Study abroad: The study abroad office helps students decide what program is the best fit for them. Due to COVID-19, students have been unable to study abroad during the 2020-21 school year. (Vincent Liu/B&W Staff)

Students bid adieu to hopes for a spring semester abroad

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Seho Myung, ‘22, had always planned on studying abroad this spring. 

“I’ve always taken the opportunity to travel whenever it’s even loosely presented, so I’ve always known I wanted to study abroad at some point during my college years,” he said.

Myung said he spent time at the end of his sophomore year planning his study abroad trip. He and two friends planned to spend the spring semester in Australia, studying at The University of New South Wales or The University of Sydney. 

Unfortunately for most college students this year, study abroad programs were canceled due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. 

Lehigh announced at the end of last semester that all in-person programs were shut down for the spring, with the exception of a program through the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences

Like Myung, Emma Santini, ‘22, knew she wanted to study abroad even before college, so she began discussing her plans with the Study Abroad Office in fall of 2019. 

As an international relations major, she planned on studying in Vietnam. The trip focused on global development and social issues, which was right in line with her interest in international development, she said. 

Going into the fall semester, Myung said he still had some hope that he would be able to go abroad, but it soon became clear it wasn’t going to happen. 

Santini said she felt the Study Abroad Office was transparent with her by saying there was no guarantee the programs would happen.

“They were doing everything to support us if we were to receive the opportunity,” Santini said. “COVID-19 is just so unpredictable that they really couldn’t make any promises, despite working and doing all that they could to go back and forth with the programs.” 

Myung said the biggest loss of not being able to go abroad was missing out on a three month opportunity to experience a different culture and travel somewhere new. 

“I was really looking forward to taking classes there and potentially doing an internship there,” he said. “Just to embrace that totally different culture, that’s really what I wanted to do and I was really hoping to do that before I get sent out into the real world as an adult and a professional.” 

Alyssa Tabershaw, ‘22, a political science major with a double minor in economics and environmental studies, planned to study abroad in Barcelona this spring. 

Tabershaw said despite the Study Abroad Office offering some virtual programs, she didn’t look into them because wanted to live in another country. 

“At that point it really didn’t feel like it would be beneficial for me and would just consume more of my time,” she said.

Myung was made aware of the one available study abroad program in Bermuda earlier in the fall, but he said his living situation made it difficult for him to take up a study abroad opportunity without proper preparation.

Like Tabershaw, Santini said she was deterred from the virtual programming because of her standing experience with internationally based programs at Lehigh. 

“A lot of it was stuff that wasn’t really on my priority list and things that I don’t think directly replaced actually going abroad,” she said.  

Myung said he is taking classes this semester he wasn’t planning on originally, but his schedule wasn’t completely disrupted. As a finance major and engineering minor, he hoped to take an international finance class and a few electives during his time in Australia. 

Many Lehigh students plan to study abroad in the spring of their junior year, and therefore plan adjustments to their schedules beforehand.

“Honestly, everybody kind of knows, you study abroad junior spring,” Myung said. “I was pretty set on that, but with that being said, I love Lehigh. As much as I did want to study abroad, I do plan on spending as much time here as possible during my senior year.” 

Santini said her academic plans aligned better with studying abroad during the spring semester of her junior year. 

She said she considered going abroad at another time, but has senior year commitments and is certain she wouldn’t have the time to go abroad. Santini said she would prefer to go abroad once she graduates for work or independently.  

Myung said he is unsure he will study abroad in the near future. 

While planning his study abroad, Myung reached out to the Study Abroad Office about their plans for the spring and built a relationship with them. 

“While they didn’t necessarily persuade me to study abroad in the first place, they definitely did make it seem like there was a chance that the second semester my junior year would still be a viable option,” he said.

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