Fall Study Abroad Students Brace for COVID-19-Related Cancellation


Isabella Breda

Students enrolled in fall study abroad programs, such as the CLU-Oxford program, are preparing their schedules for potential cancellations related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kaeleah Isaac, Reporter

Though in-person spring and summer courses at California Lutheran University are cancelled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Education Abroad still intends to offer all fall 2020 study abroad programs.

“Our priority is the health and safety of all our students studying abroad,” Director of the Office of Education Abroad, Brett Chin said. “The situation is constantly evolving, and if circumstances ultimately require us to no longer provide this opportunity, the students will be notified as soon as possible.”

Currently, Cal Lutheran’s study abroad programs offered in the fall include the University of Oxford in England, U.K., Southern Cross University in Lismore, Australia, The American Business School in Paris, France, Universidad de Guanajuato in Mexico, The Hague University, Netherlands, the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, U.K., Kristianstad University, Sweden, and the Lutheran College Washington Semester trip to Washington D.C.

Junior George Khoury is signed up to study abroad with the CLU-Oxford Program this fall. Khoury said he registered for classes at Cal Lutheran just in case his trip gets cancelled due to the global pandemic. 

“Usually, students are not allowed to register for classes just in case they do not attend their program, but they made an exception for the fall semester because of the pandemic,” Khoury said. “While I am grateful that they gave us this opportunity, I may still have issues as I am on the waitlist for some classes that I need to graduate, that I would have taken abroad… because this exception was granted a few days later than my registration time and date.” 

The travel seminar portion of the CLU-Oxford program, including cruise ship travel, has already been impacted by COVID-19 cancellations and will be adapted. 

The Office of Education Abroad is working in accordance with Cal Lutheran, The California Department of Public Health, Ventura County, Los Angeles County, Alameda County, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization and U.S. Department of State in regard to stay-at-home orders and safety protocols. 

“The Office of Education Abroad had a pre-departure meeting with fall 2020 applicants in the beginning of March informing them that there is a possibility that their education abroad program could be cancelled. The OEA also sent an email to the students after we received the messaging from Cal Lutheran that all classes were moving online to reassure the students that the Office of Education Abroad still intends to offer fall 2020 study abroad programs,” Chin said. 

However, for some students, the initial efforts from the OEA were not reassuring that their needs would be met.

“At the beginning, the Center for Global Engagement seemed both concerned and, yet, unforgiving about the whole issue,” Khoury said. “They did not seem willing to work with students regarding payment or registering for classes until after CLU moved online and they began to realize this pandemic is something that many students are, and should be, concerned about.”

Junior Allison Dickson, who is also planning on studying abroad at Oxford this fall said that if her trip were to be cancelled she would need to work to rearrange her schedule in order to be able to graduate on time. 

Khoury however, said he feels as though study abroad students will have the support they need. “People in the office [of education abroad], like Jean Moore, were very helpful and comforting during the entire process, doing their best to assure us that the issues would resolve one way or another and that they would not put us in harm’s way.” 

California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a stay-at-home order on March 19 with no set end date, making it unclear as to whether or not students will be able to return to school in the fall let alone fly overseas for education abroad. 

“I know you want the timeline, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves and dream of regretting. Let’s not make the mistake of pulling the plug too early, as much as we want to,” Newsom said during a press conference addressing potential easing for the coronavirus measures. 

According to Chin, students’ who intended to study abroad through a partner affiliate will work with the provider to receive a refund but those enrolled in Cal Lutheran abroad programs will pay the same tuition and instead attend classes on campus. 

The Office of Education Abroad plans to hold a Zoom meeting with fall 2020 study abroad students this week to continue the conversation of possible cancellations for programs as well as reassure students of their current plan.