Two years on campus at Elon University and two years abroad in Madrid. That’s what Janie McCarthy, Elon junior, was planning for since she first toured Elon.

“It was a done deal. I wanted to do this,” McCarthy said. “I definitely came in as a freshman having my life planned. I know people always told me, ‘you know, Janie, you’re very wise. However, things may change.’ And I thought they were crazy. No not for me, things aren’t going to change for me.”

Most international travel during fall semester has been canceled under the university’s reopening plan, except for the business dual degree program, which McCarthy was enrolled in. 

Students in the program spend two years on campus and two years at a partner business school in Germany, Spain, France or Italy. At the end of four years, students receive a degree from both Elon and their institution abroad. 

McCarthy was all set to go to Madrid — even visiting the school she’d be going to and selling her car for travel money — until the coronavirus pandemic hit. 

"As much as an international experience sounds so tempting right now, for safety reasons I just could not justify going abroad amidst a global pandemic."p>

Janie McCarthy

Elon Junior

“It was heavy on my heart all summer, constantly on my mind,” she said. “But I ultimately decided — and it was weeks — that right now, as much as an international experience sounds so tempting right now, for safety reasons I just could not justify going abroad amidst a global pandemic.” 

Meg Rude, an Elon junior, received her visa days ago and is still going to Riems, France — about 45 minutes east of Paris — as part of the program. But the pandemic is adding some turbulence to her travel plans.

“We’ve waited so long to get housing because I was like, ‘am I going, am I not going?’ I don’t want to pay a lease and get stuck in the lease if I’m not going to be there,” she said. “So now I’m stuck with no housing.”

Students are an exception under Europe’s travel restrictions, which currently doesn’t allow U.S. travelers. France was once a hotspot for COVID-19, leaving Meg with some concern.

“There’s definitely that thought in the back of my mind,” she said. “If I get it over there, it’s going to be a struggle of two weeks, you know. What do I do because I’m all by myself?”

Meg Rude and her family in France in 2019. Photo Courtesy of Meg Rude.

Meg said her family’s business works closely with people in France and they’ve visited the country multiple times — leaving her with a reminder of home.

“I’m definitely going to get homesick because being from Maryland I can go to Elon very quickly, I can get home very quickly,” she said. “Being in France, you can’t do that as easily.”

Despite having to move off-campus and rearrange her academic plans, McCarthy said she’s satisfied with her decision to stay in the U.S., but will always wonder ‘what if.’

“It’s always going to be the question, what would have been,” she said.

Mark Kurt, director of the business dual degree program, declined a request for an interview but said he’s working to support students in the program as the new academic year starts.