by Sydney Beecher, Contributing Writer
Despite the challenges and restrictions COVID-19 has created, a handful of faculty members are hoping to offer a variety of travel courses this upcoming May.
Half of the travel courses have already been postponed until 2022 and there is a chance more will follow suit. “Most have been postponed until the next academic year, but there are several that are waiting to see how COVID pans out this winter,” says Associate Dean of Experiential & Global Education Linda Beck.
Dr. Beck aids to promote and administers the risk management issues surrounding travel courses. She and Lynne Eustis, the Assistant Director of Global Education, have been working with colleagues across the University of Maine System to manage study abroad courses during the current COVID pandemic.
Beck and the professors who plan to lead travel courses in May are investigating how to address a number of issues regarding international and domestic travel. They are hoping to find answers to questions similar to: “Are the destinations accepting foreign travelers, specifically Americans? Is there a quarantine requirement in the destination country? Can our faculty and students travel safely to and within the country?”
All travel courses need to take a variety of factors into account to operate. “Everything from border closures, lack of visa processing, mandatory 14-day quarantines upon entry into host countries, mandatory COVID testing upon entry, restrictions for hostel stays and modes of in-country transportation to concerns for handling student COVID cases are factors that must be considered when making decisions if programs can run,” said Lynne Eustis. If a travel course cannot meet those requirements or factors, then the course may be postponed or canceled.
At the moment, there are five travel courses being offered in May 2021. These include courses to Germany, Iceland, Nepal, and the United Kingdom (Shakespearetanan). The courses that have been postponed until 2022 include Croatia, Boston, New York City, and the United Kingdom (Rehabilitation). In addition to these postponed courses, other faculty may propose courses for 2022 as well. As a political science professor herself, Beck plans to offer once again her travel course, Ecotourism and Environmental Activism in Tanzania, in 2022.
Although the immediate future of travel courses is surrounded by uncertainty, it is important to realize the opportunities they can provide to students. Emily Cetin, a rising sophomore who participated in Beck’s Tanzania travel course in winter 2020, decided to attend UMF precisely because of the travel courses the university offered. “They offer students such amazing opportunities to get out of the classroom and immerse themselves in the real world. Engaging with people and learning about their lives in person is much different than simply being lectured in a classroom by a professor.” Cetin also expressed that going to Tanzania became life-changing. “The things I learned and helped with, from planting trees to making reusable pads for women, I brought home with me. The trip helped me narrow down what I want to do in life. While I was on the plane headed back home, I was already planning on which travel course I wanted to go on next.”
To find the latest information about travel courses and descriptions about each program, visit https://www.umf-experience.org/travel-courses or email Linda Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org.