After study abroad cancellations last year, seniors finally make it to destinations abroad

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Darien Price ’22 is studying abroad through SIT Ecuador: Development, Politics and Languages. (Courtesy of Darien Price ’22)

Beatriz Brait Amorosino

For some students, studying abroad is such a quintessential college experience that they won’t even let a pandemic stop them from experiencing it.

“I have always been excited to study abroad, even before coming to college. I knew that studying abroad would be one of the most defining and enriching experiences in undergrad and I was determined to have that experience,” Darien Price ’22, who is currently studying abroad through SIT Ecuador: Development, Politics and Languages, wrote in an email.

Alexandra Kasparian ’22, who is studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark through DIS, expressed similar sentiments about study abroad being an experience that she didn’t want to miss out on.

 “I went back and forth about whether to study abroad this fall semester, being my senior year and all, but study abroad was too important to me to miss,” Kasparian wrote in an email. “I couldn’t let this opportunity go, and I thought it would be more rewarding than spending the fall semester on campus. COVID wasn’t really a deterrent from studying abroad.”

Alexandra Kasparian ’22 is studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark through DIS. (Courtesy of Alexandra Kasparian ’22)

However, the road to studying abroad this semester has not been easy.

“I had previously planned to go to Vienna, Austria in Spring 2021 through IES, but that program was canceled [because of] COVID,” Kasparian wrote.

Kasparian is not alone. Although study abroad programs have been running since last spring, many had to be canceled for a variety of reasons. 

“It can be complicated to say which were canceled due to COVID, versus other related reasons, such as low enrollment. It’s clearer to talk about the number of individual Lafayette students who studied abroad,” Rochelle Keesler, director of the study abroad program, wrote in an email. 

According to Keesler, the college is affiliated with around 250 affiliated semester programs, which are programs approved by the college but run by other organizations. Only three students studied abroad through two affiliated programs last spring, compared to the 140 students that would typically study abroad with these programs in the spring.

Over the summer, Biology professor Elaine Reynolds along with English and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies professor Deborah Byrd led a study abroad program to Greece with 15 students. Other students participated in individual travel using college support through Career Services, the Assante-Carrasco Fund for Honors Research Travel and external study abroad programs, according to Keesler. 

This semester, there are 18 students studying abroad. 

“Overall, the number of students and diversity [of] programs and locations is encouraging, considering that in a typical fall semester the average number of students who study abroad is around 30,” Keesler wrote.

“Seven [students] are studying abroad through the Lafayette in Costa Rica program with Professor Quirós. This is the largest group of students that have participated in this program since 2016,” Keesler wrote. “There are also currently 11 students studying abroad through our affiliate program partners in places such as Spain, Denmark, Ecuador, Panama, the UK, South Korea and Sweden.” 

The college will be running five interim programs this January, which is around the regular number of programs that usually run during an interim. 

Keesler also outlined what went into the decision of canceling certain study abroad programs.

“For the Lafayette faculty-led programs, we worked closely with the College’s International Risk Committee which looks at a number of sources when determining whether to run a program or not: Center for Disease Control, Department of State, local resources, faculty feedback, partner ability to provide COVID mitigation, etc.,” Keesler wrote. 

“Some of the prime concerns were whether or not students could enter the host country, whether quality medical support would be available if needed and whether our presence would be a strain on local resources and have a negative impact,” Keesler wrote.

Students were advised to expect to accommodate changes in itinerary, the possibility of local conditions requiring mask-wearing, courses moving online and regular testing and/or quarantine. All students taking part in study abroad programs were required to be vaccinated in order to protect themselves and local populations. 

“Honestly, Denmark is doing super well with COVID,” Kasparian wrote. “As of a few days ago, there are no COVID restrictions at all here. Practically no one wears masks, inside or outside. Restaurants, bars and clubs are open at full capacity, etc.”

“The only times I’ve worn a mask here were when I landed in the airport and when I went to get a COVID test (for an academic trip). It was a big shock when I arrived, but we all definitely adjusted quickly,” Kasparian continued.

Despite the adjustments students studying abroad had to make to study abroad, Price and Kasparian emphasized how much they appreciated the opportunity.

“There have been a few restrictions due to the pandemic such as the cancellation of the homestay aspect and less socializing with host nationals. However, I still have had the opportunity to interact with Ecuadorians and make connections,” Price wrote.

“Everyone is so nice. The city is so vibrant,” Kasparian wrote of her experience in Copenhagen. “I really feel like the people are happy to have us here and to engage with us.”