UWGB Study Abroad Impacted by COVID-19

Many students look forward to studying abroad in college, but COVID-19 has given some students an experience that is much different than what they expected.

The University of Glasgow. Photo Credit: Noah Henchen

Noah Henchen, a junior majoring in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing, said he was always looking forward to studying abroad when he was growing up. He loves to travel and experience new places, plus he could take classes that would count towards his major and minor. So, he decided to study abroad this past spring at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 became more widespread in March, prompting President Donald Trump to enact a travel ban between the U.S. and Europe.

“Once I saw he (President Donald Trump) announced a travel ban, I panicked a little bit because I didn’t know if I was able to go home,” Noah said.

After calling his advisor at around 12:30 a.m. CST (6:30 a.m. GMT) on March 13th, Noah was able to arrange a flight out for the next day, which he says eased his nerves slightly.

While he was disappointed he needed to return home, he understood the decision. In the days and weeks leading up to the U.S. and Europe travel ban, students from Italy and France studying at the University of Glasgow were also sent home. He thought there might be a chance for him to finish out the semester in Scotland, but that, unfortunately, did not happen. 

Noah stands in front of a castle in Europe. Photo Credit: Noah Henchen

When Noah was sent home in mid-March, he was just one week from being done with the semester, as the University of Glasgow’s academic calendar is different from the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay’s calendar. There was supposed to be a month-long break for the University of Glasgow before finals during May. 

“I finished the last week of classes at home in Wisconsin, where I had to join Zoom calls as early as 4 a.m. with the time change. Throughout that month-long break, the University of Glasgow canceled all final exams for 100 level and 200 level courses, which were the courses I was taking.”

The University awarded him a “CA” credit for the courses he took instead of receiving an actual grade because he did not take the final exams.

Despite the unforeseen circumstances that cut his study abroad semester short, Noah still had a positive outlook on the experience. He said, “There is often the saying ‘you will regret not going, but you will not regret going.’… I found it to be 100% accurate.”

Studying In Germany

Dani with Marburg in the background. Photo Credit: Dani Jaeger

Dani Jaeger, a senior majoring in German and World Cultures with a minor in Ancient and Medieval History, had a very similar experience in spring.

Dani studied abroad at Phillips Universität Marburg in Marburg, Germany. She did so as part of her major, but it was also an opportunity to go back to a country that she loved and see her best friend again.

Dani did not have the ringer of her phone on, so on March 12th, she woke up to four missed calls from the study abroad office and 327 text messages from a group chat. The travel ban had just been announced, and she would have to return home.

“I panicked. I cried and called my mom and then called the study abroad office. It was a lot of back and forth for a while until we figured out planes and travel (plans). I texted my teacher that I wasn’t coming to class so I could pack.”

She had planned to study abroad specifically for Spring 2020, but that decision came without knowing COVID-19 would happen.

“I knew there was a certain semester in which I wanted to study abroad, and the unfortunate part of it is that with the ongoing pandemic, I won’t have a chance to return before I graduate.”

A view of Marburg from the Lahn with the Landgrafenschloss on top of the hill. Photo Credit: Dani Jaeger

Dani was able to finish off the two Marburg classes at home. She was in contact with her UWGB advisor, and he was able to get her into upper-level German courses offered online at Green Bay, as her courses abroad were not being offered. She started mid-semester on the two Green Bay German courses and finished those in the summer.

Dani is already looking forward to returning to Germany someday.

“I miss Germany constantly. I miss the language, my best friend, and history.”

This year, students were unable to study abroad. According to the UWGB Study Abroad website, “Due to conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, all study abroad programming is temporarily suspended through the 2020-21 academic year.”

The Gehry Buildings in Dusseldorf, Germany. Photo Credit: Dani Jaeger

Looking Ahead

For the 2021-22 school year, Brent Blahnik, Director of the Office of International Education, explained that COVID-19 is “dictating the timeline as to when things will begin returning to normal.”

He hopes that planning can begin in January or February for Summer and Fall 2021 programs.

“The decisions on when and where study abroad will return depend on several factors including local transmission rates, entry/exit requirements, travel restrictions, airline routing, healthcare capacity, receptiveness toward visitors, visa issuance, etc.,” Blahnik explained.

The UWGB Office of International Education’s statement. Photo Credit: UWGB Study Abroad

Outside factors are not the only impact on future study abroad programs. Due to conditions caused by COVID-19, the Office of International Education has been reduced to a staff of one. 

“Staff resources will have a huge impact on how many programs return,” Blahnik added. 

General information about studying abroad can be found here.

Information regarding destinations and programs can be found here.

Written By: Jade H., Angela L., & Alison D.

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