As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, Emory University will not be sending undergraduate students to Russia to study abroad for summer and fall 2022, following the U.S. Department of States’ travel advisory.

The U.S. Department of State has designated Russia as “Level 4: Do Not Travel,” regarding “the potential for harassment against U.S. citizens by Russian government security officials, the Embassy’s limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Russia, COVID-19 and related entry restrictions, terrorism, limited flights into and out of Russia, and the arbitrary enforcement of local law.”

In a March 23 email to the Wheel, Laura Ochs, the director of Emory College Education Abroad, stated “we’re closely watching the unfolding [of] this unprovoked invasion in Ukraine and [are] deeply upset by it. Unfortunately, it’s unclear when Emory College students will be able to study abroad in Russia again.”

There are currently no Emory College students studying abroad in Russia or its neighboring countries, according to Ochs. She also said there were no cases where students had to officially cancel their scheduled study abroad for upcoming semesters.

Sasha Ustilovsky (24C), who is majoring in mathematics, originally planned to complete the Math in Moscow study abroad program in spring 2023. Although the University has not announced Russia study abroad restrictions for next spring, Ustilovsky said she doesn’t expect the program to operate in-person by then.

“With everything that’s going on, I feel like it’s most likely not going to happen,” Ustilovsky said. “Even in the past few years, it’s been online because of COVID-19. It hasn’t been an in-person program in a while.”

Emory University will not be sending undergraduate students to Russia to study abroad for summer and fall 2022. Photo courtesy of Emory University

For Ustilovsky, studying abroad in Russia meant more than exposure to a unique mathematics curriculum not offered at Emory. Coming from a Russian family, she was excited to explore her cultural roots.

“My family is Russian, but I’ve never gotten a chance to go to Russia, so that’s why I was really looking forward to this,” Ustilovsky said. “It was a chance for me to experience my culture and speak my first language.”

While she was “disappointed” by the uncertain future of studying in Moscow, Ustilovsky sought different opportunities to broaden her global education. She now plans on applying to the Budapest Semester in Mathematics program.

As Ustilovsky plans on pursuing a Ph.D. in mathematics, she explained that missing out on studying abroad could mean less diverse preparation for her graduate school career. 

“I know that grad school programs do really appreciate [study abroad] programs because they prepare you very well,” Ustilovsky said. “I’m still going to get math classes here, but I would’ve gotten a much greater variety of them in these programs.”

As the outlook of study abroad in Russia remains unclear, the University’s engagements in Russia and neighboring countries also come into question. 

The University has been involved in the region for historical and language research, HIV research, pediatrics and drug discovery as well as academic conferences. According to the University’s latest public Form 990, Emory spent about $1.3 million in Russia and neighboring countries for conferences, meetings, research and subcontracts in fiscal year 2019.

Laura Diamond, the assistant vice president of communication and marketing, stated in a March 22 email to the Wheel that the University’s Form 990 defined “Russia and Neighboring States” as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

According to Diamond, in fiscal year 2019, about 81% of the activities listed under Russia and neighboring states were held in the Republic of Georgia, while 14% were in Armenia and 4% were in Russia. 

Meanwhile, in fiscal year 2020, activities in Russia and neighboring states “included 94% Republic of Georgia, 5% Russia and 1% Ukraine.”

The Form 990 for fiscal year 2021 has not been completed, so information about the prospects of Emory’s involvement in Russia and neighboring states is not currently available, Diamond said. 

The Emory community is still waiting to see how the University’s ties to Russia will be impacted by the war.