March 20, 2020

Meg Mack, Institutional Relations Manager ‘14, shares her thoughts on the impact COVID-19 has on studying abroad, and the impact studying abroad has on COVID-19. 

The last few weeks have made it clearer than ever that we live in a global world. As students are leaving their study abroad programs early, and I hear their stories, and see their resilience, I am reminded once again of the value of studying abroad.

I think of my own time abroad, and how quickly I fell in love with the culture and the people of my new ‘home’. I learned how to deal with uncertainty, how to think more of others, and how to thrive in difficult times; all of which has come in handy over the past few weeks.

I can see all of these qualities in you, the students who have had to leave their ‘homes away from home’ early, who, due to an abundance of caution, have had to put their study abroad dreams on hold, or even cancel them. While disappointment and tears are in no short supply, adaptability and gratitude for your time abroad, are what I am seeing the most.

It makes me feel incredibly proud and lucky to work with such students, and to work with my colleagues as we all struggle to help you through all of the uncertainty and confusion. Our teams abroad and here in the States are working round-the-clock to support you, our students, and help you continue with your academic progression as much as possible. As you leave your study abroad experiences, your colleges, and even in some cases, your final year of college, please know that we feel your heartbreak.

Social distancing is the order of the day, and for the time being, that means that you have had to put studying abroad, along with many other important life events, aside in order to be safe and to protect others. It is important that we all follow the CDC guidelines, do our parts to limit the spread, and (of course) continue to wash our hands.

But as I continue to talk with students, I’m excited to see those planning for their future, and including possible study abroad in those plans. Arcadia’s long history in study abroad started right after World War II. Seventeen brave young women went abroad to explore post-war Europe’s economics on a bicycle tour. And there will be post-COVID-19 study abroad as well.

In his reflection of the changes during the last few weeks, Hamish Thompson, our Resident Director in Scotland, focused on the concept of ‘home’. Studying abroad changes our definition of home, and opens it up to homes of our family, homes of our hearts, and homes of the mind. You have had to say goodbye to your newest definition of home, but know that the impact of your time abroad will never truly leave you. For the rest of your life, that home will always be there to welcome you back.

We have a long road ahead with lots of uncertainty and fluidity, but that road has a light at the end of the tunnel, as we all work together to solve the now and begin to look to the future.

Keep calm, keep healthy, keep safe, and please, keep dreaming!