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Colleges are canceling study abroad for the fall. What does this mean for students?

Daisheau Player, a student at Dickinson College, was looking forward to studying in New Zealand this fall on a study abroad program.

But Dickinson informed Player and about 250 other students last month that he had canceled his studies abroad for the fall semester, concerned about the impact the coronavirus could still have.

“I was pretty prepared for that,” said Player, 20, a chemistry major in Baltimore. “I felt like that was what was going to happen. It was too uncertain. We didn’t know where things would be in weeks, let alone months.

Dickinson is among a growing number of colleges that have canceled study abroad as the fall semester approaches. Villanova, Pennsylvania State, University of Pennsylvania, La Salle and Widener have canceled their studies abroad, citing uncertainty about the virus, planned travel restrictions, changes to university programs abroad and the potential for sudden new lockdowns if a second wave occurs.

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Study abroad is very popular on some campuses. Nearly 40% of Villanova students and nearly two-thirds of Dickinson students go abroad at some point during their four years. In 2017-2018, nearly 21,000 students from Pennsylvania and 4,688 from New Jersey studied abroad, according to a report by the Institute of International Education.

The virus has taken its toll, with more than 90% of summer programs cancelled, the institute said. And “the COVID-19 health crisis will affect international student mobility this academic year and possibly for years to come,” the institute said in a recent report.

International educators hope study abroad will return as conditions improve. In New Zealand, officials said this week that the country had eradicated all cases of coronavirus and had reopened travel across the country.

After large-scale crises in the past, students have continued to seek study abroad opportunities, said Caroline Donovan White, senior director of overseas education services at NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

“I hope the importance of international education will be increasingly front and center as we work to solve global challenges,” she said.

Most schools have said they hope to resume study abroad in the spring, but cannot promise.

“I told people my crystal ball was broken,” said Liz Campanella, director of Villanova’s Office of Foreign Education.

This fall, Villanova was to send more than 200 students to Ireland, Spain, South Africa, Australia, the United Kingdom and other countries to study languages, do fieldwork and take courses. But the university noticed some of its overseas partners were pulling out, Campanella said, and wanted to give students time to make alternative plans.

Ryan Ford, 19, a rising junior from Orange, Connecticut, liked it. He was supposed to study in Ireland and was tired of the uncertainty.

“It was really disappointing,” the chemical engineering major said. “But it was also a little relieved because we didn’t have anything more on our shoulders.”

Colleges that have canceled have said they have room on campus to accommodate students. Dickinson delayed its housing selection process so overseas students could participate. Neither Dickinson nor Villanova has announced whether students will be on campus in the fall or studying remotely.

Dickinson runs the majority of its study abroad programs. Having seen the disruption when more than 155 students had to be taken home in the spring, the college decided not to take that risk anymore, said Samantha C. Brandauer, associate provost and executive director of Dickinson’s Center for Global Study and Engagement.

“We don’t want to put students back in that position,” she said.

But the college plans to maintain ties with faculty and host institutions in other countries and offer virtual global programming to Dickinson students in the fall, she said. Dickinson is also working with Haverford College on some global online learning programs, she said. Some models came out in the spring, when students were forced to complete their studies online, she said. Students who had studied in Bologna, Italy, for example, could connect to cooking classes with teachers there.

” READ MORE: Penn, Temple, Rowan among colleges canceling trips and overseas programs as coronavirus spreads

“We were really trying to help our students who had to leave Bologna early to stay connected to Italian culture,” she said.

Villanova is also working on virtual exchanges, Campanella said.

Some colleges and universities, including Lehigh, Rutgers and Haverford, have not yet ended fall study abroad.

“Students are working with the Lehigh Summer Abroad Office to plan a few different scenarios for the fall,” spokeswoman Lori Friedman said.

St. Joseph’s University also kept it on the table and said about 50 students were exploring the options.

In some schools, students have made the decision to withdraw.

“Most students who planned to study abroad in the fall of 2020 canceled or postponed to later semesters,” said Diane D’Amico, spokeswoman for Stockton University in New Jersey.

At Villanova, more than 80 students withdrew early.

Player had planned to take classes at the University of Otago in New Zealand. She still hopes to have her chance in the spring. Otherwise, the opportunity could be lost. She’s not interested in going there during her senior year, a time when students are looking for jobs and planning for graduate school.

“I just want to be on campus,” she said, “close to all the resources available to me.”