Education Abroad office adjusts to new reality

(Allison Evans | Collegian Media Group)

Since COVID-19 has disrupted the normal flow of global travel, students that planned on studying abroad have had to readjust their plans.

Approximately 500 K-State students that planned on studying abroad were impacted in one way or another by the novel coronavirus, according to Joseph Milostan, director of Education Abroad.

Students studying abroad this semester had their programs cut short, canceled or disrupted, with future summer programs being canceled outright.

Milostan said this decision is based on the university’s policy regarding travel warnings and advisories issued by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“As long as those agencies keep their travel warnings and advisory levels at elevated levels as they are now, no Education Abroad programs will be approved,” Milostan said. “We’re hopeful students will be able to study abroad in the fall, but that is contingent on the lowering of travel warnings and advisories by those government entities.”

Students’ safety is the Education Abroad office’s top priority during this time, Milostan said.

Milostan said his office is in the process of collecting information and feedback from their international partners, international governments and insurance providers. All of this information is then reviewed in order to make an informed decision.

While the novel coronavirus is a rather unique situation to deal with, Milostan said it is not the first time the Education Abroad program has been affected.

International events like volcanic eruptions in Iceland in 2010, the nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011, the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014 and terrorist attacks in various cities have all affected programs in the past, Milostan said, with the primary difference being that those events only impacted specific regions and countries.

The size and scope of the novel coronavirus is what’s new for Education Abroad programs worldwide.

While there will be decreased student participation as long as travel warnings and advisories are in place, Milostan said, he’s confident student participation will return to normal levels once they are lifted.

In the midst of a global pandemic, Milostan remains optimistic about the office’s ability to bounce back.

“The COVID-19 situation is really unprecedented and impacting all parts of life and society,” Milostan said. “Just the experience of managing our way through this would better prepare our responses in the future.”