As Lehigh students are getting into the swing of the spring semester, some are settling in countries abroad for the first time in almost two years for study abroad programs. Travel had previously been restricted due to COVID-19.
There are 93 Lehigh students studying abroad this semester. Lehigh provides students with access to about 200 programs to work with during their study abroad experience, including DIS, IES, CIEE and SIT.
Dylan Dansky, ‘23, is studying abroad in Barcelona this semester. She said she had always wanted to study abroad in Barcelona after seeing her parents go.
Dansky said she hopes to gain a sense of independence and maturity through her experience abroad.
Dansky is from New Jersey and lives only an hour away from Lehigh, so she said she could see her parents whenever she wanted to when at Lehigh. Being abroad takes that option away. She said it has made her advocate for herself more, particularly when she got an ear infection in Barcelona and had to communicate to the hospital staff on her own.
“I can’t go to my mom for every little thing,” Danksy said. “If there’s a problem I have to figure it out on my own.”
Dansky said her classes in Barcelona are longer than those she has taken at Lehigh. On Mondays and Wednesdays she has five-hour classes with no breaks, compared to the typical 75 minute class at Lehigh.
“But it’s worth it to get to do all the things to do on the weekends,” Danksy said.
Katie Goettle, ‘23, a bioengineering major, is studying abroad in Stockholm, Sweden. She partnered with DIS, the Danish Institute for Study Abroad.
“I knew that I wanted to study abroad since I was a kid,” Goettle said.
Goettle was accepted to DIS last year and had the option of studying in either Copenhagen or Stockholm.
Lily Guggenheimer, ‘23, a pre-med student, is also abroad in Stockholm and is enrolled in a medical practice and a policy course.
“I never really pictured myself going abroad because I’d much rather go to med school and get all my stuff done on time,” Guggenheimer said. “I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first came into this. The type of experience I’m getting is not something I would ever see at school.”
In addition to their major and core classes, Guggenheimer and Goettle were recommended to take a Swedish course to learn more about the culture and language of Sweden.
Before going abroad, students meet individually and in groups with advisors from the Study Abroad Office to plan and address questions students may have about academics, and health and safety.
“We work with the overseas partners that we have and they also work with students to prepare them to go abroad,” said Katie Welsh Radande, director of the Study Abroad Office. “There’s a lot of different groups involved supporting the students and helping to relaunch travel abroad for us.”
When students arrive at their abroad location, overseas partners hold orientations to help students get situated.
With COVID-19 still prevalent, some Lehigh students had concerns about it before they left to go abroad.
“COVID-19 was a little nerve wracking and I was going back and forth about going and not going,” Guggenheimer said. “I was like ‘you only get presented with going abroad once so you may as well and not stop your life because of COVID-19.’ I think I made the right choice because the experience so far has been so great.”
Lehigh Study Abroad Office works with International SOS, a health and security firm, to ensure the safety of students amidst the pandemic. ISOS helps guide staff on the current COVID-19 situation in each country. Lehigh also has its own International Travel Advisory Committee, which examines travel risks.
“Two years now we’ve been monitoring this (COVID-19), trying to get students abroad,” Radande said. “We’ve been monitoring, working with our partners abroad, working with ISOS and working with the Lehigh International Travel Committee just to help mitigate risks.”
While working with partners, staff of the Study Abroad Office looks to identify where students can quarantine, how they will get medical care and making sure there are online options for students’ classes.
For DIS students, upon arriving at their study abroad location, they were driven to their houses and provided with COVID-19 tests, Goettle said.
“We wouldn’t let students go someplace where that (proper COVID-19 regulations) didn’t exist.” Randande said.