Message from CAPS Director about Study Abroad

Dear Members of the CAPS Community:
January 1, 2020 feels both like a very long time ago, and also like it was just yesterday.  Yet as Nanfu Wang noted in her stunning documentary (In the Same Breath) on the COVID-19 pandemic, looking back it seems like the last time things were “normal” in China (and the world). And, still “normal” seems not to have quite yet returned on either side of the Pacific.

On this score, over the past month, I have spoken at length with officials across the University about the current situation in China, with an eye toward making a decision about what the most prudent course of action for CAPS will be during the 2022 Spring semester.  As a result of such conversations, and with the support of the Dean’s Office in College of Arts and Sciences, I have determined that we will be extending the suspension of our “Beida semester” during the spring of 2022.
I realize that this decision is one that many of you will greet with disappointment, especially those of you who are CAPS juniors during the 21-22 academic year. As I have now had to write too many times over the last several semesters, I am very sympathetic to such a reaction. And so, as I did in previous letters to the CAPS community, I would like to emphasize that this decision was a difficult one for me to make. However, it reflects not only my assessment of the situation we are facing, but also is consistent with the consensus of opinions on this matter that I have gathered from the CAPS staff, faculty, and other major stakeholders in the program. Most important among these was a comprehensive report prepared for the program by Xu Xin, which read in part, “Given the continued uncertainty about the COVID-19 pandemic, and based on close watching, extensive research, and frequent conversations with contacts at PKU and elsewhere, it looks unlikely that the Chinese government will loosen its international travel restrictions to the extent that the Chinese visa for study will be issued to international students anytime soon…” And, also observed the fact that “China will host the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing in February 2022, may only drive the Chinese government to persisting in more precautious and preventive measures,” leads us to conclude that re-opening the Beida semester was a very remote and tenuous prospect at best.

In short, all of us involved with the program feel that continuing the suspension of the Beida semester during the spring of 2022 is the most only course of action to take. We also all felt that making the decision earlier rather than waiting to the last minute would be of benefit to everyone. That being said, please note that this decision does not extend to the 2022-23 academic year, we will revisit that issue next spring.
Also, please be aware that this decision is a CAPS (and College of Arts and Sciences) decision, and is not in any way related to whatever decision Cornell will make in October regarding the viability and safety of the study abroad programs it oversees to go forward. And, also please note that we (especially via the efforts Xu Xin will be making to assist in organizing and coordination) are happy to work with you to attempt to find substitute study abroad options in Asia for those of you who wish to pursue them in spring of 2022. If you are interested in exploring this route, you must contact Sr. Advisor Kristen Grace directly ( and no later than Wednesday, September 29 to convey your interests. In some cases, you should be prepared to apply within a 24-48 hours turnaround given program deadlines. But also note with the global health crisis ongoing, any study abroad program may be canceled at any time for reasons beyond Cornell's control or due to policy changes.
Finally, please know we will work with each of you who are impacted by this decision to develop contingency plans when it comes to studying China here at Cornell, as well as completing the graduation requirements for the CAPS major and minor (especially for rising juniors).  Along these lines please continue to consult with us regarding your course selection and planning.  More specifically, I expect all seven of the CAPS students who according to our records were on course to possibly spend the spring of 2022 in Beijing to reach out directly to Xu Xin to set up a 30 minute advising appointment to specifically develop a plan for you for next semester and that will see you make progress toward the completion of the major.  Tracey is also available to assist all of you, and especially to provide support with logistics, forms, and scheduling questions.
In the meantime, thank you in advance for your understanding of this decision, and, please do not hesitate to reach out to any of us with any questions or concerns that you have regarding CAPS and your standing within the program.
Allen Carlson
Michael J. Zak Chair
Director, Brittany and Adam J. Levinson

More news

View all news
Image of Klarman Hall during sunset