Study abroad programs to gradually return next year
Plus, how the pandemic has affected CC class times
Good morning, and happy Wednesday. On this pandemic date last year, the Colorado College Counseling Center kicked off its “Navigating the New Normal” series of support groups with a WebEx conversation on healthy relationships. (This year, the Counseling Center has continued to offer options for remote care through virtual appointments and weekly support groups.)
Today, we explain how study abroad programming has been affected during the pandemic, and what it will look like next academic year. Plus, how professors have changed up class schedules during COVID-19.
➡️ICYMI: On Monday, our resident microbiologist Phoebe Lostroh gave her weekly forecast for El Paso County. Professor at the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County Zoe McLaren also returned to talk about vaccine passports.
✉️In Your Inbox:
On Thursday, CC Communications sent out a reminder for the second on-campus vaccination clinic happening on May 8. CC students, faculty, staff, and their families, as well as members of the broader Colorado Springs community, can make their appointments to receive vaccine doses here.
On Friday, Director of Campus Activities and Student Orientation Amy Hill reminded the CC community about the start of Llamapalooza on May 1. The annual festival, which will be taking place every Saturday during Block 8, will be broadcast virtually, but will also have some in-person viewings.
On Monday, CC Communications sent out a message about the unveiling of CC’s new Mobile Arts Truck on May 7 between 4-8 p.m, at 116 E. Boulder St. The unveiling will feature artists and performers, and will take place in conjunction with the First Fridays Art Walk in downtown Colorado Springs.
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Photo courtesy of Cameron Howell ‘23
✈ 🌏 “Optimistic” for study abroad programming in the fall
Over the last year, study abroad programs for many colleges and universities in the United States have been stalled by the travel restrictions and risks the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to countries around the world.
Unfortunately, Colorado College students and faculty haven’t gone unscathed by the stall in study abroad programming.
Director of Global Education Allen Bertsche said that after a Pandemic Fall nearly completely devoid of study abroad programming and cancellations during the spring semester, there have been almost no opportunities for global education through CC-led programming for students this academic year.
“In France, for example, in Blocks 5, 6, 7, 8 in the spring of 2020, that program got canceled, essentially between Block 5 and Block 6, so the students had to come home Block 6,” Bertsche told The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project. “Since then, we have run no program.”
Last June, the President’s Cabinet approved a process for evaluating study abroad programs on a case-by-case system, which allowed some programs to move forward without canceling all programs as a whole.
Preparing for the fall semester and beyond
While the past year has been difficult for students to pursue studies abroad, Bertsche is hopeful for next year.
One of his reasons for optimism is the recent announcement that CC will be implementing a vaccine requirement.
“That’s going to essentially ask CC students to be vaccinated,” Bertsche said. “That will align well with what we’re seeing from many countries which is that they’re going to have different entry rules for vaccinated travelers than for non-vaccinated travelers.”
The college plans to begin CC-led study abroad trips in Block 2 and ramp up the number of courses during Block 3.
Bertsche said that will include CC’s semester in Latin America and Fall Semester Away program in Europe for first years, and some single-block courses.
Bertsche also said CC-run programs will be evaluated twice before the courses can take place.
“The first review is typically around the time students register for the program in preregistration, usually three to five months before departure,” Bertsche said. “The second review, which is what we call the ‘binding review,’ where the college makes a final decision, is between 75 to 60 days pre-departure.”
As part of that review process, Bertsche said he looks at the travel advisory levels for countries that courses plan to travel to.
“We’ll look at travel warnings, we’ll look at entry restrictions, quarantine requirements, we’ll look at conditions in the country regarding the availability of medical care, the possibility of inter-city travel,” Bertsche said. “We’ll even look at commuter travel or the buses and subways, etc. working the way they normally would, or their limitations on the ability to gather as a group because if we can’t have our entire group together at any point, that again makes it difficult to run a program.”
Currently, CC is not planning on sending any students to countries with mandatory quarantine periods upon arrival, he said.
Bertsche said programs will need to meet all the requirements of the reviews in order for the college to move forward with study abroad courses.
This year, there have been no programs that have been able to meet all of these requirements.
Applications for fall semester abroad courses were due in March, and many students have already been informed about their program and if it is taking place.
Na’ama Nevo ‘23 is enrolled in the Budapest Semester in Mathematics, which is set to take place during the fall semester.
“I’m really excited,” Nevo told The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project. “I think especially being stuck in one place for a whole year, it’ll be nice to do something drastically different.”
Nevo is optimistic about the course moving forward, but would be disappointed if it didn’t.
“I would be pretty crushed if it didn’t happen,” Nevo said. “I could do it a different semester but, both in terms of the classes that I have to take and in terms of what I don’t want to miss here, it is the best time for me to go.”
Amelia Radocha ‘23 is also looking forward to her study abroad experiences in Panama and Costa Rica, but has some worries.
“The uncertainty of everything is very anxiety-inducing,” Radocha told The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project. “But I guess there’s nothing I can do, they can do, everyone is kind of powerless in this situation, so, kind of just have to go with the flow.”
Radocha has not received very much information about her trip, only her arrival date. The rest of the information, including how she will get into the country, will come two months before her arrival.
“What if it’s the month before, and they’re like ‘oh, everything’s canceled, sorry,’” she said. “I literally wouldn’t have a place to live.”
Backup plans, just in case
While the college is planning to increase study abroad programs in the fall, it has some contingency plans in case those courses are canceled, even if planning for cancellations is tricky.
One example Bertsche gave of backup plans the college has used came when second waves of infections delayed the in-person components of spring study abroad courses in Denmark and Sweden, and those courses were held virtually by the college and its partner until those countries opened back up.
That strategy, Bertsche said, is the “primary model” for a backup plan.
If individual block study abroad programs can’t take place, Bertsche said it is “not quite as challenging” to come up with backup plans, because individual blocks can usually still be offered if students can’t travel.
Bertsche said that in some cases, the groups CC partners with give opportunities for backup plans, like the partnership it has with the School for International Training, which runs programs around “themes” as opposed to locations and is therefore able to relocate courses if needed.
Delia Freliech ‘23 said she has already had to come up with a backup plan after her study abroad program in New Zealand was canceled this fall and she was able to make a switch travel to Germany or Italy.
“I’m really grateful that we still are able to go forward and do and try to do these programs and try out these opportunities,” Freliech told The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project.
‘In a very good position’
With vaccinations continuing throughout the United States, Bertsche is “optimistic” that study abroad will be possible in the fall.
“I would just encourage students to look at the programming for next year and see what is an option,” Bertsche said.
Another factor that contributed to Bertsche’s hopefulness, he said, is that he and his team are expecting several countries in Europe to open back up this summer to vaccinated travelers.
The team is also hoping students will be able to enter countries on tourist visas this year as opposed to the very restrictive entry requirements of this past year.
The biggest thing that worries Bertsche is whether or not the U.S. government will be responding in “an agile way” to changing circumstances in the pandemic.
But if he had to estimate now, Bertsche thinks CC is “in a very good position” to be able to conduct fall programming by Block 2, and that by spring he expects everything to feel a little bit more like it did before the pandemic.
“Hopefully at some other point in the near future, students will be able to find a way to explore the world,” Bertsche said.
🕐 ‘Too much time on Zoom:’ how class times have changed during the pandemic
In a typical year, Colorado College’s Block Plan has most students in class from 9-12 a.m.
But over the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic, CC professors have changed those class times for a variety of reasons, like accommodating students living in different time zones and Zoom fatigue.
For Corina McKendry, director of the environmental studies program, a big reason behind changing up her class schedule was how difficult it is to be on Zoom for three hours straight.
“What I tried to do was to not spend much time on Zoom,” McKendry told The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project. “Because for some of us, more than an hour and a half, it’s just very draining.
McKendry said that she expanded enrollment in her classes and then divided those classes into three shorter sections, which she taught at different times of the day.
“I wanted to be able to see everybody on Zoom,” McKendry said. “I didn’t want to lose people in the awkwardness of not seeing people.”
Flavia Sancier-Barbosa, assistant professor of mathematics and computer science, said that for her classes this year, she opted to establish schedules that were not synchronous to accommodate for the different situations students studying remotely faced.
This meant her classes met from 9-10 a.m. to discuss pre-recorded lectures.
Sancier-Barbosa said she felt that if she tried to run everything the same as she would have before the pandemic, including a 9-12 a.m. class over Zoom, there would be students who couldn’t attend and would then have to watch three hours of recordings.
Additionally, Sancier-Barbosa said she wouldn’t be able to use three hours of remote class time as effectively as she can in person.
“There were a lot of exchanges that I didn’t think would work as well, if I try to do those virtually,” Sancier-Barbosa said. “And of course, then the people that were not present would not benefit from those interactions.”
Both Sancier-Barbosa and McKendry said one positive of the adjustments they made to their class schedules was that students felt like they had more flexibility.
Still, Sancier-Barbosa said that some students also expressed that they wished that there was more synchronous learning time, or longer Q&A sessions, than the shorter, synchronous class times she implemented provided.
And in some respects, McKendry said she had to “cut back a little bit” on material.
Students have also felt the schedule changes.
Noah Johnson ‘23 noticed that his classes have been starting later and not lasting as long this year, but said that made sense to him because he thought it would be hard to spend three hours on Zoom.
“It’s a little bit harder to fit more content into a two-hour Zoom when it’s three hours worth of stuff you need to learn,” Johnson told The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project.
Jack Domeika ‘23 also thinks the reduced class times he experienced this year have been “a double edged sword.”
“There’s too much time on Zoom, and I hate Zoom,” Domeika told The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project. “But at the same time, just meeting for an hour every day with your peers to review stuff you kind of sort of learned the night before is not as effective as it needs to be.”
Back to normal class times
As vaccination efforts continue and CC looks forward to a more normal fall semester, Sancier-Barbosa and McKendry anticipate returning to their pre-pandemic class schedules, with a few adjustments and additions.
“Now I have a lot of videos about a lot of material,” Sancier-Barbosa said. “So I could still make those available to students to watch before class and I can use some of the class time for Q&A.”
McKendry said she doesn’t enjoy teaching in the afternoons because she misses other meetings, and that splitting her class and teaching twice a day isn’t “sustainable,” so she is not planning to keep the schedule she has during the pandemic.
Overall, students prefer in-person learning, and Johnson said he is excited to return to a normal schedule as well.
“It’s nice to have a solid routine, especially the 9-12,” Johnson said. “It’s tried and true, and it works well, so I’m excited to get back to that, and it’ll just feel like a normal school year again.”
Domeika also said he preferred being around other people in in-person classes and usual 9-12 a.m. class times.
“I’m really looking forward to being able to sit down for three hours and look at another human being who happens to be teaching,” Domeika said.
About the CC COVID-19 Reporting Project
The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project is created by Colorado College student journalists Esteban Candelaria, Lorea Zabaleta, and Cameron Howell in partnership with The Catalyst, Colorado College’s student newspaper. Work by Phoebe Lostroh, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology at CC and National Science Foundation Program Director in Genetic Mechanisms, Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, will appear every Monday.
The project seeks to provide frequent updates about CC and other higher education institutions during the pandemic by providing original reporting, analysis, interviews with campus leaders, and context about what state and national headlines mean for the CC community.
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