First study abroad programs since pandemic to begin in fall

BYU students pose in front of Big Ben and Westminster Palace during their study abroad at BYU’s London Centre in 2016. The London Centre program is one of only nine Kennedy Center travel programs occurring this fall which will be the first semester with traveling programs since the pandemic. (Regan Crandall)

This fall semester over 200 BYU students will be traveling abroad for internships or international study programs. This will be the first semester of BYU-approved international travel through the Kennedy Center.

The nine programs traveling this fall are the Arabic Flagship Capstone in Morocco, the annual Fall semester Intensive Arabic Program also in Morocco, the Baltic States internship in Riga, the Brussels European government internship, the BYU London Centre study abroad, the France internship program, the International Biology internship in the Netherlands, the Korea Direct Enrollment Plus internship and the Spain study abroad program.

Director of the BYU Arabic Flagship Center Kirk Belnap said last year, the students had to do the Flagship program entirely online which was “far from ideal.” The Flagship Center said it’s excited the fourth year capstone students can travel to Morocco this fall.

“We are deeply grateful that the BYU administration believes that ‘the world is our campus’ and is doing everything it can to enable students to experience that broader world,” Belnap said.

Ella Baldwin is a senior in the Middle East studies and Arabic major and is participating in the Arabic Flagship Program this fall where she will take intensive Arabic courses, be enrolled in a Moroccan university, do community outreach and complete a semester-long internship.

After having several study abroad and internship plans fall through over the last year, Baldwin said “it is almost hard to believe that this one is coming to fruition.” She said she is very excited to travel again as travel experiences are a crucial part of her education and being in an immersive environment will be invaluable to her goal of superior proficiency in the Arabic language.

Baldwin plans to pursue a career in diplomacy and national security which will involve frequent travel and call for navigating various cultural and political contexts around the world, she said. “There is no better training for that career path than the Arabic Flagship Capstone program!”

Russian professor Tony Brown is looking forward to sending students to the Riga internship this fall. “Our pool of internship providers continues to expand in spite of the challenges associated with emerging from a pandemic,” he said.

This year students will most likely have to wear masks and can only travel within the country of Latvia compared to previous years where the students could take weekend trips to neighboring countries like Poland or Estonia. Despite this, Brown said he thinks students will be able to dive deeper into Latvian culture and find new things to explore.

“I’m optimistic that certain sacrifices on the part of the fall group will translate into a discovery of new and unanticipated opportunities that stand to benefit future groups for years to come,” Brown said.

The students going to the Netherlands biology internship will also have to stay within country borders which limits some of the researchers they can meet up with, biology professor Seth Bybee said. Despite these limitations, Bybee said he is really excited for students to participate in this internship.

Bybee said this internship is a great opportunity for students to get unique experience in a different culture and setting and still advance their careers.

Bybee doesn’t do these travel programs for his own benefit, he said. He does it because it blesses his students’ lives and gives them opportunities they wouldn’t normally get. “That’s why I’m here and that’s what I want to do for my students. The more that opportunities are open is a huge relief.”

For these travel programs, all students had to be fully vaccinated before their travel prep class began, International Study Program coordinator Aaron Rose said.

Rose said all the programs traveling this fall are full, but applications are starting for 2022 travel. Decisions for international travel are being made one semester at a time, but Rose said all information for Winter 2022 travel will be available at the Study Abroad Fair on Sept. 16.

Applying for travel programs right now is like “waiting in line to go,” Rose said. The Kennedy Center will notify students later if the program is going to go once official approval has been given for that program to travel.

The Jerusalem Center announced on July 28 they will not be having a fall semester because the Israeli government has not opened its borders yet. The Jerusalem Center is anticipating a Winter 2022 student program will occur, but it will depend on whether COVID-19 circumstances in Israel change in the next few months. Applications for the Winter program will start Sept. 3.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story said there were only eight study abroad programs traveling and excluded the annual Fall semester Intensive Arabic Program in Morocco. An earlier version also said the Jerusalem Center would have a fall semester program.

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