Since the implementation of a Global Level 4 Health Advisory –Do Not Travel by the U.S. Department of State due to COVID-19, all spring 2020 study abroad students have been advised to return home and have transitioned to online learning. Nevertheless, Chapman students are resilient. They had to navigate an unprecedented situation while in a new environment and be flexible in their unexpected early reentry home. Several students reflect about being abroad during this time and demonstrate a positive attitude as they recognize what they gained from this experience. No Chapman students had a known, confirmed case of COVID-19 while studying abroad. The Center for Global Education and Chapman University are committed to assisting students through this transition.
Bianca Beach: Theatre Academy London, United Kingdom. As a BFA Theatre Performance major at Chapman, it was always built into my matrix to study abroad in London during my second semester of Sophomore year. I’d been anticipating it for two and a half years, and in many ways, it was a blessing that the decision to go abroad was made for me. Now back in California quarantined during the COVID-19 pandemic, I realize just how much personal growth I underwent while abroad for only two months in addition to taking classes from members of London’s theatre community. London now feels like a second home to me and is very likely somewhere I choose to live in the future. I absolutely adored the city and the country, learning about Britain’s history, their culture, and connecting with a piece of my heritage. It is indescribable to have found a place in the world that I feel so connected to; it feels like all the parts of myself have lined up and clicked open the lock. When COVID-19 started gaining traction I was adamant my program would not be affected, but when it was, most of my classmates left as soon as possible. I stayed, more afraid of leaving London than the virus at the time; a few days passed and London didn’t seem to have changed, so I didn’t see the rush in flying back. I remember being so excited one evening to see “The Mousetrap” because I’d been looking forward to it for weeks, but when I got to the theater an usher informed me that the Prime Minister had just made an announcement to stop public gatherings, and so the show was cancelled. That night I decided to pack up and leave the next day, seeing how serious things were becoming and not wanting to see a faded version of London in the coming weeks. It has been difficult mainly because there was no closure in leaving and little control of the situation. Fortunately, my professors have really stepped up to continue our education, and although it can be frustrating to sit looking at a screen and deal with glitchy WiFi, it has been wonderful finding new ways to learn and grow my craft and overcome obstacles in the midst of the pandemic. Simply being able to see my classmates and professors and have the support structure in place has given me so much comfort and hope. As many of us in the Theatre programs have begun to say, “Creatives over Corona!”
Pri Jain: Macquarie University, Australia. Studying abroad at Macquarie is an experience I will never forget, although it was cut short three months. By choosing to study abroad, I was able to experience not only a different country and culture but a different university experience. For example, Macquarie is a rather large university with a bigger campus and this was a change from Chapman University’s smaller and more intimate personal settings. When everything was said and done, I made so many friends from around the world that I would never have met otherwise. It was so interesting to see the way other students experienced university at their home universities and this really broadened my perspective about university life in other countries. Moreover, I had the opportunity to experience one of the most beautiful cities in the world and every day that I lived there really felt like a dream. When other students including myself found out we would have to go home early due to COVID-19, we were heartbroken. The experience had ended much earlier than we would have liked as we were just falling in love with the city. It is an experience I truly cherished and miss and I would love the opportunity to go back!
Fox Helms: CEA Paris – Liberal Arts & French Studies, Gilman Scholarship recipient. Studying abroad is the poster child for coming of age experiences. Semesters (or years) abroad are the cereal boxes within which students expect to find an incredible, surprisingly cool little action figure which they can call their true identity. This opportunity allows students to fall into their own rhythm while enjoying a chaotic atmosphere of strange people, strange customs, and strange words. Furthermore, these experiences usually lack familial presence, which is always a welcomed condition among us students. I went to study abroad in Paris, intending to find myself and profit from all the aforementioned benefits of a foreign country. Paris did not disappoint; it rarely does. During my time abroad, I spoke barely any English and conversed daily with the locals. I spent my days reading French novels in the Jardin du Luxembourg and marinating in the comfortable process of my own self-discovery. Then, I woke up in my Colorado bedroom looking out over the snow-covered rooftops of not-Paris. The bitterness of this sudden change was worsened by the awkward transition to online French classes. And yet, though it is easy to complain about such a shift, I must admit that this is exactly the experience I desired. A wise and mature version of myself would say that one can learn valuable life lessons from the comfort of their own home. Being stuck at home is an ironic opposite to where I was a couple weeks ago, but that’s okay. It’s common for life to interrupt our timing in favor of its own. It is arrogant and futile to try and fight against this, so we refuges must find another way to cope with the situation. Really, the only things that I or any student in my situation can do is: be grateful for the time spent abroad, appreciate the experiences already had, embrace the incredible, surprisingly cool people that we get to be with our families, and ultimately trust that we have exactly the tools we need to take our next step in our lives, whatever that may be. Watch Fox’s short film documenting how he learns French while studying abroad and unexpectedly returns home early.
Casey Naranjo: University of Glasgow, Scotland. While the time I spent studying abroad in Glasgow, Scotland was shorter than expected, it is an experience I’m incredibly thankful to have had at all. The few months I did get to spend in Scotland were filled with weekend adventures, new food experiences, interactions with locals, and total immersion to the city. At the start, I was immediately washed over by the truly welcoming and kind-hearted people in this country. The city has a saying, “The People Make Glasgow,” and it is something I can honestly say is beyond true and one of the reasons why I fell in love with the country so fast. During my time abroad, not only did I get to participate in the 2020 Glasgow Film Festival on their Young Selectors Board, but I also got to join various student clubs, unions, and art collectives. I made friends from Germany, Hungary, Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, and much more. Having to leave abroad unexpectedly was certainly difficult, especially knowing I would be leaving behind many of these new friends I had made from Glasgow itself and other countries around the globe. I had finally felt settled into the city and felt as though I could give directions to other tourists as if I had been there all my life. It is bittersweet to look at old photos and videos from the last few months knowing the experience is over. At the first news of COVID-19 having to suspend study abroad programs, I had been disappointed for not having done all the trips and experiences I had wanted to. This felt even more difficult knowing the same day I was flying back into the United States, I would have been on a flight to Dublin, Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day. However, what I learned from this experience was to not linger on the “what could have been” and instead appreciate the amazing things I did get to do. My love for both Glasgow and Scotland is not something that left when I left the country. If anything, having left study abroad has only made me more excited for future trips I hope to take so I can return to the country and people. Studying abroad is honestly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Even if my study abroad experience was shorter than most, it was an experience I’ll take with me for life. I look forward to the day when I can return to Glasgow to continue exploring, eating good food, and meeting more fascinating people.
Morgan Hennessy Shea: Temple University Japan Campus. Ever since I was a kid, I have always wanted to travel to Japan. So when I had the opportunity to study abroad in Tokyo for my sophomore spring semester, I took it immediately. Once I arrived in Japan it seemed like a dream. I loved everything about it. As I continued exploring the city with many great, life-long friends I made, it had already exceeded my expectations. I enjoyed everything from the cleanliness of literally everything and the efficient transportation system to the mouth-watering ramen and adorable shiba-inu puppies wandering the streets with their owners. Although the time in one of my favorite countries was cut short due to the Coronavirus, I still gained valuable insight and learned many lessons from this experience. Studying abroad taught me to never take anyone or anything for granted and to really make the most out of whatever situation you’re in, whether positive or negative. It may sound cliche, but I can admit that I am a totally different person after my time spent in Japan. Even though the abrupt transition back to the U.S. has been tough because of the virus, my 3 months in Japan allowed me to learn more about myself, to be grateful for everything I have, and that I am capable of almost anything I set my mind to.
Nick Romo: Semester at Sea. We left San Diego on January 4th and were scheduled to visit 11 countries through April 20th. However, within the timeline of the outbreak of COVID-19, we underwent multiple schedule changes, port cancellations, and shortenings of the program. This affected our academics and travel plans, which underwent ongoing changes due to many growing impacts of the pandemic. A hard part of the experience was the lack of news regarding updates on what was actually going on, as well as rates of spreading. We were unaware of most news due to the lack of internet and outside communication aboard the ship. Following our fourth stop on March 10th, we were informed that we would be ending the voyage on March 14th. For our academics, we were each given a couple of final assignments per class to finish online. Being abroad during this critical time, I learned so much and grew a lot from this experience. Despite many challenges, we were still able to go to Hawaii, Japan, Vietnam, and Mauritius which I am very blessed and grateful for. I got to travel the world and gain experiences, friends, and knowledge that I could only have dreamed of before this semester abroad. The many changes taught me how to be a flexible traveler and have allowed me to gain a wider perspective I wouldn’t have gotten had none of this occurred.
As of today, April 20, 2020, study abroad programs for fall 2020 are expected to run and some programs are making modifications to start dates and course delivery. Spring 2021 semester abroad applications are open and the deadline is Friday, May 8, 2020. Students must attend a virtual Global First Steps session to open an application. To get started, email email@example.com.