UC Berkeley’s study abroad programs have reopened for the fall 2021 semester, sending students across the globe amid uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The University of California Education Abroad Program, or UCEAP, currently facilitates 81 students studying abroad in locations including Barbados, China, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, France, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Korea and Sweden, according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore.
“It’s definitely nerve-wracking moving to a country where you don’t speak the language, and the uncertainty of COVID is an added pressure,” said campus junior Tessa Mouw, who is enrolled to study abroad in Italy at the University of Bologna in spring 2022.
Mouw noted that due to the pandemic, plans are still “fluid.”
She added that for next semester, she was advised to select flights that could be easily changed and to also take into consideration the differing quarantine policies of various countries as it could influence layover flights, as well as the possibility of being flagged.
Mouw said she was also encouraged to enroll in courses on campus during her study abroad semester in the case of cancellation.
Programs are still subject to cancellation by partner universities or UCEAP, according to Darin Menlove, vice dean of Summer Sessions and study abroad.
Campus junior Serena Ingalls said she will be studying abroad next semester in Lyon, France.
“It’s a huge contrast to how things were a year ago that I’m going to be able to live in another part of the world and meet and be with so many new people,” Ingalls said.
She delayed her arrangements to go abroad this semester in order to allow time for global vaccination rates to increase and wait for things to become more “open.”
Prior to her departure, she plans to receive a booster vaccine shot and register with the France-specific vaccination verification.
Despite the pandemic halting programs, the UC Berkeley Study Abroad office said it has continued to advise students.
“Study abroad advising did not stop during the brief period when travel was put on pause,” said Colette Plum, deputy director at the Study Abroad office, in an email. “Advisors have continued their outreach and advising of students at every point in their undergraduate studies, so that they might be adequately prepared to study abroad with the resumption of travel.”
Mouw credited the pandemic as the final push in her decision to apply to the program. She said she was excited for the opportunity to become immersed in foreign language, culture, food and art.
Thomas Dandelet, campus history professor and director of the Italian program from 2009 to 2011, said he has received strong interest in the Italian program from students on campus.
“Having vigorous study abroad opportunities for Cal students is a really important part of the educational menu,” Dandelet said. “Getting abroad can really be a life-changing experience for students … and I’m heartened by the fact that UCEAP has risen to the challenge of COVID and is still going strong.”
According to Barbara Tassielli, assistant director of advising at the Study Abroad office, there are 446 campus students expected to participate in UCEAP programs in spring 2022, as of press time.