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Colby students re-adjust plans to study abroad due to COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic throws the entire tourism industry into a standstill, one of the carryover effects has been the cancelation of college study abroad programs, with many countries locking down their borders and enacting strict measures for visitors and in particular, Americans. With the spike in coronavirus cases over the summer, the outlook for study abroad in the fall looked bleak. This has left many members of the Class of 2022 in a tailspin looking for alternative plans or deciding whether to come back to Mayflower Hill. For these students, the study abroad process began early sophomore year. Preparation included attending the study abroad fair, meeting with staff from the College’s office of off-campus study, and applications and essays for their desired program. By the time the pandemic hit, most had already been placed in a program.

Everett Metchick `22 knew he wanted to study abroad since freshman year. Metchick was looking forward to spending an entire year abroad in the United Kingdom while attending the London School of Economics (LSE). In Metchick’s case, because he was set to enroll as a normal student at LSE, the choice of attending was always an option. However, he said the decision was clear by May when he received news that it was going to be impossible to obtain a student visa and that Colby would no longer reward him credit for his classes at LSE because of safety concerns.

“Obviously I was disappointed, but there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t blame it on anyone because these were the circumstances that not only I was dealing with, but everyone else in the world was dealing with too.”

While he has the opportunity to potentially go to London in the spring, Metchick said he has made the personal decision not to go in part because his classes at LSE were full-year courses. As for his plans in lieu of studying abroad, Metchick has decided to take the semester off. He and three other Colby students are currently staying at a ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming volunteering with the forest service and he plans to come back to the Hill for the spring semester.

Another student Thea Reddin `22 decided to return to Colby for the fall semester after her IFSA Butler program to Mérida, Mexico was canceled in late June. Like Metchick, Reddin had been looking forward to going abroad for the entire year for as long as she could remember. As for her decision to resume classes at Colby, Reddin says, “I was also excited to get back on campus and see my friends since the spring semester got cut short.”

In an email to The Colby Echo, Nancy Downey, the director of off-campus study at the College, said, “Programs for fall were canceled, so we have only a few students on domestic experiences this semester: the Bigelow program in Boothbay, the Howard exchange, and the Dartmouth and Columbia engineering programs.”

The Colby Echo was able to catch up with Kaliyah Bennett `22, who is participating in the exchange program at Howard University in Washington D.C with fellow Colby student Rohnique Davy `22. Bennett was fortunate enough to have her off-campus experience because as a domestic program, Bennett could easily travel to D.C. from her home in New York City. Bennett said she was worried her program was in jeopardy after Colby sent students home in March. However, after receiving the green light in April informing her she had the go-ahead to attend, Bennett said “I was instantly more excited to attend than I was before.”

According to Howard University’s website, the school made the difficult decision to move all Fall 2020 undergraduate courses online and non-residential. While Bennett is taking online classes, she enjoys living in D.C. in an off-campus apartment she is sharing with other Howard students.

“I love that I can explore the city of D.C., which is the total opposite of Waterville.”

Bennett also expressed her excitement about being able to take classes not offered at Colby.

“I am an African American studies major with a minor in Cinema Studies. Currently, I am taking a class called “Black Experience Film” and being able to intersect my two concentrations is amazing. There are so many classes that Howard offers that Colby does not, which is why I am so grateful that Colby has allowed me to do this program.”

Colby sophomores looking to study abroad in the near future, Downey says the Class of 2023 should expect the study abroad application to remain essentially the same with the exception of all information sessions and advising meetings being virtual. Colby sophomores were recently invited to participate in the Forum on Education Abroad Virtual Study Abroad Fair over Zoom held from 8 am to 10 pm on September 10th. For some attendees, the virtual experience just isn’t the same as an in-person fair. Gwendolen Huo `23 attended the SIT “table” via Zoom.

“The program representative talked for about 15 minutes about the history and structure of the program and the goals and missions of the program. Also, there was a time limit on the Zoom so there was barely any time for questions. I feel like I did learn a lot about the program overall but didn’t establish a personal connection with any one of SIT’s programs.”

According to Huo, different study abroad providers would use the same zoom link, so oftentimes a session would be disrupted when providers would switch off.

For many Colby students, studying abroad is a quintessential part of the college experience. Downey says it is still unclear whether students with scheduled study abroad programs in the spring will be able to attend. It seems as though, like with all things these days, it’ll depend on how we fare with the upcoming battle of the COVID-19 and the wintertime.


~ Fiona Huo `23

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