OIE cancels all study abroad programs through May 2021


All study abroad programs for the Spring 2021 semester have been suspended due to the fluctuating conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic both at-home and abroad, according to a recent announcement on the Office of International Education (OIE) website. This decision comes just a month after the Torch learned that study abroad programs were expected to run during the Spring 2021 semester after a conversation with OIE.

The move to cancel programming through May 2021 was made “in coordination with the Office of the Provost and the Return to Campus Task Force,” according to the updated FAQ posted on Oct. 22 on OIE’s website. This decision also follows the recent rise in COVID-19 cases worldwide, as European countries are starting to experience a “second wave” of infections and the United States is reporting the highest number of single-day confirmed cases it has seen since the start of the pandemic. 

“As we monitored international mobility and noted the rise of cases at home and abroad, it became increasingly clear that the best decision for the Office of International Education (OIE) was to keep students safe in their home environments for the coming term,” Gregory Bruhn, director of Outbound Programs at the Office of International Education, told the Torch in an email.  

This decision impacts all programs at St. John’s, including Discover Italy, Discover France, Western Europe and exchange programs. No decision has been made yet regarding Summer 2021 and Fall 2021 programs, according to OIE, but applications remain open for these semesters and OIE is encouraging students to apply early. 

Since Sept. 12, 92 positive COVID-19 cases have been confirmed within the St. John’s University Queens campus community. Within the last two weeks, St. John’s has reported four active cases, although the campus lies within the outskirts of a cluster zone in which positive cases are rising this past month

Overseas, in cities where St. John’s European campuses lie, the number of reported cases continue to grow. Over the last seven days, the New York Times reports that the city of Rome has seen a daily average of 2,197 cases. Nearly 700 miles away, in Paris, the city has seen an average of 105 hospitalizations per day. 

“Though it’s disheartening for the entire community, for both our global team and for our students, we’re working on a number of new initiatives including virtual internships in Europe, virtual exchange with global partners, and a resumption of programming abroad as soon as cases decline,” Bruhn said. “Though the impact of the pandemic has slowed programming this year, this difficult time has allowed us to think creatively and provide new opportunities to students and faculty, both now and when travel can safely resume.”