Due to COVID-19, Oklahoma Christian University has continuously halted study abroad, including study abroad for the summer of 2021. Sessions will hopefully resume in fall 2021.
John Osborn, the director of international programs, spoke about the fall plans as well as a new program set during the wintercession.
“Sure things have changed in society, but when students have the opportunity, they should start traveling,” Osborne said. “We won’t initiate a program unless we think it is safe.”
The study abroad program at Oklahoma Christian is trying to go back to its normal plans while staying as safe as possible.
“I could tell what the situation is going to be like today but what it will be four months from now, it’s hard to know,” Osborne said.
For students like freshman Elizabeth Marble, the uncertainty of traveling abroad has prevented students from wanting to go to Vienna.
“A quote by Mark Twain is what really drew me to study abroad where ‘… things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime,’” Marble said. “I don’t want to be stuck here, I want to be able to have an open mind.”
Senior Kelsey Ritchie said restrictions on traveling during quarantine made study abroad feel impossible when she had to come home early on her spring study abroad trip.
“I was worried they would send us home and I didn’t want to leave,” Ritchie said. “I was more worried though, about all the opportunities I’d lost and if I’d ever get them back.”
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the study abroad program was hit hard which cancelled plans for many students instantaneously.
“I was very disappointed for the students and faculty planning to go to Vienna studies because for some students it is their only opportunity to have this experience,” Osborne said.
Although there are still stricter traveling guidelines after the halt in travel, it allowed for Marble to feel more secure and excited about traveling.
“If the restrictions in Europe are a little bit tighter, I would probably feel a lot safer,” Marble said.
The vaccine is new enough to leave room for unsure plans but safety is still important for the upcoming study abroad groups.
“People will ask what the regulations are and if there are going to be any special restrictions,” Osborne said. “I don’t know them because we will not know until we get there with things changing so rapidly.”
The vaccine will help with the traveling process but there are still many unknown factors.
“I know some vaccinations don’t work for some mutations in Europe, so it may be best to wait a little before resuming the programs,” Rithcie said.
Excitement for the history in culture brews each day for Marble, even with the continuous loop of COVID-19.
“Coming away from traveling you want to have an open mind. If you just stay in the United States, it will be the only viewpoint you are ever going to have,” Marble said.
The study abroad program is working to arrange the safest possible process so students can have the opportunity to go abroad.
“I’m recommending to students if they want to travel when things open up again, then they should be vaccinated,” Osborne said. “It is likely many of the countries will require it for people to enter.”
COVID-19 has not stopped students from wanting to travel and experience new culture and languages. Doing something different has helped students want to be more involved in their safety to be able to go overseas.