Anvay Tewari, Senior Photographer

In an email sent to the Yale undergraduate community on Monday afternoon, Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun informed students that restrictions on international travel sponsored by Yale College will continue for the fall term, the winter recess and the spring term.

In his email, Chun wrote that international travel sponsored by Yale College — such as study abroad opportunities and international fellowships — will remain suspended for the duration of the academic year, but a decision about summer international travel and sponsored activities will be announced before the start of the spring term. 

“There are just too many credible risks to students traveling anywhere, even to countries whose threat levels may currently be rated low but could shift overnight,” Chun wrote in an email to the News. “As for summer 2021, I am in discussions about it now. 

“It’s a balancing act trying to reach a conclusion as early as possible so that students can plan ahead while leaving enough time to see how the situation may or may not improve. Making the decision about the summer before the start of the spring term should provide that balance.”

According to the Yale University International Travel Policy for Yale College Students, Yale will not fund, award credit for or otherwise sponsor or support any study abroad programs, international fellowships or international extracurriculars hosted in any country that meets any of the listed conditions. These conditions include countries for which the U.S. State Department has issued a Level 4 travel advisory, the International SOS has issued a Travel Global Risk Rating of “Extreme” or “High” or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a Warning Level 3. Lastly, Yale will also not support activities in countries that the University has determined pose a credible health or security risk to students.

Normally, Yale College’s academic regulations prevent seniors from spending either of their final terms abroad. But because travel restrictions have limited members of the Class of 2022’s ability to study abroad, Chun stated in his email, a special exception has been made to allow students who will have a status of first-semester senior during fall 2021 or spring 2022 to study abroad for one semester, as long as it is not the final semester of enrollment.

Historically, the only exception has been the Yale in London program, which runs in the spring term. However, that program has also been cancelled for the upcoming spring semester.

According to Kelly McLaughlin, director of Yale Study Abroad and assistant dean of Yale College, he and his colleagues did not take the decision to restrict international activity lightly. McLaughlin stated his belief that international experiences can help students grow as individuals, enrich the lives of both the students and the people they come into contact with while travelling and lead to Yalies returning to campus with a renewed appreciation for Yale’s resources. He emphasized that the continued restrictions to international activity for at least another term represent the seriousness of the pandemic.

“When done right, with reciprocity of engagement and mutual respect always in mind, international engagement can help to make the world a little better place, even at the scale of just two people forming potentially life-long bonds that surely never would have formed otherwise,” McLaughlin wrote in an email to the News.

Despite the study abroad restrictions, McLaughlin praised the “creative uses of technology” shown in the virtual courses that some Yale Summer Session Abroad programs hosted in lieu of in-person programming.

President of the Sophomore Class Council Juan Diego Casallas Otalora ’23 was supposed to attend the Yale Summer Session Siena Italian L3 and L4 program last summer. The program was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although Casallas was upset to have his study abroad experience cancelled, he understood that the cancellations were made with the best interest of the Yale community and public health standards in mind. While he would still consider studying abroad in future summers, he stated his concern that if he had to make the choice between a professional opportunity, like an internship, or the study abroad program, he would likely choose the professional experience. 

And because sophomores were not invited back to campus this semester, he stated that he would likely not consider studying abroad during a future fall or spring semester, since he does not want to miss out on more time at Yale.

Despite this, Casallas believes that Yale has made the right decision in choosing to suspend travel.

“Since a vaccine is still yet to be found and it may take many months or even years to distribute that vaccine adequately, it would be a public health nightmare to resume sponsored travel abroad,” Casallas wrote in an email to the News. “The virus spread far and wide through these same movements and it is our responsibility, united as a species, to end this crisis as soon as possible. If it means that I don’t get to study abroad during college in order to help contribute to ending a life-altering pandemic, then I’m more than happy to bear that.”

According to Yale Study Abroad by the Numbers, 47 percent of the class of 2019 studied abroad during their time at Yale.

Julia Bialek | julia.bialek@yale.edu