Putting away the suitcase for spring semester

After months of uncertain anticipation, Azusa Pacific  University canceled all international travel during the study away Spring 2021 semester. This decision was made amidst safety concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, which APU leadership has made efforts to surveil closely.

In an email addressed to spring study away students only, recipients were notified of this development. The email mentioned that domestic, virtual and summer programs “remain under consideration.”

An opportunity for eligible students to partake in their semester abroad at a later time was also provided within the email. 

“Please let us know if you would like to shift your acceptance to either Fall 2021 or Spring 2022,” the final sentence stated, granting hope for affected students.

The cancellation of these opportunities to participate in educational programs abroad has inflicted mixed reactions among those involved. Most common, students reported feeling disappointed — but not surprised. For some, however, optimism still remained.

Although she was anticipating an unideal outcome, Megan Sweeney, a sophomore liberal studies major planning to study abroad in South Africa this coming spring, found herself shocked at the announcement due to a lack of updates regarding the fate of her spring semester away. 

“I was at first a little shocked, and then pretty disappointed, even though I was expecting a ‘No’ at some point,” Sweeney shared in an interview with ZU News. 

The temporary cancellation of APU’s international study abroad programs brings more than just mixed feelings to the table. As it is academically based, students must now navigate how their course of education itself is impacted.

Some students are compelled to revise schedules and academic maps, seeing as some of their existing plans to take specific courses abroad are no longer an option. This need for revision endangers the timeline of some students who are abiding by an academic four-year plan — posing a threat to graduation dates if not re-worked.

Nanette Steenstra, a sophomore at APU double majoring in applied mathematics and spanish, previously planned to take courses in Ecuador, but now has to shift plans. 

“I became a spanish major because I wanted to study in Ecuador, and I thought I would just make the most of taking all of these spanish classes by taking them there,” Steenstra said. “But now, I have to remake my entire four-year plan, which is really inconvenient.” 

Nanette was also disappointed about the cancellation, but was also not surprised.

“I knew that it would probably be cancelled, but I was still really disappointed,” Nanette said. “I guess I had been looking forward to it more than I thought I was.” 

But Nanette remains optimistic.

“Closing one door just means opening a different door, and so I’m taking the viewpoint of ‘I’m not missing out on opportunities, I’m just opening the door to different opportunities,’” said Nanette. “It’s just going to be a different experience — and I just need to make the most of it.”

The decision to cancel international travel for the Spring 2021 semester is yet another change at the hands of the COVID-19 pandemic. But adapting to circumstances and recognizing new opportunities that may arise along the way can allow these times of uncertainty to make a bit more sense.