Study Abroad Pandemic

“Wanderlust On Pause” Study Abroad In The Midst Of A Pandemic

Imagine this: you’ve signed up for the trip of your dreams, eagerly purchased a plane ticket, and your room is plastered with collage boards of an exotic locale. Then, pow, in the blink of an eye, it all comes crashing down.

For countless college graduates, this nightmare evolved into a harsh reality last year when the pandemic hit. For months on end, they painstakingly planned their study abroad trips, only for them to be canceled in the blink of an eye. Internships were off the table, opportunities to explore new cultures vanished, and the simple goal of graduating on time became a strenuous task.

For Samantha Biggs, this fear turned into a reality when her study abroad program in England was suddenly canceled. Wrapping up her bachelor’s degree in History at Southeastern University with plans to continue her postgraduate studies in Medieval Viking history, this trip to the U.K. seemed to be the perfect way to conclude her undergraduate experience.

“I was really looking forward to getting a first-hand encounter with medieval history… [My friend and I] had found all of these historical sites, coffee shops, and other places to go. I was finally going to Europe and had my own itinerary to a certain extent,” explains Biggs.

Then in one fell swoop, aspirations of globe-trotting adventure screeched to a halt. Future plans to travel to England, a subsequent two-week trip to Israel, and even an opportunity to meet the Lord of the Rings cast at a convention crashed together in a cacophony of disappointment. On top of this, her graduation ceremony was canceled and went virtual.

Under ordinary circumstances, Biggs’ situation may have been resolved by rescheduling, but all hope of this was dashed when she realized that, as a college senior, the possibility of this particular trip simply didn’t exist anymore.

“[In the end], I was most disappointed by the finality of it. This was a trip that was only able to occur at this exact point in my life. If I had been a sophomore or even a junior when this had happened, I could have hoped that I could make this all happen again in the future, but that’s not an option anymore.”

However, in the midst of her disappointment, Biggs is determined to glean from her experience and look toward the future.

“It underlines something I’ve been working on, which is recognizing that every moment is irreplaceable and you need to be present and appreciate it.”

Following her own advice, she’s recently made a leap across the country to Washington and has loose plans to travel to England in the future.

“I’m definitely going to make plans to make up for the fact that I wasn’t able to go. I actually got my first vaccine injection today, so I’m looking forward to the future when [the pandemic] has normalized and we’re able to go out again.”

Biggs isn’t the only college student who’s gearing up for an adventure. Growing numbers of college students are planning to study abroad as the vaccine continues to roll out in record numbers.

Take Emma Stravers, for example, another student at Southeastern studying Language, Culture, and Trade. Within her degree program, she’s required to study abroad twice, so she plans on interning in Quito, Ecuador this current summer.

“It’s certainly different because there’s not a lot of people traveling internationally right now, so I think it’s a completely new experience to be traveling and I [feel gifted] to have that,” explains Stravers.

Along with this growing excitement, however, comes backlash from some who insist that study abroad programs are non-essential travel. While Stravers acknowledges that non-essential travel should be avoided, she holds an alternative perspective on this issue.

“I don’t think that COVID is a light deal, and I don’t want to gloss over it. But I also know that I’m a young, twenty-something and these opportunities only come so often. I’ve been given this opportunity and I want to take it, and if that means now, then all the better because it’s an even more unique experience than I would’ve had before.”

She goes on to explain that, while she agrees that a one-week jaunt across the world could be irresponsible, she plans on living in Ecuador over a long-term period and for business purposes. Additionally, waiting to travel indefinitely isn’t a viable option right now, given her unique situation.

“I see travel as a potential career for me and that doesn’t stop in a pandemic. As a college student, I should be doing the work to make myself more marketable and begin that journey.”

As the vaccine continues to roll out and the world wakes up from its hibernation, college students will be pressured to evaluate their options. Will they pass on this valuable opportunity that was once easily accessible, or will they take the leap and study abroad amidst the chaos of this pandemic?

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One Reply to ““Wanderlust On Pause” Study Abroad In The Midst Of A Pandemic”

  1. Unfortunately, she should have employed her undergraduate abilities to study what is really in the vaccine she decided to get. It’s not going to help her achieve any of her goals.

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