In the wake of global COVID-19 restrictions, many students have been disappointed by the news that their J-term study away courses were canceled. Many are making the best of it, however, and exploring different options to expand their educational horizons.
Erin Kane, associate director for IPO, said many factors go into the decision to cancel trips.
“We’re looking at the U.S. State Department level, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations, both [COVID-19] vaccine rates and infection rates in the host country, and also entry requirements, how the country is trending with their daily cases,” Kane said.
All these are used to try to predict whether or not it will be worth the risk at the time of the trip.
For junior Caitlin Van Engen who would have gone on the tropical ecology course in Belize and Guatemala, it was difficult because of how well the course fit her biology and Spanish majors.
“It was going to fulfill my tropical ecology, and it was a Spanish immersion which I really want,” Van Engen said.
Cory Conover, one of the faculty advisers for the Belize and Guatemala course, said the course has been rescheduled for next January. But Jennapher Lunde Seefeldt will instead lead a trip to only Guatemala. In addition, it will be more of a government course, which was a requirement Van Engen said she didn’t need.
In the case of the trip to Cuba, “Race, Gender, and Revolution,” cancelation was about more than just COVID-19 numbers. Systemic issues in the host country played a role, too.
“It started to become, to me, likely that the course will not run by May because I was hearing very concerning reports from the island,” faculty adviser, Pilar Cabrera said. “The levels of COVID-19 were high, the vaccines were not there yet, there were greater shortages of everything, and what is important to understand is that the pandemic has been incomparably worse in Latin America.”
Cabrera points out that there are many reasons for this problem.
“People are not receiving any sort of economic stimulus from their governments, so the losses are suffered directly by the people,” Cabrera said. “Second, our countries depend a lot on tourism. […] In fact, in Cuba it’s the No. 1 source of revenue.”
These economic problems have led to political unrest in Cuba which has, unfortunately, had a hand in the decision to cancel this particular trip.
Some courses, like the one in Cuba, will have hybrid options, which will take place on campus with people from the host countries on Zoom.
For other courses, like the special education practicum or the nursing trip in Norway, hybrid is not an option.
In the case of the special education trip, the class can be taken at Augustana as well, and is a required course for special education majors. T hose who were supposed to go on the trip are forced to have practicums in Sioux Falls, as faculty adviser Kathleen Cook said.
Nursing students Anna Tom have and Emily Oswald, who had been set to go to Norway this January, said they could take a different course to fulfill the credit or take the nursing course in Ecuador.
“Obviously I’m bummed that [the trip] was canceled, but as a group of future healthcare workers, we understand,” Oswald said.