Study abroad uncertainty

With the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, Creighton’s Global Engagement Office is helping students navigate the possibilities of studying abroad in the spring.

“We are still very hopeful and optimistic that we can send students abroad — may- be not to every single location around the world, but at least a few that we feel have very strong preparations and support for our students’ health and safety,” said Jill Muegge, director of study abroad.

“Study abroad is not easy, ever,” Muegge said. “Add a level of a global pandemic and possibly navigating that wherever you’re living abroad and students really do have to be flexible and brave. And those are the students we work with every day anyway.”

“I would consider myself a pretty flexible person,” junior in the College of Arts and Sciences Brendan Plate said.

Plate was supposed to study abroad this fall and has now deferred to the spring, he said.

“I just knew that when I went to college I was going to study abroad. I’ve kind of always had it on my mind,” Plate said.

He is hoping to be placed in a study abroad program in Morocco or somewhere else in Africa — somewhere that would put him outside of his comfort zone.

He also recognized that he might have to be flexible and go somewhere else, such as Europe.

“I wanted this very different experience,” Plate said. “And it’s kind of ironic to think that I might end up going to Europe for the exact reasons I didn’t want to go there — it’s safer and easier.”

Plate stated that, though his hopes are set on studying abroad in Morocco, he would still like to study abroad wherever he can.

Muegge said that while the GEO will do everything in its power to help students have a study abroad experience in the spring, there are still some unknowns that are out of its control. These include the U.S. Department of State travel advisories and CDC travel guidance.

“On the study abroad website there is a list of 17 criteria that we are constantly evaluating to see if a location is ready and can host students,” Muegge said.

Because of this, Muegge said, “We always want students to have a back- up plan of courses and a place to live on campus should something change last-minute in their plans for the spring.”

When speaking about how his semester abroad might look different because of the coronavirus, Plate said he is still looking forward to the experience.

“It’s unfortunate, obviously, but that’s kind of the way things are right now,” Plate said. “And while I may have to wear a mask and quarantine and iso- late, I’ll still be able to have that experience that I’ve been hoping to have for a really long time.”

Despite the circumstances, Plate said his biggest concern is not being able to go abroad at all.

“It’s something I’ve looked forward to for so long,” Plate said.

His commitments to ROTC make the coming spring semester his last chance to study abroad.

Muegge also stressed that there are ways for students to get a global experience without physically moving to a different place, such as opportunities for international virtual internships, volunteering and service.

“There are lots of ways that we can still work with students to get them a global experience that might not be physically pulling them from one place to another,” Muegge said.

For students on the fence about studying abroad in the spring semester, Muegge said they should still explore possible program options.

“There’s always an aspect of fear and risk when you’re traveling abroad and when you’re studying abroad. That isn’t going to go away,” Muegge said.

“There’s lots of opportunities, so I would say don’t let the nervousness stop you from talking about it, because you might learn about a program or an experience that you didn’t know existed,” she said.

Plate emphasized the positive experience of learning about other cultures and yourself when studying abroad.

“I think sometimes that reward can outweigh the associated risk,” Plate said.

For students looking to learn more about study abroad and the programs available, Creighton will be hosting a virtual study abroad fair Sept. 14-18.

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