Over January, the College ran thirteen international, faculty-led courses, giving almost 200 students an opportunity to go abroad for two weeks to a month. This was the first time so many abroad trips have been run since the start of the COVID–19 pandemic, and it was many faculty members’ first time running their programs as well.
The Colby Echo asked if they would take their international JanPlan courses again had they known what they know now about the course, and a majority of students said yes.
“I enjoyed it a lot. We went to a lot of cool places,” Caleb Carr `24, a student who took Italian I in Genoa, Italy, said.
As a language class, Italian I was more rigorous than many of the other abroad classes.
“They could have given us a little less homework, but I do also understand that it was mostly in an attempt to help us learn as much Italian as possible in the span of only a month,” Carr explained.
Also running over January was a Classics course called “The Trojan War in the Context of the Collapse of the Late Bronze Age.” The course was split into two weeks of class at the College and two weeks of travel in Egypt and Turkey.
“The class was organized in a way that allowed us to cover almost all of the course material in the first two weeks before we left Colby,” Sam Schultz `23 said. “This way, by the time we arrived in Egypt we were almost entirely done with the class work with the exception of a research paper due after we returned that encompassed our trip experiences.”
Schultz enjoyed this class structure because it allowed her to spend more time exploring Egypt and Turkey. In contrast, the “Writers against the State: Reading the Political Novel in Prague” trip started off in Prague, and the students attended lectures while there.
“We had classes Monday through Thursday for two hours. Those were normally lecture-based, and then the last week it shifted to presentations for each group,” Haydn Sage `25 said. “We also had outings to museums and to meet with historians and experts in Czech history.”
The course “Postcolonial Pastoral: Writing, Literature, and Ecology in the Himalayas” took place in India. It started and ended in Kalimpong, India, but required students to complete some preparatory work over winter break. While the prep work was about the history of India and the region around Kalimpong, students felt that in some ways they were not well prepared on what to expect.
“I was under the impression I was [going to be] camping, and in reality, I felt quite frivolous in our environment. I understand why they acted like we were roughing it to weed out students who would be uncomfortable, [but] it would be nice if it were framed as a cultural awareness of water usage and traveling in India as opposed to an outdoor experience,” Annabelle Williams `23 explained.
In addition, a few students fell ill with stomach bugs that were worse than initially expected.
Other trips had their own issues as well. Five students on the Egypt and Turkey trip caught typhoid, a couple of whom had even been vaccinated against the disease beforehand.
“Also, ensuring that the vegetarians on our trip were able to eat enough food was difficult because almost all of the meals we had abroad were meat-based,” Schultz said. Carr and Sage reported minimal health issues among their peers.
Throughout these trips, the status of the COVID–19 pandemic in each respective country was kept in the rearview mirror.
“I could sense a high amount of planning behind the scenes, and stress from coordinators about masking when we were in more populated areas,” Williams said. “I know there was a change in travel advisories that influenced our ability to go to the Taj Mahal, so they were accounting for big picture pandemic safety. At the same time, I was surprised by the autonomy we had regarding masking, given many people in Kalimpong were unvaccinated.”
While the change in status allowed students in India opportunities for more sightseeing, restrictions in Egypt, Turkey, and Italy were already quite low.
“I think that the trip was well planned beforehand by our instructor and the TUTKU tour company. The itinerary was set long before we applied to the trip, and it did not change due to COVID,” Schultz said. Carr also commented. “I think the pandemic didn’t really affect it much, but I think that Italy’s regulations in response to COVID were a bit more lax than in the U.S. from the start,” he said. Sage stated that the only COVID regulation they faced was the required testing before flying into Prague.
Naturally, as the first year in a while that abroad trips have run without a myriad of COVID–19 restrictions, there were some hiccups along the way. However, overall, students were able to learn a lot from their respective abroad experiences. With a few changes, these trips can continue to provide students with these opportunities for cultural immersion.
In addition to the trips listed in this article, there were also courses that took place in Japan, Bermuda, Namibia, Paris, Austria, Costa Rica, Mexico, Israel, and Spain.
~ Mahika Gupta `23
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