Change of plans: COVID-19 makes spring study abroad impossible

By Madison Weber ’22, Staff Writer

By Madison Weber ’22, Staff Writer

This Spring, St. John Fisher College  was planning on sending 148 students abroad to a variety of locations in Europe, Central America, Australia, and Asia. Unfortunately, on Friday, September 18 an email was sent to students announcing that all study abroad programs for the Spring semester had been cancelled in an executive decision by the college. 

Dr. Francisco Plata, Program Director of Modern Languages and Culture, said it’s an,“opportunity to use language in a real, complex, improvement that you can feel and see. With higher and faster improvement than is achievable here.”  He added that the benefits are not solely academic, due to the cultural aspect of language that is included when abroad. All the little daily interactions add up in improved fluency and proficiency in a language.  Many language majors have moved their plans to study abroad to next year if possible, but unfortunately those who can’t may just miss this opportunity.

Dr. Stella Plutino Calabrese, Director of Global Education at Fisher, felt an “obligation” to her students after continued monitoring of the global situation. After cancellations of programs in Italy and England, they elected to cancel all programs as they felt it was only a matter of time before other programs were dropped. According to Calabrese, approximately half of France is in a lockdown, and many European countries have seen a reverse in their progress against COVID-19. As both a mother and an educator, she felt unable to willingly send her students across the world in such a dynamic and potentially dangerous situation. “I would much rather have them experience COVID-19 here with their families and in a familiar space, than alone in isolation across the world.”

There were also very real logistical issues with sending Fisher students abroad: including the fact that Americans have been unable to obtain travel visas, and that many nations are placing bans on Americans due to our high infection rate. Calabrese also cited how airfare is very unsteady right now. The program wanted to avoid people buying expensive flight tickets to Italy, just to have the Italy program cancelled. Several countries are now experiencing major second waves that are threatening a second major lockdown; such as England, France, Spain, and Italy.

Fisher boasts the fact that their nursing students are able to study abroad their sophomore spring semester, as many colleges and universities don’t allow it. Current sophomore, Kayley DeNagel, admitted that “being able to study abroad as a nursing student is one of the main reasons I came here”. There were 40 nursing students supposed to take advantage of their sophomore spring. DeNagel’s schedule is now also thrown off . “I planned ahead to study abroad and took my core classes before going abroad. Now I’m not sure what I will take next spring. I would have picked up a minor, but now it’s too late.” Calabrese did mention that they are planning a meeting with the nursing department to look into any possible alternatives, including a potential summer program. 

Although this was an unfortunate blow to Fisher’s study abroad program, its staff is working just as hard to make preparations for next fall and try to amend the changes of this spring. Calabrese reiterated that Fisher has always been a supporter of global education — from the president, to the separate departments, to individual staff members.

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