After nearly two years since the start of COVID-19, the University of Mississippi Study Abroad program exceeded their pre-pandemic rates since the beginning of this school year.
All in-person study abroad programs were cancelled in the summer of 2020, but many students continued to study abroad throughout the fall of 2020. Due to travel restrictions, there were fewer students sent, but interest continued to rise.
COVID-19 has posed a number of challenges for students traveling abroad and because of the ongoing pandemic, students are subject to their host country’s rules and regulations.
“There are certain countries who require that visitors download a health app in order to come to campus for class, visit restaurants and nightclubs, go to museums and travel on public transit,” Blair McElroy, Senior International Officer and Director of Study Abroad, said.
McElroy said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the university recommends all international travelers get vaccinated before studying abroad.
“Unvaccinated people not only endanger their own health, they endanger the local community in the host country who may not have easy access to vaccines like we do in the United States,” McElroy said. “We are so privileged to be able to protect ourselves and others and still travel internationally by getting vaccinated against COVID-19, for free.”
There are currently 34 people abroad this semester.
Noah Hubbard, a senior triple major in accounting, international studies and Spanish, currently studies abroad in Bilbao, Spain.
Many of Hubbard’s problems were getting into Spain. Once he got there, however, life became easier. Because the U.S. consulate shifted to a mail system for student visas, Hubbard faced delays when he applied.
“I had lots of extra delays due to shipping,” Hubbard said. “I also got rejected twice and had to apply a third time, which may have not happened had I had an appointment at the consulate where I had all of my documents with me.”
In regards to COVID-19, Spain only required proof of vaccination, rather than a negative COVID-19 test. Hubbard said that Spain is more lax than the United States, as Spain only requires proof of vaccination.
In the spring of 2022, there are 94 applicants.
Olivia Rychlak, a junior international studies major, will travel to Aix-en-Provence, France this upcoming spring semester.
Rychlak is part of the Croft Institute, where it is required for all members to take at least one semester abroad. She is currently studying French as her language of choice.
Rychlak said that the biggest struggle she has faced so far was making sure all her paperwork for her visa was in order. Fortunately, Rychlak’s passport was up to date due to recent travels. However, there had been back up at the Passport Agency.
All students need to get a student visa in order to travel abroad for an extended period of time. The nearest consulate to Oxford, Mississippi, is Atlanta, Georgia.
“Over Thanksgiving break one of my days, while I have family in town, I’ll be spending it going to Atlanta doing a visa interview process where I have to provide lots of documents printed out,” Rychlak said. “It’s a pretty long and inconvenient process having to travel that far, but it’s necessary to study abroad.”
Although Rychlak is not going to study abroad until the spring, around 95 applicants will be traveling over winter break.
While there are some challenges students have to face in order to finally travel to their host country, the wait and acquired documents are worth the amount of work.
“Spain has been very interesting for me so far. I am really glad I pushed myself to study abroad even though getting the visa was really tough and nerve wracking,” Hubbard said.