Over a year-and-a-half after 10 UB students studying abroad in Italy returned home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, SUNY is continuing to uphold its strict criteria blocking students from studying abroad, despite other institutions resuming their programs.
Adam Rubin, assistant vice provost and director of education abroad, came to UB in September and, since then, has lobbied SUNY to resume its study abroad programs. He says the main blockade to resuming study abroad programming is the governor’s office.
“In the spring of 2020 there was this new policy that was put in place by the governor’s office at the time that said that there could be no undergraduate international travel activities for SUNY, which stayed in place until recently,” Rubin said. “What has happened since the early spring of this year was SUNY Global [Center] working with different senior international folks across the [SUNY] campuses to come up with a relaunch proposal plan, and it was designed to say we want to reopen study abroad for SUNY, we want to do so with intentionality, doing it very carefully.”
Rubin says application deadlines vary across programs but are typically in early October for programs beginning in the spring semester. He recommended prior to SUNY’s relaunch plan that students hold off on paying deposits until SUNY released an updated policy, but maintained that programs would move forward.
SUNY settled on a revised version of the original plan submitted by its global and international education professionals, which included additional insurance policy requirements on top of already existing ones and added other policies which Rubin says made the policy “very bad.”
Currently, UB is planning to send students abroad to Korea and Japan in the spring semester, but the university is apprehensive in light of the Omnicron variant and changing guidance.
Neighboring school systems, like Penn State and Ohio State, have resumed their study abroad programs. Penn State even created multiple scholarship funds to make studying abroad more accessible to students.
SUNY does not allow stateside students to travel internationally, but it allows exchange students to come to New York.
Rhea Kalidindi, a communication major from the UB Singapore campus, says she’s finishing her senior year in Buffalo as an exchange student.
“I was studying in Singapore as a double major,” Kalindindi said. “Because of COVID-19, our programs were diminishing, the professors were not able to travel. So they asked me if I wanted to go to UB’s [Buffalo campus]... So I said fine, and then I went through this excruciating visa process. Now I’m here.”
According to UB’s Study Abroad office, the university hosts 27 students on study abroad or exchanges, 14 of whom will remain in Buffalo during the spring semester.
Colleen Culleton, interim director for undergraduate studies in the Romance Languages and Literatures, says studying abroad is a unique and important experience.
“Studying abroad can give students a significant boost in their language learning, since there is no substitute for the total immersion experience that comes with it, and of course the longer they go abroad, the better,” Culleton said. “However, studying abroad, in the best of circumstances, is much more than that. It doesn’t just immerse you in a language, but also in a new culture. You learn that the way of thinking and doing things that you’ve lived with your whole life isn’t the only way of thinking and doing things. You learn to see yourself the way others see you, and take a step back to adopt a critical perspective on your own identity.”
Julie Frey is an assistant news/features editor and can be reached at email@example.com
Julie Frey is a senior news/features editor at The Spectrum. She is a political science and environmental studies double major. She enjoys theorizing about Taylor Swift, the color yellow and reading books that make her cry. She can be found on Twitter @juliannefrey.