Curtin University has suspended all study abroad and student exchange programs for Semester 1, 2021.
The university’s manager of global student mobility Jane Grono said the decision was made due to safety concerns and the uncertainty surrounding WA’s travel ban.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced an extension of the ‘human biosecurity emergency period’ and restrictions on international travel on September 3.
The extension will last until December 17 but is subject to change, depending on the global climate.
This decision has left many students in the dark and unable to plan for specific travel dates.
Ms Grono said last year saw over 1900 students taking part in a range of learning abroad activities.
In the meantime, global online programs have been made available to Curtin students as a study abroad alternative.
Students will be able to complete fully online internships, seasonal programs, language courses and units with a variety of Curtin’s partners.
“Having a virtual exchange program on their CV shows employers that a student is proactive and adaptable,” Ms Grono said.
Curtin University student Rick Way said Global Online Programs were not comparable to the real-life study abroad experience.
Mr Way was planning to take part in the Ghent Summer Program between semesters this year, before COVID-19 lead to its cancellation.
“For me personally, that just kind of defeats the purpose of studying abroad,” he said.
“I really want to do it for the whole experience and the culture.”
Like many other Curtin students, Mr Way has had to abandon his study abroad plans because the course structure of his finance and law degree means postponing his trip is difficult.
He said he was unlikely to be able to travel abroad without adding time to his degree and that he would rather finish his degree on time and miss the opportunity to study abroad.
Ms Grono said Curtin was working hard to develop online opportunities and reduce disruptions.
The university is providing counselling to students who returned early from study abroad programs and regular information sessions for future study abroad students.
Ms Grono said the global online programs should “help prepare students for a ‘real’ international experience in future”.
Mr Way said Curtin’s response exceeded his expectations and the university had handled the situation exceptionally well.
“It was a massive shame that it didn’t go ahead, but of course it’s just one of those things in life that you can’t help,” he said. “It’s just about how you handle it rather than what it does to you.”