Abroad Students’ Experiences of Waiting, Watching, and Wondering


By Sam Anderson

In my recent article for The Quindecim called, “Waiting, Watching, and Wondering: A Response to Kent’s Leadership in the COVID-19 Pandemic,” I wrote that I had heard my sentiments about the lack of decision making and thoroughness of Goucher’s COVID-19 response reflected by my peers studying abroad around the world. After The Quindecim published my article, I decided to reach out to peers through social media and ask for testimonials of their experiences and thoughts. Here is what they had to say. [Editor’s note: names of individuals within the body of testimonials have been replaced by their position title(s).]

Parker Taggard (Sevilla, Spain)

My biggest gripe with the handling of study abroad was the size/content of information coming from Goucher. I actually preferred them holding off on the decision because it would have been disappointing to be withdrawn from the program if things didn’t become as intense as they did. Overall however, the information that was provided was sparse and inadequate, especially with the physical distance that study abroad students had from Towson.

Marissa Hamby (Costa Rica)

Watching COVID spread across the globe without any communication from Goucher caused so much anxiety, both for my friends in the countries in far worse conditions, and myself in a country seemingly safer than going home. Their email of making our own personal decisions to go home or stay abroad (before they sent everyone home to save their asses) felt very hands-off and irresponsible and unworried about our education, safety, and financial situations. I think everyone understood that the future was completely unpredictable, especially for each country, but Goucher was by no means a resource for support.

Anonymous (London, England)

I was abroad at the University of Roehampton in London. All my friends around me who were from American institutions were receiving constant emails with updates from their abroad programs. I felt left in the dust and stranded not receiving emails from Goucher updating me on potential returns. Additionally, I felt the final email urging me to come home was short, dry, and unsympathetic. That was incredibly hard to hear being alone, in a different country, during a global pandemic.

Marie Mokuba (Paris, France)

I studied in Paris this semester. Goucher’s communication concerning the COVID-19 outbreak and how it would impact students abroad was late compared to other institutions of higher education. This caused a lot of anxiety and uncertainty and I wasn’t sure if I would be getting financial assistance for my return.

Rachal Murray (Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia)

The day Goucher students studying at USC in Australia found out that we had to come home was the same day many of the other US students studying abroad were leaving. While students from other countries and the US received the email to return home, we waited for communication from Goucher which left us in panic to find flights after finally receiving it. While staff at OIS were good about replying to our endless questions about classes and tuition after receiving communication to come home, they could not give us answers because they had none. I missed 3 weeks of classes before I finally found that I would be able to continue taking them. In the end I found it best for me to withdraw from the university because information got to me too late. 

Eliza Cahill (Berlin, Germany)

As my fellow students at my program in Berlin were being sent home daily in the weeks leading up to Trump’s European travel restrictions by their home institutions, I was left in the dark, unsure if I would be sent home too. After the restrictions were announced, it was hours still until I heard from Goucher. This was a time of great stress and uncertainty for me, made worse by the delayed reactions of Goucher.

Lalissie Eteffa (London, England)

When I think back to that weekend (packing quickly, contacting my family, and trying to find a way home) I don’t know what about the process I’m most angry about. The fact that Goucher, compared to the other universities represented in my program, seemed the most unsure about what to do with their students? Or how I was receiving emails from Goucher telling me it’s my choice to come home but at the same time my program directors (who had decided to send all of their students back) were telling me that they already talked to Goucher about sending me back and my academic credits meaning that the decision was already made and Goucher didn’t contact me personally about my transition back? Where the hell do I begin?

Mikayla Hinnant (Costa Rica)

I studied in Costa Rica for the Spring 2020 Semester. My parents reached out to Goucher & we were told that despite the new cases in Costa Rica they were in constant communication with Cdc & our program coordinators. My parents ignored Goucher & booked my flight asap. When I arrived in the states Goucher sent an email on March 14 urging all study abroad students to return asap. The lack of communication & information given to us is what frustrated me the most.

Claire Corliss (Athens, Greece)

Goucher never really reached out to us. My program was updating us daily and even when the official call was made and we were called home. Goucher never reached out. I only felt like I was supported by my program in Athens.

Noah Block (South Africa)

It was incredibly frustrating that the Office of Global Education sent us no program specific information despite students from other colleges having received consistent updates and in some cases had already pulled their programs. Only after the South African government began revoking and cancelling visas did Goucher directly communicate with our program, recommending that we depart as soon as possible.

Juliana Block (London, England)

I was a bit frustrated with how slowly us students abroad were receiving information. While Goucher had already decided to go online, it felt as if we were a second thought. This was especially frustrating because the severity of cases in the UK kept rising, making me have to decide on my own to return home.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.