Study abroad resumes fall trips, kickstarts new UBarcelona Program

Senior McKenzie Stoute relaxes after a road trip from Madrid to San Sebastián in September. Photo credit: Rachel Nelkin
Senior McKenzie Stoute relaxes after a road trip from Madrid to San Sebastián in September.
Senior McKenzie Stoute relaxes after a road trip from Madrid to San Sebastián in September. Photo credit: Rachel Nelkin

After canceling all study abroad arrangements for more than a year, the Study Abroad Office has reinstated a select number of programs for the fall semester and is expanding offerings for the spring.

Approximately 20 students are participating in programs in Spain, the United Kingdom (including Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland), Italy, Ecuador and Austria.

Anna Kenney, assistant director of Study Abroad, sent several students abroad this semester to Austria and Spain. Twelve students found their new home in Madrid, another student in Seville and two engineering students in Vienna. Students are studying at a range of prestigious universities, including the Universidad Antonio de Nebrija, Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration and IE University Spain.

McKenzie Stoute, a senior media management major, is in Madrid to learn Spanish in a more immersive environment and bring those linguistic skills back home.

Traveling is not new for Stoute who previously has visited Paris, Barcelona, Monaco, the County of Nice, Rome and London. However, with pandemic restrictions, unfamiliar surroundings and a language barrier, Stoute called the transition “a little stressful,” but is confident the experience will be successful.

“I was hesitant about the restrictions when it came to traveling throughout Europe at first,” Stoute said. “But it turned out to be fine because I am fully vaccinated.”

Kenney said she is confident this semester will be fun and exciting for students despite COVID-19 concerns.

“In Madrid, for instance, a lot of COVID restrictions have been lifted,” Kenney said. “There’s no longer a curfew, and from what I hear, mask requirements only pertain to indoor spaces. I’m hoping for a semester as close to ‘normal’ as we can get.”

Nina Castro, assistant director of study abroad, said her office worked remotely last year during the pandemic to keep students aware of the various study-abroad options. The office built new relationships, initiatives and workshops over the past year, including the framework for the new UBarcelona program, which will kick off in the spring.

“We are seeing hints that there will be a lot more mobility and freedom for the spring semester,” Castro said.

The UBarcelona program invites students to study on the northern coast of Spain at the Barcelona Study Abroad Experience. Students can study material across several disciplines, including business, culinary art, photography and psychology.

UPrograms are UM’s flagship semester-long study abroad programs, customized for students as a packaged experience that often includes housing, travel and internship opportunities. Financial and merit awards, including in-state benefits, can be applied to these specialized programs.

Jenna Earhart, a junior contemporary voice major in the Frost School of Music, will be studying abroad at a consortium of Parisian universities through the UParis program.

“I’ve gotten used to the challenges that came with being fresh in college and I’m ready for something totally different,” Earhart said.

She plans to take classes unrelated to her major, such as courses in film, photography and Parisian culture.

“You are only there for a semester, so you have a limited amount of time to snap into things and adapt, but you’re also there for a long enough period to where you can’t just be there as a tourist. You have to immerse yourself,” Earhart said.

Earhart says that she will never hesitate at the opportunity to do something life-changing.

Stoute particularly encourages Black students to apply.

“It is so important to go and explore different cultures, because even Black culture abroad differs from the standard African-American culture we know at home,” Stoute said. “It’s important as a Black student to not let anything hold you back. The world is our oyster.”

Junior motion pictures major Shane Shakoor agrees.

He said he hopes to find a sense of community when he travels to Brazil as an exchange student this spring. Shakoor will be studying at The Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro, the first established private university in Brazil. He will live with a local Brazilian family to grasp the culture on a more intimate level.

“I am looking forward to interacting with another segment of the Black diaspora,” Shakoor said. “I am also excited to meet young, vibrant Black people who can show me around Brazil and become my life-long friends.”

For more information on study abroad programs, visit and click “Information Sessions” on the right side of the screen to register for a Study Abroad 101 session. At this virtual meeting, students will learn more about U programs, exchange trips, finances, safety and financial details.

Students will also have the chance to interact with former students who traveled abroad and chat with study abroad advisors at the meeting. To carve out a personal plan for a study-abroad trip, students also may stop by the Study Abroad Office’s virtual advising hours from 2-3 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.