The administration must prioritize the needs on campus before resuming studies abroad

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The opinions expressed in the opinion columns are those of the author.

I’ll be the first to say it: I can’t wait to travel again. After more than a year of social distancing and daydreaming about other countries, I would like a change of scenery.

Like many, I was eager to study abroad while at the University of Maryland, but was forced to put my plans on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. So when this university announced its intention to authorize study abroad programs for the fall semester 2021, i really wanted to be excited. However, this plan is rather hasty and irresponsible to students and people around the world.

The university plans to allow one-semester programs in four countries: Denmark, Sweden, Italy and Spain. But, all these countries are currently experiencing sharp increases in coronavirus cases, with some even instituting closures and curfews. While pandemic guidelines change daily, there can be no assurance that restrictions will be lifted in these countries by the fall, or that international travel, even with vaccine passports, will be authorized. Especially when much of the attraction of studying abroad is immersing yourself in a foreign culture, being confined to an apartment in Copenhagen almost defeats the very purpose of going there.

After a year of social interaction with the same people via Zoom and iMessage group chats, the idea of ​​making new friends from different cultures and backgrounds is very appealing. Regardless of cultural customs, it is usually not acceptable to spread a deadly virus while chatting with new friends, but it is still quite possible. The vaccines in circulation have been approved for emergency use by the FDA because they decrease the risk of a vaccinated individual exhibiting fatal viral symptoms. Therefore, without a large majority of vaccinated populations, the risk of the spread of COVID-19 is still very real, calling into question the ethics of traveling from the country that has experienced the most documented COVID-19 infections on Earth.

Another set of problems is inequity in vaccine distribution. According to the University of OxfordAt the time of this writing, the United States had administered at least one dose to 39% of its population, while each country on the authorized list only injected between 18 and 20%. While most Americans should be fully immunized by summerIt is obvious that not all countries have been as privileged as the United States in terms of access to vaccines. Strategically, it is understandable to give the most infected country the most vaccine early in distribution, as the virus has spread to a larger portion of the population. But, the United States disastrous response to virus, which involved ignoring scientists, was not by accident – it was by design.

There is a popular saying that goes “you can’t have your cake and eat it too.” According to the CDC, at the time of writing, there has been an 8% increase in positive cases since last week, proving that COVID-19 cases in the United States are on the rise again. Why should we be planning our post-pandemic party, when we are clearly far from the finish line? Given the way we have handled this situation, we should be the latest country to talk about sending our citizens abroad. We shouldn’t encourage international travel just because we have decided that we are ready.

We’ve been constrained for so long, so the ideas of international travel and personal freedom are understandably exciting. But that’s where the problem lies with going back to study abroad right now: it’s too idealistic. Yes cases are falling, if a majority of people in both countries are vaccinated, if borders open up and if he seems ethically responsible, then we can travel ! This seems like a logic that could have costly, even deadly consequences. Being a reputable US university should not allow us to bypass or exceed international COVID-19 guidelines. As a university whose mission part is about creating students who are open to the world, I can’t help but think that this plan betrays the values ​​we have all learned here at this university. Perhaps a better use of school funds and intellectual power would be to ensure that the College Park community, as well as the University community, are as safe as possible as we seek to bring nearly all students back to school. the campus in the fall. With that, students should feel more comfortable attending in-person classes and campus events next semester – activities that have started to feel rather foreign to them.

Anthony Liberatori is a second year environmental science and economics student. He can be contacted at alib1204@umd.edu.

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