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'We're prepared': UNC students plan to go global for spring study abroad

Carryle Jane Arroyo, a junior at UNC studying psychology, poses for a FaceTime portrait outside Dey Hall. She is planning on studying abroad at Korea University in the spring.

UNC students are continuing to apply to study abroad programs despite the uncertainty of COVID-19 and the limited program options for spring 2021.

The University has received 227 study abroad program applications for the spring 2021 semester as of Sept. 25, 2020 – in contrast to more than 400 students who studied abroad in spring 2020, Heather Ward, associate dean of study abroad and international exchanges, said in an email.

Ward said students have applied to study in 27 countries, rather than the typical 360 programs in 70 countries, as the office has removed programs in many countries that have limited the entry of U.S. travelers.

For fall 2020, the University restricted study abroad travel outside North Carolina with exceptions granted by the Chancellor, and plans to keep the same model for spring 2021, she said. 

“Study abroad advisers have been advising students who have applied to study in the spring 2021 semester to fully consider the implications of studying abroad during a global pandemic,” Ward said in an email.

UNC’s partner universities and organizations abroad, which host UNC students, have put together health and safety protocols in compliance with local guidelines. The University will also provide pre-departure COVID-19 orientation sessions for spring semester abroad students and their families, Ward said.

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School’s Undergraduate Global Programs Office has received more than 50 applications for their programs, Ward said.

Emily Dawson, a junior in the Kenan-Flagler Business school, is a part of the three-semester Globe Scholar program, traveling from UNC to the Chinese University of Hong Kong to the University of Copenhagen.

Emily Dawson, a junior at UNC in the Kenan Flager Business School, poses for a FaceTime portrait from her house in Chapel Hill. She is planning on studying abroad in Hong Kong and Copenhagen in the spring.

“I think that UNC is prepared, Hong Kong’s prepared, all of us in the cohort — we’re prepared and we know what to do at this point so I really don’t see it as threat to me,” Dawson said. "I’ll be away from my family and it will just be us together.”

Dawson said her excitement is dampened by frustration because of the situation’s fragility. 

Kenan-Flagler and the program heads have told the 18-student cohort not to buy plane tickets yet because they are still not sure if the program is still happening, she said.

Carylle Jane Arroyo, a junior studying psychology, said it will be easier at Korea University because the number of COVID-19 cases is low.

“Well, during quarantine I guess I decided that I really needed to get out of the U.S. so that made me want to apply,” Arroyo said. "But for Korea specifically, just because I like the culture and I felt like they’re also much more safer with COVID, so it would’ve been a better choice.”

Study abroad programs for spring 2021 will vary from in-person instruction to a combination of online and in-person classes. The UNC Study Abroad Office is also offering fully remote opportunities to enroll in an online class at a global partner institution, Ward said.

The UNC Study Abroad Office encourages students to go to the spring 2021 FAQ page, which will be updated as new information arrives. Students are also encouraged to reach out to their program's organizing unit if they are planning to study abroad in the spring.

The application period for many programs ended on Sept. 10, but some applications are still open until Oct. 1. 

Decisions and scholarships will be awarded to students on Oct. 5, and students will have approximately 10 days to commit to their respective program.

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