Nursing students struggle to plan amid study abroad uncertainty

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BYU nursing student Ali Norris practices inserting an IV in the Nursing Learning Center. Norris and other nursing students are struggling to plan for the future as a decision has not yet been made about their required study abroad. (Abby Tanner)

Continual prevalence of COVID-19 is causing uncertainty for students in the nursing program at BYU who have a study abroad required for graduation and no answer yet as to whether the trip will happen.

Many nursing students have had to put their lives on hold while waiting for a decision to be made on if the study abroad will occur this year.

Nursing students have received few updates during the decision-making process about their study abroad.

“The last formal update we received about the nursing study abroad was on Nov. 11, 2021,” nursing student Emma Ellis said. “They said they will have a final decision on whether or not the study abroad will happen by February.”

Ryan Rasmussen, the director of the nursing study abroad program, said he wanted to see how the spring season will be affected by COVID-19. Additionally, Rasmussen has to wait for the university to make a decision about international travel.

“We knew that if we made a decision in November about the study abroad, the decision would have been ‘no.’ So we made a decision to postpone that decision,” Rasmussen said. “The university has made a commitment to us that they’ll get us their decision by February.”

The overall decision rests with International Vice President Renata Forste.

“We consider lots of factors — in particular, whether or not U.S. entry is even permitted to a country,” Forste said. “We have to think about students testing positive and quarantine requirements — including the costs associated with testing and quarantine.”

While waiting, Rasmussen has continued to respond to emails and answer students’ questions. “What I’ve heard from most of the students is that they’re all still very excited about the possibility of going,” Rasmussen said.

However, the nursing students gave different responses.

“It makes me sad to think we may not get this opportunity, especially after we have received a lot of false hope that we would finally be able to go,” Ellis said. “My family was trying to make vacation plans, but it was hard to not know if the study abroad was happening.”

Other nursing students, such as Ali Norris, have had to put planning major life events on hold.

“The study abroad has affected my ability to plan for anything this summer,” Norris said. “I am unable to plan when I can take the licensed practical nurse exam, what I should tell my job and when I can plan my wedding.”

Norris has delayed setting a wedding date because of the lack of updates. “Other wedding parts literally cannot be planned out, like my venue, dress rental and temple date,” she said.

Additionally, the delayed decision has added financial stress to some students.

“The delay in the decision means I cannot decide when I can get a job and how long I can work,” nursing student Whitney Jackson said. “I wish I could start planning my spring. I also don’t know if I will need extra money to participate in the study abroad or not.”

Norris said the nursing faculty is working hard to figure plans out, but COVID-19 is still causing delays.

Ellis said she wishes the nursing program would include the nursing students in the decision-making process. “This will keep us out of the dark so that we are aware of what is going on,” she said. “We will be more patient with not knowing exactly when or if the study abroad will happen.”

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