Study abroad students travel again after over a year of uncertainty

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Andres Martinez

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Julia Lucero, Contributor

UTEP study abroad students return to traveling after a year and half of programs and countries being shut down.  

“I was happy to see at least at UTEP, the International Oversight Committee (IOC) was taking the role very seriously on recognizing when they could give clearance to a student on a case by case as opposed to wholesale,” Executive Director of the Office of International Programs and Study Abroad, Dania Brandford Calvo said. 

Between five  and seven students have received confirmation for study abroad this year. Pre-pandemic, the Study Abroad Office would have sent approximately 525 students abroad. 

Students traveling this year are going to South Korea, Spain and Italy and leaving between August and September. 

“That could change anytime, even though they have permission right now that permission could be rescinded, if the conditions of COVID-19 at those locations change,” Branford-Calvo said.  

Each program requires students to quarantine upon entering the country they are studying in. 

Brandford-Calvo recommends that students traveling abroad stay informed and connected. 

“This is a time for informing and educating oneself, having an exit plan, and being prepared to move from location to another location.”  

Senior Kimberly Anaya will be traveling to Spain this fall semester on 8 September. Anaya was initially hesitant, but later realized the special experience study abroad was. 

Anaya said the learning opportunity was one-of-a-kind and was looking forward to learning how her degree in psychology is needed in other countries.  

In addition to approval from International Oversight Committee, Anaya’s study abroad program required signed waivers, consenting those students are aware they are traveling during an active pandemic. 

Anaya recommends those interested in joining the program to go for it. 

  “It’s taking that big step of, if you really want to do it just do it. Don’t hesitate. I would advise just take that step to apply and go from there, Anaya said. “It’s something scary but it’s something new and I feel like we shouldn’t be afraid of change.”  

Due to the pandemic, study abroad programs were shut down .. UTEP students that left for travel in February 2020, returned in March to complete their study abroad programs remotely.  

The College of Engineering and Business introduced virtual study abroad programs. The UTEP Study Abroad Office facilitated about 20 students in the virtual programs during quarantine.  

The Study Abroad office continued to inform students about changes on a daily basis. 

UTEP Study Abroad office facilitates information about study abroad programs, provides guidance in completing applications, informs students on safety and risk, discusses financial options, and grants UTEP students a study abroad scholarship.  

Any student  studying abroad must first receive clearance and permission from the UTEP IOC, the committee looks at students’ applications on why it is essential to join a study abroad program. This committee is looking at location and safety prior to students traveling, Brandford-Calvo said. 

‘We continued to have information sessions, individual sessions and group sessions. We continued to meet with them and inform them about the process of studying abroad because the fact that they could not go abroad for a whole year did not mean that they were not going to go abroad as soon as the borders open or programs open. ,” Brandford-Calvo said.  

 Though the Study Abroad office has a handful of students going away this year, Brandford-Calvo foresees reaching the hundreds of students in the program again in the next 2-3 years.  

Students interested in joining the study abroad program can contact the Study Abroad Office at (915) 747-5664 or email them at [email protected] 

Julia Lucero may be reached at [email protected]