Dear Students who Were Planning to Study Abroad in Fall 2020,
I am reaching out to you today with an important announcement about fall 2020 study abroad.
I regret to inform you that AIU has decided to cancel all Fall 2020 Semester outbound and inbound study abroad. We are painfully aware of how important the one-year study abroad experience is to all of you and how much you were looking forward to it. For this reason, we have spent the last several weeks collecting and analyzing information from reliable sources to see if there was any possibility to operate or study abroad program until the last possible moment. However, that information led us to this challenging decision.
While we have seen that several countries have started developing and testing drugs to combat the virus, the process of testing, then creating production and distribution systems to ensure widespread availability is anticipated to take until the end of the year at earliest. Additionally, while research is proceeding on producing a vaccine, that process requires even more careful testing and development, so the earliest projections for general availability is next year.
We have also seen that some countries have begun implementing phased resumption of core economic activities, but recently in the cases of Germany and South Korea, that has already led to an increase in infections, so we cannot predict the final impact of these measures. In fact, many experts are still predicting a second or third wave of infections and a long battle to come.
Countries around the world are still implementing strict measures on movement and, as of May 14, 184 countries and regions currently still have immigration restrictions in place against Japanese citizens and persons traveling from Japan. Some countries are not processing visa applications for Japanese citizens and the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not lowered its Infectious Disease Risk Level 3 (Do not travel) warning in place for countries where AIU’s partner universities are located. We are also aware that many of our partner universities have already announced that they will not accept exchange students for the Fall 2020 Semester.
It is possible that over the coming summer, some countries will get the domestic COVID-19 situation under control and return to a relatively normal way of life. There may be some people who think that it would be safe to continue student exchange to those countries. However, if the predicted second or third wave of infections strikes those countries, we could once again find ourselves in a situation like February and March of this year, when all of our students had to return suddenly to Japan in a very difficult situation. Additionally, we have seen in other countries that the mortality rate from COVID-19 is particularly high, and that medical institutions have been overwhelmed. Please understand that your health and safety are most important to us, so we are not able to send you abroad into such a high-risk situation.
Experts around the world have stated that we are facing an unprecedented danger. While you unfortunately will not be able to participate in study abroad this coming semester, we are certain that you will also have the opportunity for personal, global experience abroad in the future. For now, though, the most important thing is to protect your lives and safety, focus on what is possible in the current situation, and use this time to establish the skills and ability to face the challenges of the future.
Akita International University