Students from Elon University have been moving home and adjusting to a new normal during unprecedented times. Some students are upset, feeling that a semester of college was robbed from them, while others are battling the frustration of being brought home from abroad.
“I was so mad, so upset,” Elon junior Sam Berger said. “There are so many emotions about being pulled out from your study abroad program.”
Berger was spending the spring semester of her junior year abroad in Florence, Italy. Her program was one of the first to be sent home following the outbreak of the coronavirus.
“I think it was harder for us because we had nothing to prepare us,” Berger said. “I came home and I was like, ‘what do I do with myself now?’”
Now back home, Berger said she is adjusting to a new normal of online classes.
“Processing the shock of actually coming home was so hard,” Berger said. ”Was I actually abroad? Because it really doesn’t feel like we were.”
While in Italy, she had three different professors teaching her dance. Now one professor teaches all three classes through zoom. Rather than perfecting technique and dancing, Berger and her classmates are discussing fundamentals and theory.
“Obviously I wish I was dancing because it’s what I love to do,” Berger said. “But with the circumstances, it’s kind of hard.”
Other students who were abroad this spring are reentering the country earlier than expected. Shannalee Van Beek, the communications manager for the Global Education Center, said all students who go abroad can experience “reverse culture shock.” She says those students abroad this semester are experiencing reentry differently.
Van Beek said the GEC is putting together a task force to address this unusual culture shock these students might be facing and preparing additional resources including virtual appointments with GEC staff.
Junior Olivia Kaltchthaler said she chose Elon for its renowned study abroad programs and was disappointed to see her time in the Czech Republic cut short.
“Obviously not getting to do the full time there has been really difficult,” Kaltchthaler said. “But even back home, I find I have no motivation to do anything because I wish I was there, and I’m still just super upset about leaving.”
Her classes abroad focused on Czech history and language, where many classes included walking tours of the city. Learning online she says isn’t the same.
“I think the professors are having a really hard time too, because we didn’t have a Moodle or anything like that for online stuff. So the learning curve has been hard on both ends,” she said.
Kaltchthaler was not on a specific Elon program and said most of the students she was abroad with went to different universities.
“A lot of the people I was with I probably won’t see again,” she said. “ It’s super weird and sad. But we have been FaceTiming and trying to keep in touch.”
For students who are planning to go abroad for the Fall 2020 semester, the GEC has extended the deposit refund deadline to June 1. Students can continue to assess the situation and repercussions of the coronavirus abroad, and decide if they still want to spend a semester abroad. If they choose not to, students who have applied to Fall 2020 programs can also defer their semester abroad to Spring 2021.