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UNR, USAC loosen travel restrictions for students to low-risk destinations

Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 6:08 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - “We had a prohibition on international travel since March of 2020,” said UNR Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education, David Shintani.

A year and three months of heartbreak has now become hope for some students at UNR.

This week the university and USAC - a nonprofit that provides study abroad programs for students in conjunction with UNR - updated travel policies to allow students to study abroad in low risk countries for the upcoming fall semester.

Shintani has a hand in keeping students safe while abroad.

“We feel that it’s an important learning opportunity for those students,” he said. “We want those types of experiences to happen when they can. But they have to occur in a safe environment.”

Low risk countries include those in yellow and light orange, according to the CDC. UNR and USAC have restricted travel to countries in dark orange and maroon.

“(Restricting travel to high-risk areas) has been the standing policy forever,” said Shintani. “USAC was still recruiting students to go abroad hoping it would open.”

Shintani says restricting travel to high risk places is common. He adds UNLV is not allowing students to travel anywhere for study abroad programs.

A number of students have reached out to KOLO 8 about their frustrations. Europe is a popular destination. Spain for example is in the dark orange along with the United States.

“Our feeling is students are better cared for at home than abroad,” said Shintani. “If something happens it’s harder to get them back.”

Travel restrictions have been a thorn in the side of UNR soon-to-be-senior Clayton Parker. He’s been trying to study abroad in Spain since June of 2020.

“There are still things I need to grasp and catch on to,” Parker said of his studies. “Now I’m not going to have the ability or opportunity to do that so for me it’s very disappointing (not being able to go this fall).”

The criminal justice and Spanish double-major is frustrated with the delineation between traveler and learner.

“We’re still allowed to go as US citizens it’s just the university isn’t allowing us to go as students.”

Fully vaccinated travelers can go to Spain without proof of a negative COVID test. At this point, however, Parker is just trying to figure out what classes he can take among other hassles.

“Now I’ve been scrambling to put together a lease and people to live with,” he said.

Right now UNR hasn’t heard of travel restrictions on study abroad programs keeping students from graduating on time.

Shintani says he will now help students who expected to study abroad enroll in classes on campus for the upcoming semester instead.

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