On Sept. 28, Lewis & Clark’s overseas office announced that all Spring 2021 study abroad programs are officially canceled.
This news brings the third consecutive round of cancellations impacting all overseas programs in a given semester. In Spring 2020, all LC students studying abroad experienced mid-semester cancellations as the coronavirus pandemic spread internationally. Then, four months ago, Director of Overseas & Off-Campus Programs Blythe Knott and Assistant Director Kaitlin Sommerfield delivered news once unthinkable at LC.
“We are canceling all study abroad programs for Fall 2020,” Knott and Sommerfield said in a June 1 email.
Knott said canceling Fall 2020 trips was an easy call.
“To be honest, it wasn’t really a hard decision,” Knott said. “We have these protocols and none of them were met. Still CDC Level 3, Do Not Travel Everywhere.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still considers many countries LC students visit, including Mexico, the United Kingdom and Russia, high-risk areas for contracting the COVID-19 virus. However, more than just CDC ratings contributed to the cancellation of Spring 2021 programs.
“A lot of the things that would make it feel like a language-immersive experience would be impossible,” Knott said. Students would not have been able to stay with a host family or take public transportation.
For Niall Gifford ’22, the loss of the year-long study abroad program in Munich means a change in his major and post-grad plans.
“The Munich program would potentially have given me the tools to pursue a career in Germany postgrad,” Gifford said via email. “If the Spring 2021 component of the Munich program is canceled, I would likely drop my German major.”
Associate Professor Therese Augst of the German language program is not surprised that cancellation will cause serious repercussions for double-majors like Gifford.
“One issue is that we have no idea how many students will still want to major in German if they can’t study abroad,” Augst said. “I’m just heartbroken.”
Other sections of the language department anticipate losing double-majors, too. Professor of Hispanic Studies and Spanish Section Head Juan Carlos Toledano Redondo is equally concerned.
“Definitely, if you have a student who is a double major, he or she may consider not pursuing the language one,” Redondo said.
In addition to the Spring 2021 cancellation, some LC programs affiliated with the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) will no longer be offered.Programs in Alicante, Spain, Dakar, Senegal, Moscow, Russia, and Valparaíso, Chile are permanently shut down.
Assistant Professor of Russian and Russian Section Head Maria Hristova explained why LC lost some CIEE programs.
“CIEE is a sad example of what might happen to other providers if things don’t go back to normal soon,” Hristova said via email. “The people who work on the ground to provide LC with the best possible immersion experience depend on the income provided by the programs.”
Not all LC overseas programs are language-immersive or facing CIEE closures. However, Dean of Spiritual Life Mark Duntley, the faculty leader of the London humanities program, explained that cancellations lead to a loss of community for students, even without the loss of language credit.
“I have seen so many times, over the years, the alumni coming back and getting together in their overseas program with their leaders,” Duntley said. “We weren’t going to be able to create that kind of community and bond.”
Noa Hochman ’22, a student accepted to the now-canceled London humanities program, found a silver lining to the situation.
“Knowing that none of my friends were getting to go on their trips was sad, but also created a community knowing that we were all in this together,” Hochman said.
Duntley shared Hochman’s note of optimism.
“The best part is learning with your students,” Duntley said. “Even though we didn’t get to go together, we still got to know each other a little bit, and I was reminded of all the strengths and capabilities and wonderful qualities you all have.”