremski, associate director for the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. “We’re hopeful that for summer ‘22 we’ll be able to relaunch the course and adhere to additional health safety guidelines.”
Szremski is teaching an introduction to Latin America course online in place of this field school study she usually spearheads in the spring semester. Overall, the online experience has encouraged her to create a relaxed and supportive environment for the students experiencing burnout during this time.
The Global Classroom program is a new initiative created by the University in order to create opportunities between Illinois faculty and international partners and expand upon existing courses.
Carlos Molina-Vital is a professor who teaches the Quechua language and has created a Global Classroom course where his students will collaborate with students from the National University José María Arguedas in Andahuaylas, Peru.
“The students in Peru are going to help us develop task activities that reflect the culture that they live in, and that they can interact more continuously with my students in this language, while at the same time learning how to develop these activities and how to evaluate them,” said Carlos Molina-Vital, a professor in LAS.
Ken Salo, a professor in FAA, originally had a study abroad program where his students learned about race and social justice in Cape Town, South Africa and Fortaleza in norheastern Brazil.
“I had what I call social justice walking tours,” Salo said. That means that through the two or three weeks we were there, we would have a community or resident-led social justice tours around questions on forced evictions, violence, all of those sorts of things.”
Since his course is now a Global Classroom program, Salo has developed an online storytelling and story mapping-focused course to focus on tourism representation in various countries instead of the original study abroad course.
The lack of an in-person visitation has affected the overall course, but instructors are adapting to the change hoping to return to these study abroad programs by Spring 2022.

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