Summer 2021 study abroad: go or no go?

Students and faculty are looking ahead at the prospects of having summer study abroad programs in 2021. Collegian file photo.

SOPHIA ESTES | STAFF REPORTER | sestes@butler.edu

COVID-19 has led to an almost complete rearrangement of countless plans and educational experiences, one of which being study abroad plans. Now, over half a year later, many of the students who planned to study abroad in summer 2020 have high hopes they will be able to study abroad this summer instead.

Junior pharmacy major Hannah Elmore said the experiences she would gain from studying abroad are priceless, and she will do whatever it takes to make it abroad at some point.

“I want to go 100%,” Elmore said. “I will take myself in a bubble over there if I have to… I have told myself that even if I have to wait until summer 2022, I still really really want to go.”

Elmore was set to study abroad in both London, England and Florence, Italy last summer when COVID-19 cancelled her plans. She said she was refunded in full for the deposits she had put down for both trips, and told she would have priority for the same trips the following summer. Elmore has never been to Europe, and was disappointed but not surprised when the trips were canceled. 

As for the trips this summer, Elmore is hopeful they will happen, but she is not expecting them to.

“I know the professors [in the College of Pharmacy] told us that the only shot we have of going is if there’s a vaccine by that point and if we all can get it before we go,” Elmore said. “So, I don’t see that happening, really.”

Even though this information from the professors might be disheartening to some, Elmore is thankful that the professors have maintained a realistic outlook on the trip.

“I’m glad they told us we would have to have the vaccine and get it before so it’s not like we’re in March and there’s still no vaccine and we’re still thinking ‘oh, maybe we can still go,’” Elmore said. “I know for a fact that I’m gonna have to have the vaccine before I can go. So it kind of gives my mind a standpoint of where we have to be.”

The sentiment of being upset by summer cancellations was also shared by junior psychology major Marissa Lane. Lane is minoring in Spanish and had plans to visit Costa Rica in the Summer of 2020 to heighten her Spanish-speaking skills. 

“Studying abroad has always been on my bucket list,” Lane said. “…I was so excited because I felt like it was a program that really suited me because it was a little bit shorter, and because I really enjoy Spanish… So it was just really bummy when I found out. Because I know they’re trying to have it again this summer, but this is kind of my last opportunity.”

Lane said that dealing with her program being cancelled last summer, and the potential that it will be cancelled again this summer, has definitely put a damper on her excitement for the trip overall. 

“I think my initial excitement was from last year when it was fresh and new and I found that program that I just really liked and I was really looking forward to it,” Lane said. “By this point, I would still love to do it, because I still think that it would be an amazing experience. However, I think that from already having to experience being let down by it not happening, I think that’s kind of preventing me from being all ecstatic about it again. I just don’t want to give myself false hope.”

Lane said an element of her program that makes it particularly challenging to carry on as planned during the pandemic is the fact that she would be living with families in Costa Rica. This close contact would make it difficult to ensure the health and safety of all those involved. 

Despite all of these roadblocks, the value of studying abroad in the summer is something that Jason Lantzer, the assistant director of Butler’s honors program, can attest to. He said that a summer trip is often a great way for students to test out the waters of study abroad without having to commit to an entire semester.

“This is a great way for students, especially first years, who just don’t know if they want to study abroad, especially with these faculty-led programs… it is a nice way of taking the edge off,” Lantzer said. “And one of the nice things we have seen subsequently, students have then gone on to do study abroad… for an entire semester.”

Lantzer has been co-running the honors summer trip to Germany with Butler professor Marissa Etzler since 2018. He added that in addition to the condensed version of an entire semester abroad that these summer trips offer, there is also the benefit of seeing things firsthand. This firsthand experience was something that Lane and Elmore also both said they were hoping to gain through their trips.

“It’s one thing to hear about the Berlin Wall, it’s another thing to stand in front of what’s left of the Berlin Wall,” Lantzer said. “It’s one thing to have seen a documentary about the Holocaust, it’s another thing to walk through a concentration camp. So, to actually be on the ground and see those sites up close… it’s a different kind of learning. As a professor I can lecture… but when you’re actually there, it’s a whole other level.”

Lantzer said the Germany trip is still set to happen this summer, and that around seven students are already signed up, after attending the first information session for the trip around two weeks ago. He said the deadline to sign up for the trip is in mid-February and that they are planning on hosting another information session for it through the Center for Global Education before this semester is over. 

Although things are still very dependent on the global situation in regard to COVID-19, many students and faculty are hopeful that summer 2021 will provide new opportunities that students were unable to have in the summer of 2020.

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