More than 500 students will not be able to study abroad after Belmont University canceled all maymester study abroad programs due to growing COVID-19 concerns.
“This decision was made out of concern for your safety and health in light of the current global coronavirus pandemic,” said an email from Associate Provost Dr. Mimi Barnard. The email was sent out Tuesday to all students currently enrolled in both domestic and international Maymesters as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
“All countries have entered uncertain times – the U.S Department of State, CDC, and World Health Organization have asked all travelers to do their part in limiting the spread of the coronavirus.”
Though all maymester programs have been canceled, a decision has not been made about the other summer study abroad programs.
Many students and faculty had expected cancellation days before the announcement was made.
“In the week leading up to the email, I knew that there was a high probability that Maymester programs would be canceled,” said Katy Frost Galloway, a freshman nursing major who was planning on taking a Maymester to central Europe.
“When I got the email, I wasn’t shocked, but I was still very disappointed.”
Like Galloway, other students had begun to ready themselves for the possibility of not traveling.
“I had mentally prepared myself for the maymesters to be canceled after the initial shock of our semester being put online and all the spring break trips being canceled,” said Elise Petersen, a freshman songwriting major who was planning on going to Europe for a music history Maymester. “I knew the world was going in this direction because of COVID-19. I was still sad and disappointed, but I was prepared.”
Whether they saw the cancellations coming or not, students and faculty are experiencing a wide range of emotions relating to the situation.
“I’m actually relieved,” said Dr. Darlene Panvini, the co-leader of the Belmont in Costa Rica Maymester. “Because I was getting really stressed about when the decision was going to be made and not wanting to delay that anymore.”
Now as these travel plans are canceled, many students are worried about how they will complete the classes that were supposed to take abroad to ensure they graduate on time – a concern shared by faculty members in charge of the programs who are seeking solutions for their students.
“This is very important to us as faculty,” said Dr. Ronnie Littlejohn, co-leader of the Belmont in Hawaii Maymester. “We want to minimize the detrimental effects on our students as much as possible.”
Given the uncertainty surrounding the situation at the present time, the best these faculty members can do for now is file the appropriate requests on behalf of their students and wait for the details to be addressed by the Office of Study Abroad.
“Faculty leaders of both China and Hawaii have already indicated to the Director of Study Abroad that we are ready to make adaptations to help our students,” Littlejohn said. “We are just waiting right now for the administrative details to be worked out and clearance from the Office of Study Abroad to contact our students and begin working with those who have needs or desires to continue their coursework.”
Panvini is trying to help students earn their credit hours in an online setting now that her trip has been canceled.
“I have offered to teach an online course during maymester if we have enough students who need this course in order to graduate,” Panvini said. “Most said they would be interested in an online course. The challenge we have is to teach a science lab class online, we do not typically do that.”
Faculty are having to adjust to the ways their students are affected from both a logistical standpoint and an emotional standpoint.
“This is something I look forward to every year,” Panvini said. “There will be a gap in my experience as a faculty member this year to not have those personal moments in Costa Rica when I see a bird I’ve never seen before or I get to meet the people of Costa Rica and meet new networks and colleagues.”
“I’m really going to miss seeing the students have this opportunity to push themselves to experience things they have never experienced before, and have that kind of learning moment.”
— Article written by Madison Bowen and Evan Dorian.