College to require COVID-19 vaccines for 2021-2022 abroad programs

Illustration by Kenzie Todd

 

The International and Off-Campus Studies (IOS) Office will require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to participate in 2021–2022 off-campus programs.

“We wanted to make sure that there was enough accessibility and equity of access to the vaccine before we made it a requirement,” said Director of International and Off-Campus Studies Jodi Malmgren. “More places are requiring the vaccine — such as airlines, countries, immigration and even some hotels and museums. We want to make sure students get to participate in every aspect of the program.”

IOS accepts any variation of the vaccine, including Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Students are required to send in their vaccine verification to their off-campus study program before July 1 in order to participate in the fall programs.

Despite the new regulation, some countries still remain inaccessible. Advanced Spanish Immersion in Buenos Aires, Argentina was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the region, and other countries remain at a high risk.

“We’re trying to look carefully at the ethics of sending students abroad because even if students are vaccinated, there are still parts of the world that are hit hard by COVID-19,” Malmgren said. “Where vaccination is not widespread, where the healthcare system is really stretched or the economy has been devastated. We may have to make some choices not to send students to particular parts of the world because it’s just not an ethical time for us to send American travelers to a place that’s already overburdened.”

Other commonly-traveled regions such as New Zealand and Australia are also unavailable due to VISA concerns.

Because of potential cancelations, the College has implemented a new system in case certain study abroad programs are canceled. Students are still required to register for fall classes, a process called dual registering, so they are not left at a disadvantage in the registration process. This process was established in collaboration with the Registrar’s Office and the Informational Technology department, in order to create a more efficient system.

The 2020–2021 academic year only saw 30 students study abroad, but higher numbers are registered for the upcoming 2021–2022 year. Compared to 2019, over 15% more students are taking part in fall programs, and the number of Interim applications have increased by 25%.

With the increase in numbers, IOS remains hopefully cautious that the upcoming academic year will otherwise reflect a sense of normalcy.

“One thing that COVID has taught us is that we learn more information as time goes by, and so we plan as best we can and then we adapt as more information becomes available,” Malmgren said.


cajiao1@stolaf.edu