Woodward Travel Program Restarting in Late 2021
With the spread of COVID-19 slowing and mass vaccinations taking place, the Global Connections program is making plans to return to the world at large. Trip leaders recently proposed travel for the 2021-22 school year, and of those, six trips were approved. There will be five Upper School trips and one Middle School trip (dates TBD):
- Vietnam for leadership and service projects
- France, to Woodward’s partner school
- Costa Rica for the Tropical Environment course
- Europe for the chorus performing group
- Costa Rica
Director of International & Global Connections Stéphane Allagnon said international travel is essential to the Woodward experience because it gives students an opportunity to form a deep understanding of the people and culture of the places they visit.
Allagnon quoted the travel writer Andrew Zimmern, who said, “Please be a traveler, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what is right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in.”
Allagnon said, “In the world today, this is so true about our own local communities but also about the world. Our goal is to open the mind of the students and better their understanding of the communities around them.”
While the program is resuming travel, the pandemic will leave some permanent changes. One of the biggest ways is in risk management. Being vaccinated for COVID-19 will be mandatory for international travel—European and Asian authorities are developing a special medical passport. Insurance policies also have changed significantly.
“Woodward was very fortunate because we encountered minimal financial loss in 2020 for our trips,” Allagnon said. “We had to cancel travel for more than 200 people, but the International & Global Connections office does an amazing job making sure that we always have the best coverage in the industry, even if it took us more than a year to finalize all the claims.”
The lessening of travel restrictions also has a significant impact on Woodward’s international students. Of the 24 currently enrolled international students, half were able to go back to their homes thanks to government repatriation flights. The others have remained in the United States.
Those who returned to their homes have been studying virtually for a year, taking synchronous classes. Which means that, in Asia, an 8:30 a.m. class begins at 9:30 p.m. Those who have remained in the U.S. have continued living with host families while unable to return to their families in their home countries.
“We are so grateful that our homestay families were able to accommodate our international students,” Allagnon said. “These students have not seen their families in almost two years, and right now we still do not know if they will be able to go home this summer.”
Many U.S. embassies remain closed, leaving people—at Woodward and beyond—displaced, unable to return to their homes. Some universities have canceled study visas for students, meaning they will be unable to go to their planned college.
“It is a true humanitarian crisis,” Allagnon said. “The immigration policies that are in place are really limiting travel and study for students. People in general do not understand that when a student decides to study abroad, it is a leap of faith. They become fully committed to that change of study and they understand that they will not be able to go back home—in most cases—to re-integrate their home study program midway through a school year.”
Allagnon also noted that international students who are graduating likely will not be able to have their families present, creating another emotional hurdle.
“Our international students are very strong and deserve great recognition for what they have achieved during a pandemic,” Allagnon said.