Fall study abroad canceled, the third academic quarter straight with no abroad programs


Illustration by Emma Ruck

Students planning on studying abroad in the fall had to make new plans after the Global Learning Office canceled all programs.

Emily Sakai, Assistant Campus Editor

In a typical year, over 700 Northwestern students study abroad, many of them during Fall Quarter. This year, all students are prohibited from attending fall 2020, fall and winter 2020-21, and full year 2020-21 study abroad programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

NU’s Global Learning Office canceled the programs in a June email to students, citing advice from NU’s Office of Global Safety and Security, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of State and the World Health Organization.

For students looking forward to studying abroad for months, if not years, the cancellations were a disappointing loss. SESP junior Emily Munster was set to enter an immersive experience at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

“When I was a little kid, I really wanted to go to college in the U.K., but their system looks really different from ours,” Munster said. “Going abroad was going to be my little taste of that.”

Sara West Tully, GLO’s director, said in an email the GLO staff feel “terrible” for students whose study abroad plans have been canceled, and described studying abroad as an “invaluable educational experience.”

Tully also said in an email that the office would help students adjust their plans through one-on-one and group advising, on Zoom, by phone and via email.

“We advise students to consult with their academic advisers about their options for coming terms, to explore programs that we hope will be available to them, and to develop back-up plans in case their chosen option doesn’t work out,” Tully said in an email.

Weinberg junior Hope O’Connor, who was planning on attending Trinity College Dublin through an affiliated program, said she thought the June announcement was “abrupt.”

“I was really disappointed and disheartened by Northwestern’s response,” O’Connor said. “I wish the Global Learning (Office) had reached out a little bit more to offer support.”

Weinberg junior Colin Kruse was enrolled in NU’s European Union Studies program based in Paris. Unlike affiliated programs, some of which are continuing without NU students, NU run programs are canceled altogether.

He said he had expected the program to cancel long before GLO sent the email announcement.

“Everything was so unpredictable a few months ago, quarantining and the virus were so new to everybody,” Kruse said. “There was this weird expectation that maybe things will be back to normal by the time fall rolls around. Obviously, that’s not the case right now.”

For O’Connor, the cancelation of study abroad programs not only meant the loss of the experience, but also made finishing her academic load more difficult. At Trinity, she was supposed to take two additional credits compared to what can take now that the program is canceled.

The future of study abroad programs remains up in the air, and Tully said in an email the office is moving forward with a “great deal of uncertainty.” That uncertainty prevented O’Connor from looking into studying abroad in the future.

“I want to have a normal senior experience,” O’Connor said. “I want one more year to actually be on campus, seeing as this year was so messed up.”

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Twitter: @em_sakai

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