Study abroad trips set to take place in Czechia, Denmark, France, Ireland, Israel, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom have all been canceled for spring 2022 due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, per an email obtained by The Daily Princetonian sent to students in those programs on Friday.
Programs in Kenya, Panama, and Italy remain approved to proceed.
According to an email from Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss, the decision to approve or halt certain programs in the spring comes as a part of the University’s “three-phase feasibility review” for study abroad programs, conducted in a cooperative effort between the Office of International Programs, Global Safety & Security (GS&S), and University Health Services.
The decisions were based on “multiple criteria” related to the current COVID-19 situation for each country, including “support on the ground, travel regulations and restrictions, and COVID rates,” Hotchkiss wrote.
“We do not have the necessary level of confidence that your semester programs can take place without significant disruptions (lockdowns, pivots to online, restrictions on travel within or to the country, curfews, etc.) and under conditions that ensure your health and well-being,” the email to students elaborated.
Hank Ingham ’23 is among a group of students studying ecology and evolutionary biology (EEB) whose study abroad programs are set to continue in the spring. Ingham currently plans to participate in EEB’s Semesters in the Field Program studying tropical biology in Panama.
Ingham is a staff copy editor and news contributor for The Daily Princetonian.
Members of his group are “relieved our program wasn’t canceled,” Ingham said, but they remain apprehensive about future changes.
“They waited until the last minute to cancel all the other programs, so it doesn’t seem unlikely that they might do the same to us. Only today did they recommend we start booking our flights, and they are having us do it through Princeton’s travel agency so all the flights are fully refundable,” he said.
The overall feelings of students regarding the recent news appear to be mixed, according to Ingham.
“There definitely is some anxiety, especially when new news comes out, like the new on-campus restrictions,” he said. “People are mostly optimistic, but it’s hard when we see other friends getting their programs canceled not to picture ourselves in their shoes.”
Alexis Maze ’23 was one of the students whose spring study abroad plans were canceled following the university’s announcement last Friday. She planned to spend the coming semester at Oxford Hertford College in England where she was accepted last spring.
“This decision has been a year in the making, as I had to submit my application last January,” Maze wrote in an email to the ‘Prince’.
Maze wrote that she understands the university's decision and that it “does not come as a surprise given the recent travel restrictions by the university.”
Still, she expressed her disappointment that she could not go to England as planned.
“I recognize this pandemic has had far more terrible and lasting impacts than canceled travel plans.” Maze wrote. “But I can’t help but mourn yet another piece of my college experience that has been taken away from me.”
“It is almost hard to process that the adventure I had been looking forward to for almost a year now is suddenly taken away not a month before I was supposed to fly out.”
She explained that as a low-income student, the lost opportunity to study abroad is particularly disappointing.
“This was going to be a chance I doubt I will ever get again. I cannot afford to travel to Europe for fun like some here, and this was finally going to be my opportunity to explore somewhere new,” she wrote.
Students whose study abroad programs have been canceled are all already enrolled in courses for the spring semester at Princeton. They have been assured that their current housing arrangements will be maintained.
Affected students were also invited to attend a Dec. 13 meeting with the “Feasibility Review” team, in which information was shared on “the factors that went into the decision, as well as on how students can work with their study abroad advisers to consider possible options like deferring to the fall.”
“Every student’s academic situation is specific,” Hotchkiss wrote, “but we will do our best to assist the impacted students in finding an alternative way for them to have an international experience.”
The University cannot yet predict, he said, whether or not summer 2022 study abroad programs will be able to run due to the ever-changing nature of the pandemic.
“OIP continues to work with the summer programs so we can have on-site programs this summer if possible,” Hotchkiss wrote.
Jenna Elliott is a podcast and news contributor for The Daily Princetonian. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.