Interested parties are encouraged to consider applying to the Mesa Community College Study Abroad program. The program is now open for applications after two years of cancellations due to COVID-19.
Yvonne Schmidt, the Study Abroad coordinator, said they chose to cancel the programs in 2020 and 2021 because COVID-19 presented too many risks. The health and safety of students and faculty is top priority and very few people were vaccinated at the time.
“It just really limited any options that the students would have within the programs,” said Schmidt.
According to Schmidt, information about study abroad programs for 2022 are already posted on MCC’s websites. Applications are open for Britain, Nice in France, Athlone in Ireland, and Puerto Peñasco in Mexico. All applications close on March 4.
New COVID-19 variants are being closely monitored and every effort is being made to combat them. Schmidt highly encourages students interested in a study abroad program to get vaccinated in order to avoid disruptions during the trip itself, as well as for safety reasons.
“A lot of places in Europe are requiring that you show a vaccination pass in order for admittance,” said Schmidt. There are still many uncertainties and global travel will be much easier if you have a vaccination card.
Precautions are being taken in the case someone is diagnosed with COVID-19 while abroad. Schmidt used the lodgings for the Britain program as an example, as everyone in the Britain program will have their own room and will be required to isolate themselves if they are diagnosed with COVID-19.
A negative COVID-19 test is required in order to return to the United States.
Students also run the risk of losing money from a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.
The insurance provided with a study abroad program will cover up to $250 a day in expenses for 10 days in the event of a delayed return. However, the student would be responsible for any other expenses. COVID-19 tests are not covered by the insurance.
A potential delay is a risk that people interested in studying abroad will have to consider. The risk of a student being forced to have an extended stay abroad is not enough for the program to shut down entirely.
“It’s a life-transforming experience for the students. We have a lot of students inquiring about the programs wanting to go, and we didn’t want to lose too much momentum while waiting for COVID,” said Schmidt.
Erik Aguilar, an employee at the MCC Outreach Center, believes studying abroad is a beneficial experience. There was a feeling of culture shock, however, he was still able to get a lot out of the program.
“I always encourage students to check out the study abroad program,” said Aguilar.
Giving tours is part of Aguilar’s job at MCC. International education is one of the things he regularly talks about. He often shares his study abroad experiences in England and France and talks about how easy the schoolwork portion of the experience was.
Aguilar believes that whether or not someone should apply for a study abroad program for 2022 depends on their individual situation. However, he encourages those who have the necessary funds, are vaccinated, and are willing to take the risk of contracting COVID-19 to apply.
Mary Aldridge is the program director for the study abroad programs in Britain and Nice, France. Normally, the Britain study abroad program would include a trip to France, but has been canceled this year due to political conflicts and COVID-19-related difficulties crossing the border between the UK and France. The Britain program will be doing extra excursions within Great Britain instead.
Aldridge thinks the biggest change to the Britain program in 2022 will be the excluded visit to France. The Britain program, as well as possibly others, will be canceled if the situation with COVID-19 ends up getting progressively worse.
Aldridge does not think the COVID-19 restrictions will make the trip less fun if they are allowed to go. The belief is most people have adjusted over the past two years and are accustomed to the restrictions. Students will not need to consistently wear masks either, as large portions of the trips will be outside.
Aldridge looks forward to seeing students go out and explore the world through something other than a laptop or phone.
“I love seeing when students either see a painting that they’ve seen in a book, or a building that they’ve seen in a book, and they get to see it for the first time. Or just when they go to a grocery store and don’t recognize things and they have to learn to buy other things other than what is normally on an American shelf.”