Sarrah Thornburg couldn’t wait to go to Pau, France, this fall.
As an international business major at Wichita State University, she is required to study abroad in order to graduate.
Thornburg was excited for the change in scenery and the weekend trips she’d take to Spain. That was before COVID-19 upended her schedule, and WSU was forced to cancel its study abroad programs.
WSU is among many schools that have announced its study abroad programs for fall 2020 will not take place because of the ongoing pandemic.
WSU had already discontinued international travel for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester and canceled study abroad programs for summer 2020. As coronavirus cases rise across the world, the school decided to extend the cancellation to the fall semester.
Ann Burger, associate director of study abroad and foreign exchange programs at WSU, said under the current conditions, canceling seemed like the best decision.
"It doesn’t seem to be safe for students to be traveling internationally — there’s still a level 4 travel advisory by the U.S. Department of state," Burger said.
Students like Thornburg, a junior, were disappointed by this decision. She’s now planning for next semester.
"Hopefully it’ll be a lot more cleared up by then, and I will have the opportunity to go to all those sites and get the full experience," she said.
WSU’s study abroad office hasn’t made any decisions yet about the spring semester. But it says it is watching travel advisories and will prioritize the safety of its students.
"I haven’t really thought much about if I’m not able to study abroad in the spring because I just really want to," Thornburg said.
As the COVID-19 situation plays out, here are how other schools across Kansas are handling decisions regarding their study abroad programs for the fall semester.
- Kansas State University: Canceled. After canceling spring and summer study abroad programs, K-State decided to extend its cancellation to fall. Spring 2021 study abroad sessions plan to take place as scheduled. Visit its website for more details.
- University of Kansas: Pending. KU has not issued a blanket cancellation for fall study abroad programs as of yet. The school is making cancellation decisions on a program-by-program basis, with a goal that a final decision is made approximately 60 days prior to the program start date. The study abroad office says all students have been advised to enroll in on-campus courses as a backup plan should their program be canceled. For more information, go to KU’s Study Abroad website.
- Fort Hays State University: Canceled. Students are encouraged to defer their programs to summer 2021. To learn more about Fort Hays’ coronavirus policies, go to its website.
- Washburn University: Mostly canceled. Study abroad and travel are reviewed on a case by case basis for the foreseeable future. Most fall semester programs have been canceled due to the current pandemic and travel restrictions. To read more about the WU Fall 2020 Study Abroad Statement visit its website.
- Pittsburg State University and Emporia State University have not posted any guidance on their websites.
Hafsa Quraishi is KMUW's inaugural Korva Coleman Diversity Intern. Hafsa is currently pursuing her master’s degree in journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at City University of New York.