Coronavirus Disrupts Students’ Global Experiences

photo courtesy of helen emerson

     The novel coronavirus has certainly thrown the world into a period of uncertainty, as no age group or population is untouched by its effects. The virus directly combats the globalized way of life to which all people have been accustomed. Countries have no choice but to shut their borders, halting travel which includes study abroad programs, exchange students, business trips and eager adventurers. Students are restructuring their academic process in many ways, including many who awaited a global learning experience this semester, summer or even in the fall, as study abroad programs are being cancelled and leaving many without a plan.

     This rapid change hits especially close in the Ursuline community, with its vast global relationships and planned delegations. Due to the virus, Ursuline indefinitely postponed trips to Jordan, Taiwan, France and South Africa.

     “One of the highlights of the Ursuline experience is the availability of delegation trips to its students. I was very much looking forward to going to Taiwan, sharing special memories with friends, learning about a new culture and forming relationships with my Taiwanese Ursuline sisters. As a senior, I am especially saddened that the trip has been canceled due to COVID-19 and disappointed that I never took advantage of a global opportunity during my time at Ursuline. Of course, I understand this extenuating circumstance and know that our global relationships will remain strong and students after me will have the opportunity to go to Taiwan,” said Hope Whitcraft ‘20.

     Many students were especially looking forward to the delegation trip to the Ahliyyah School for Girls in Amman, Jordan, as this is a new partnership and would have been the first visit of Ursuline girls to Jordan and thus an important step in building the relationship between the schools.

     “I am so grateful that I had the opportunity earlier this year to host Karen, one of the Jordanian students. I was very excited to visit Karen in Amman and experience my first global trip through Ursuline. When the global department let us know that our trip would be cancelled in February, it seemed like that would be the biggest way the coronavirus would impact my life. It is so crazy to look back at that moment, not knowing the time of quarantining that was yet to come,” said Abigail Mihalic ’20.

     Cancellations such as these extend beyond the Ursuline community, largely affecting collegiate study abroad programs and causing students to seek new summer plans. Many college students, much like Ursuline seniors, will not get a second chance to participate in the global programs they had planned for this summer. Ruth Anne Emerson, a member of the Ursuline class of 2019, is a freshman at Southern Methodist University and experienced the cancellation of her trip to Normandy, France which would have involved academic credits as well as cultural experiences.

     “I was very disappointed for my study abroad to be cancelled because, not only was I excited for the experience, it fit perfectly within my summer schedule. It will not work for me to go any other summer or semester because of my credit requirements. My trip was rather brief, but I also have friends who had planned to spend upwards of 5 weeks with a global program, and are now rerouting their summer plans and academic schedule in major ways,” said Emerson.

     The disappointment that these cancellations bring to students cannot be overlooked. With any crisis, some consequences are certainly of a lesser magnitude than others, but the remaining unhappiness in the less significant things is a reminder of what is taken for granted. The global nature of all operations today, whether academic, corporate, or otherwise, enhances daily life in a way that has been suddenly stripped away. For now, it is best to lean into the digital nature of the world and keep connections and commitments to international relations and learning, waiting for the return to normalcy.

     “I am arranging plans for this summer, whether an internship, academic credit opportunity or otherwise, to make sure I am using my time productively. I do not need to get thrown off or significantly altered by this sudden change, and this is a mindset that more people, especially students who are feeling stunted, should take,” said Emerson.

     Study abroad programs and global delegation plans are just one aspect of life that has been disrupted in a disappointing way, but students who are making the most of the circumstances can still find enrichment in this sudden change of plans.

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