Elon University will send 41 students to Florence, Italy this spring. While the number is higher than the average 20 to 35 student participation on this trip, it still doesn’t compare to the number of Elon students who are in Florence now — 98. 

According to Bill Burress, director of study abroad at Elon University, programs like Florence, Italy have seen an increase in enrollment because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a normal semester, Burress said programs are limited to no more than 80 students, but this year, that’s changed. 

“We suspended that limit for this year because so many people had their plans disrupted by the pandemic,” Burress wrote in an email to Elon News Network. 

The second largest group sent to Florence was 36 students back in 2019. The increase in numbers for the Florence program also has to do with how other countries are handling the pandemic. Some study abroad programs in Asia, South America and areas in Oceania have been cancelled, resulting in many students switching into another program such as Florence. 

“We’re seeing larger groups than usual in some places because many programs in Australia and New Zealand and some other countries are not able to run because of ongoing border closures,” Burress wrote. 

Junior Kathryn Broussard will join the 40 other students in Florence, Italy, this spring. Broussard said this being a large group makes the trip even more exciting as she looks forward to being able to interact with more students , especially with ones who had to rearrange their previous study abroad plans because of COVID-19 .

“I know a lot of people who were originally fully set to go and are now graduating and never going abroad,” Broussard said. “I think it's good that they're allowing more people to go.”

Broussard said she chose Florence because of the Elon community in the city, and academically, it made the most sense for her international global studies minor. 

Pamela Winfield, professor of Buddhist studies and faculty-in-residence for the Florence program, said the group will follow all COVID-19 protocols. This will be Winfield’s first time as faculty-in-residence and she said she is excited and prepared for the trip. 

“Because Italy was the epicenter of the pandemic in Europe, they are actually far more serious and consistent in enforcing coronavirus safety precautions than we are here in America,” Winfield wrote in an email to Elon News Network. 

According to Burress, there are no specific concerns about the group traveling with the pandemic. Burress also said preparation for students going on the trip will include additional information about how COVID-19 affects study abroad. 

“It’s worth saying that at this moment, the Italian experience of COVID is dramatically different than the US experience because unlike the US, Italy has implemented consistent public safety measures to prevent the spread of the virus,” Burress said. 

With Florence being a popular destination for Elon’ global education options, this is not new and it’s possible that the number will increase in the future. 

“I certainly think there are things that make this year different, namely people whose plans were disrupted going abroad in a different term and to a different place than they had originally planned,” Burress wrote. “However we do usually have several big groups abroad, so that in and of itself is not an anomaly.