Study abroad offices making conservative plans for fall programs

A sign displaying "Study Abroad: International Student Services" is mounted on the entrance to a building with a blue door and a courtyard with trees.
Study abroad offices at the 5Cs are working to assist both those that were called home from programs this semester and those who are looking to go abroad in the fall. (Meghan Joyce • The Student Life)

While study abroad offices at the 5Cs are trying to help students finish the remainder of the semester in quarantine, they’ve also been tasked with preparing for the uncertainty surrounding programs taking place this fall.

Harvey Mudd College preemptively canceled its fall study abroad programs earlier this month, and the other colleges are evaluating whether they will be forced to take the same step.

Michael Ballagh, Pitzer College’s associate vice president for international programs, said the Pitzer Office of Study Abroad and International Programs has “an ever-depleting confidence” that the school will hold study abroad programs in the fall.

Nicole Desjardins Gowdy, Pomona College’s director of study abroad, said in an email that her office is looking at potential study abroad programs in fall 2020 “with caution” as the college evaluates each nation and program individually. 

Pomona will make final decisions on Fall 2020 study abroad programs that begin in June and July by May 1, and programs starting in August by June 1, she said.

Scripps College spokesperson Rachael Warecki SC ’08 said via email that the situation “depends on the program providers and their plans for fall 2020.”

Kristen Mallory, director of Claremont McKenna College’s Center for Global Education, said in an email that CMC students planning to study abroad in the fall are still making preparations for their programs but are also registering for courses and housing in Claremont.

Many students who were planning to study abroad in the fall have already altered their plans. 

Samantha Meyer PO ’22 had planned to study abroad her entire junior year, in order to visit South Africa and South America to conduct research for her thesis. Meanwhile, Brady Anderson PZ ’22 planned to study abroad in Ecuador during fall.

Both decided to defer their study abroad until spring 2021 as a result of the pandemic. 

“I didn’t want to be in a situation where my study abroad program got canceled,” Anderson said.

Pomona is also allowing all students who plan to study abroad in the fall to register for classes and participate in fall room draw, in case the fall programs are canceled.

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Students who went abroad this semester are dealing with more immediate disappointment — having been yanked out of their abroad experiences and forced to return home.

Emily Lunger PO ’21 was studying abroad in Dakar, Senegal when news of her college’s closure reached her. While Lunger heard that students studying abroad in Europe were mandated to return to the U.S., she received a strong recommendation to end her program early. 

“I wasn’t sure any day if they were going to pull me out immediately,” Lunger said.

Her program finally told her to return home after announcements that Senegalese national borders would soon close.

Now at home, Lunger said, “it’s been hard in many ways. I’m trying to be positive.”

Scripps had 106 students abroad this semester, according to an email from Neva Barker, the school’s director of Study Abroad and Global Education, which Warecki said was “a record number of students on a record number of programs.” Scripps offered to fully reimburse students’ flights home. 

Ballagh said Pitzer students called home are completing coursework remotely. 

“We are grateful that students, while summarily uprooted from these international experiences, have been uniformly patient and understanding as we work to confirm how each could successfully complete their academic programs online,” he said.

Gowdy said that Pomona covered costs to change return flights, as well as refunds for room and board, if their students had not already received living allowances. 

“We have been in constant communication with updates and to offer support for the successful completion of their semester remotely,” she said. 

Harvey Mudd Director of Study Abroad Rhonda Chiles said that the college had 43 students study abroad this spring, the most in school history.

Mudd students are either continuing their classes remotely, working on completing half credit courses to finish out the remainder of the semester, or attending summer school without charge in order to complete courses, Chiles said.

CMC is providing returned study abroad students with “emotional, academic, and financial support,” Mallory said. In addition to reimbursing travel and refunding room and board expenses, the Center for Global Education is holding open Zoom office hours and working to supplement the semester with online courses and tutoring as needed.

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This story was updated May 4, 2020 at 12:22 p.m.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that all summer study abroad programs would be decided by May 1 and fall semester programs by June 1. Fall 2020 study abroad programs beginning in June and July will be decided by May 1, and programs beginning in August and afterwards will be decided by June 1. TSL regrets this error. 

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