Study Abroad Plans Sent Packing

Students work around losing their plans for international education experiences.


Study abroad students in Asia, pre-Covid. Photo found on @champlainabroad on Instagram.

In early July, Champlain College announced that, due to the current situation with COVID and the dangers it poses to travelling, the Fall 2020 study abroad programs would be cancelled. Soon after, that cancellation was extended to the study abroad plans for Spring 2021. In its announcement, the school said that it was a “tough decision,” but ultimately was best for the safety of staff and students. 

For Champlain, this was big. Studying abroad and getting international experiences are such an important part of the school’s values that the curriculum is designed around sending students abroad or otherwise letting them study through an international lens, usually in their junior year. With multiple campuses outside the U.S., Champlain boasts sending over 50% of students abroad. It has even become a big selling point for the college. 

“Ever since I was applying to colleges in high school, I knew I wanted to study abroad wherever I went,” said Sydney Broadbent, a third-year Criminal Justice major who might have gone abroad this spring. While she felt “emotional pain” over losing her study abroad, she, along with other students, saw the cancellation coming. 

“I was pretty upset,” said Hannah Lindenberg, a Professional Writing major planning to go abroad this spring, “but I expected it. There was so much going on that I just knew it wasn’t going to happen.”

 Riley Earle, another Pro Writer who would have spent the Spring ‘21 semester in Dublin, had similar feelings. She said, “When COVID hit, I kind of started assuming I wasn’t going to go.”

While students may have predicted not going abroad, when Champlain confirmed the cancellation, they were faced with the prospect of rethinking their semester plans. Most students go through their semesters with a four year plan, to assure that they meet all the requirements for their major, and a change to that plan as big as losing a study abroad left students scrambling to keep themselves on track. 

“I had to change my whole semester plan,” Lindenberg attests. “I’m graduating a semester early and had everything planned out for studying abroad.” 

For some students, though, course plans weren’t the only things they were faced with rectifying. “I was definitely going to do an internship there, if I got one,” said Earle. “I was ahead in the process of applying, I was almost completely done with it and was really excited to have a writing internship in Dublin.” She adds, “I’m not sure what I’m going to do now.” 

Students are encouraged to plan and apply for internships abroad, and Earle was certainly not the only one who lost that opportunity upon the cancellation. Lindenberg had also planned to intern this spring, and brings up another difficulty that students making up the internship credits without a study abroad are facing: “What really sucks is that I was going to get a placement while abroad. Here I have to figure it out myself,” she said. 

Although the prospect of losing their study abroad is, in Broadbent’s words, “saddening,” and is leaving them with a lot of extra work to do to be ready for the spring semester, students are already planning ways to make up for the lost experience. 

“This was my only semester of being able to [go abroad],” Lindenberg said, but, she then added, “It is what it is. My friends and I are just going to plan our own trip to Europe one day.” Earle and Broadbent both have made similar plans, Broadbent saying, “My friends and I have decided we would like to travel across Europe after graduation.” 

Along with planning an independent trip, Broadbent also holds out hope she will be able to do a semester abroad her senior year. Champlain’s Office of International Education has confirmed that the school will definitely be going ahead with study abroad programs both for the Fall ‘21 and the Spring ‘22 semester, so rising juniors as well as seniors may get the chance to study internationally. That, like everything else to do with travel, may be subject to change, but, as of now, the Office of International Education is confident with the program going forward. 

Champlain administration and faculty are also trying their best to bring the abroad experience – at least academically – to students remotely. Tanya Lee Stone, the Professional Writing program director, has confirmed that at least one course that previously had only been taught in Dublin will now be offered to students for the Spring ‘21 semester, taught remotely from Ireland. Students who would have taken the class in person abroad are going to be given preference during registration. 

The loss of study abroad this academic year is undeniably unfortunate, but students are finding ways to make up for it, planning post-graduation trips and correcting their schedules along with gearing up for new internship opportunities. And, thanks to the resourcefulness of Champlain’s staff, some students, Earle included, will even get to take a class from her planned study abroad right at home.