VENTURA, Calif. — A college senior is putting off graduating, in part to take advantage of a once in a lifetime opportunity.
The reason for the postponement centers around international travel, which the pandemic has stymied. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially recommends “postponing or canceling student international travel programs.”
Before any kind of traveling the CDC also suggests checking with your “destination’s Office of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Health, and the U.S. Department of State about COVID-19-specific entry requirements, such as COVID-19 testing and quarantine.”
Hector Gonzalez is a Ventura native whose parents didn’t graduate high school. As a California State University Channel Islands senior himself, he’s never so much as left the state.
The biggest journey of his life is on hold.
“It kind of hurts to be, like this might not happen,” said Gonzalez.
Gonzalez earned multiple scholarships to study abroad in Japan. Then all exchange partnerships and CSU International Programs stopped because of the pandemic.
Twenty-five CSUCI students who were already abroad came home mid-semester as things shut down suddenly. It represented years of planning totally unraveling, practically overnight.
Gonzalez’s own plans took shape sophomore year after hearing stories from others students who left the country.
CSUCI Study Abroad Coordinator Courtney Gross still encourages students to share their positive experiences abroad despite uncertainty.
“I always tell students honestly that I don’t have a crystal ball and I certainly can’t predict what’s going to happen,” said Gross.
Gonzalez would have been in Japan now. He could go ahead and graduate next semester, but he’s picking up an economics minor which he can finish in Japan in the hopes of finally going abroad in spring of 2022.
“It’s difficult to kind of come to terms with… this is still very much a possibility. I mean it’s still up in the air though,” said Gonzalez.
CSUCI hasn’t made a call yet about studying abroad this summer and beyond. The decision will be based on COVID-19 numbers as well as country-specific details, like whether the visa office is open to American students.
There is a hidden blessing in putting off his graduation. Gonzalez’s parents might get to see an in-person graduation ceremony.
“It was a stumbling block, but I think it’s something that I can work with even if it kind of hurt knowing that it was going to be delayed, maybe even just not happen,” said Gonzalez.
When study abroad programs resume, there will likely be changes.
Gross says they want to include more scenario-based training for students before they go. For example, what to do in a medical emergency. Also, they want to ensure all students fill out the Family Educational Right and Privacy Act form.
Basically it allows the university to share information about the student with a trusted parent or guardian. This is especially useful if the student can’t get to a phone or internet connection and thus can’t communicate with their own parents directly.