COVID creates trials and tribulations for study abroad departures

Brett Kuras

Augustana offers multiple study abroad options for students looking for an opportunity to travel the world to explore their major and discover new cultures. However, in March of 2020, the arrival of COVID-19 caused delays and cancellations for many study abroad trips. 

As COVID-19 rampaged across the world, most, if not all, trips abroad were canceled due to the possibility of students’ safety being jeopardized. As time progressed and more has been learned about the virus and how to combat it, the thought and execution of study abroad trips have become reality once more. 

Pedro Bidegaray, the Director for International and Off-Campus Programs, said he has no problem admitting that the pandemic has thrown a wrench in students’ plans, especially for trips to Europe. This was partly due to the higher rate of infection in Europe, according to Bidegaray.

“We had to cancel and postpone trips because we realized that in Europe, there are many different amenities that can cause a student or even a staff member to become infected,” Bidegaray said. “In places like Bonaire, Holden Village and Jamaica, students were isolated within their groups, the professor led most, if not all the activities and there was much of a lesser chance for them to become infected.” 

While some trips were postponed instead of canceled, some students were still unsatisfied with the result of their trips. 

Senior Ian Rothery was expected to depart to Ireland for his J-Term class in January and felt that the cancellation of his study abroad was unnecessary.

“I felt it was unreasonable that the trip was canceled,” Rothery said. “Things were set up for our safety, such as weekly testing, keeping our social groups small and even the country had things set up for our safety. They postponed the trip to summer, but it’s unfair to students who go right to grad school, have to work or even have to move away, and that’s a reality for a lot of people.”

While Rothery was left disappointed, other students were satisfied with how things ended up. Senior Rachael Flacco was scheduled to go to Guatemala for J-Term but ended up going over spring break.

“I had to miss two days of class to be able to attend the spring break trip, but my professors were very understanding and accommodating,” Flacco said. “I know a lot of other kids didn’t get to go during break and won’t be able to go at all, so I feel very lucky and thankful.”

While things definitely did not go as planned for many students, Bidegaray said that he, his team and the administration did everything they could to accommodate students, refund payments or even change the date so students could still experience their trip.

“I can confidently say that throughout this whole thing, there has never been a moment where I have been one hundred percent happy with the results for each student,” Bidegaray said. “We obviously wanted every student and even every staff member leading the students to have some opportunity, even if delayed. I worked a lot behind the scenes and really tried my best.”

According to Bidegaray, as the pandemic starts to dwindle, students and staff can return to their scheduled trips, and won’t have to delay or cancel another trip. Bidegaray encourages students to explore their options with their Augie choice and begin planning their trips once more.