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University of Arkansas study abroad program to resume in May

The program was canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Students are expected to return to Rome this year.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — A year ago, about 100 University of Arkansas students studying abroad were asked to pack their bags and return home as the coronavirus pandemic gained ground in the U.S.

Now the U of A is looking at reopening the program but it will look different than in years past.

The mission of the study abroad program is to provide students with a cross-cultural learning experience, something students have sorely missed out on because of the ongoing-pandemic.

“We’ve been doing a lot of videos and lives but it’s not the same as being in the real city," said Francesco Bedeschi, Director of the University of Arkansas Rome Center.

Seniors like Jala Jones weren’t sure if they were going to get a chance to study abroad this year.

“For them to open this up was like wow, we get to do this, it was insane to even hear them say we’re going to go," Jones said.

The directors of the program say students will not get to travel as much but this means they will get to explore Rome in-depth.

“There’s a lot of limitations that are still in place and enforced to limit the spread of the virus but I am assuming that these are similar to what they are experiencing in the U.S.," Bedeschi said.

While COVID-19 vaccines are becoming more widely available, it may still take some time before students in the general population will be eligible. A vaccination requirement is not in place for the study abroad program at this time.

“What we’re looking at doing is making sure we’ve got social distancing measure in place, we’ve set our students expectations for how to take care of themselves and how to take care of the public health of students in the group as well," said Sarah Malloy, Director of the Study Abroad & International Exchange.

RELATED: Arkansas reports 94 new COVID-19 cases Monday, Johnson and Johnson vaccine expected to arrive this week

With the study abroad program’s return as a sign that things are getting better, it’s important to remind students that the pandemic is not over.

“I think it’s very exciting and it really helped my decision to want to go," Jones said. "The study abroad advisors made us understand that they have taken the precautions and making sure that you are able to travel."

More details about the university's study abroad program are expected to be revealed in the coming weeks.

The program is expected to resume sometime in May of this year.

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