Students reflect on study abroad experiences lost during pandemic, plan for next year


Illustration by Emma Ruck

Missing out on study-abroad experiences during the pandemic have disrupted some students’ internship prospects and study abroad plans.

Hailey Kim, Reporter

Since last spring, most study abroad programs have been canceled or moved online. For some students, this had been a source of confusion and frustration — especially upperclassmen who have missed their last opportunity to study abroad.

SESP junior Saya Federbush, who is minoring in environmental policy and culture, was accepted to study energy technology and policy in China as part of the Wanxiang Fellows program last summer — before the program was cancelled. 

“(The cancellation) did affect my ability to get an internship that’s relevant to my minor,” Federbush said. “If I had done that (program) last summer, I might have been more interested in energy or understand if that’s something that I would want to consider as a future career path.”

This year, Federbush is taking environmental policy classes and interning at an environmental education organization. But said she would have appreciated it if she had been able to start sooner.

Weinberg sophomore Cindy Shou had a different experience with study abroad during the pandemic. Barred from travel last fall, she still completed a virtual internship through the Global Engagement Studies Institute with students in Bolivia and Argentina. 

While the class component of the program felt like any other online course, the internship component was wholly different, Shou said. 

“Listening to presentations about the country you’re supposed to visit versus actually going and being at the physical places — it’s so much different,” Shou said.

Shou said the language barrier was also exacerbated by not learning in-person. Her class presenters spoke in Spanish, she said, and it was difficult to keep up without the regular language immersion of study abroad.

For Shou, studying abroad was especially important because it was a requirement for her global health major prior to the pandemic.

Both Shou and Communication sophomore Ginny Lee said they are interested in potentially studying abroad next year. Shou plans to study in Bosnia-Herzegovina, while Lee wants to attend the Prague Film School as a radio, television and film major. 

Lee said she is not interested in virtual study abroad programs because she doesn’t know if the experience would be meaningfully different from her classes in Evanston.

In addition, Lee expressed worry about the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic. She said the recent uptick is not stopping her from studying abroad, but it is something she has to consider.

“As an Asian woman…the reports of Asian hate crime incidents globally (is) just concerning, because you always want to be safe,” Lee said.

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