Study Abroad Programs Return for Fall Quarter
After a year-long pause, the University of Denver’s study abroad programs are returning to a new normal. With the help of testing and contact tracing, masking and vaccinations, students again are studying abroad. But behind the scenes lies a greater force – individuals committed to supporting international travel, including an international travel risk analyst.
DU has 376 students registered to study overseas this fall term, and 251 of them already are abroad.
The studies are being undertaken in 26 countries on five continents, with most traveling to Spain (73), the United Kingdom (67), Netherlands (34), France (31) and Italy (25).
Analyst Courtney Niebrzydowski works closely with the Office of International Education to evaluate risks and coordinate resources. Before the pandemic, she would review each new program added to the portfolio. Now, Niebrzydowski reviews every study abroad program, almost weekly, under a new lens.
“There’s always inherent risk in travel, but it’s really how we identify and mitigate known risks,” she says. “How do we best prepare our travelers and mitigate risk? We prompt travelers to evaluate associated travel risks and their personal risk thresholds; we work with partners abroad who provide excellent in-country support; we offer an array of resources available before departure and while abroad.”
The work isn’t simply examining an area’s spread of COVID. Niebrzydowski also is looking at the in-country support structures and health-care capacity.
“Not only just if a student were to contract COVID,” she says. “More likely, all the other medical things that come up -- the unexpected appendicitis, or the trip and fall and broken ankle or wrist.”
In March 2020, DU was one of the first institutions to recall its students from abroad. Niebrzydowski said the situation was stressful but also proved to be a bonding experience. The team, she says, was prepared in part because of tabletop exercises – a quarterly exercise meant to simulate large-scale emergencies involving international travelers.
“We knew each other’s strengths,” she says. “We did a debrief after the recall, and we determined that the tabletop exercises really helped since we were more familiar with how things operated."
While the number of travelers is down from pre-pandemic levels, the fall quarter count paints a greater picture – a sign of DU’s commitment to international education.