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15 students study abroad as countries close borders

February 12, 2021

In addition to transforming life on campus, COVID-19 has complicated the plans of students who were intending to study off campus during the 2020-21 school year. Only 15 of the 29 students who, as of this past fall, intended to study off-campus were able to, three of whom are studying with domestic programs while the rest are at various institutions in the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom was the only country that did not restrict access to visiting students and offered programs in line with Bowdoin’s requirements to study abroad.

Programs in Denmark, China and Germany canceled or went remote in January. Twelve students who were set to travel to Copenhagen were barred from the country after stricter lockdown measures were put into effect. The country entered a second COVID-19-related lockdown in mid-January that closed schools, universities and nonessential businesses, as well as preventing travel.

“DIS Copenhagen alerted all of its participants that Denmark had shifted its regulation in terms of entering the country,” said Director of Off-Campus Study Christine Wintersteen in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “So they had significantly modified [their] program by offering an entirely remote semester with a small chance of later allowing students to travel.”

Though students were given the possibility of entering the country in March or April, every Bowdoin student who had previously signed up for the program opted out and decided either to return to campus or to take a personal leave of absence from the College.

Lynn Nguyen ’22 had intended  to study abroad with DIS Copenhagen but is now living on campus for the semester.

“Denmark had an exception for visiting students to enter the country, but that ended days before I was supposed to fly,” said Nguyen in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “That’s when Christine Wintersteen reached out to help me transition back to Bowdoin classes if I wanted to.”

Because of the College’s delayed opening, there was time to accommodate students with housing and classes between when their program canceled in-person classes and when Bowdoin’s semester started.

“It was really smooth,” said Nguyen. “After I indicated that I’d prefer to take Bowdoin classes, I got so many emails—from Lisa Rendall helping with housing [to] the registrar helping with classes, I felt very supported.”

Due to similar COVID-19 regulations, spring programs in China and Germany closed their doors to visiting students as well.

Wintersteen also highlighted that 300 sophomores indicated an interest in studying abroad at some point next year according to a survey in November, and she will be reevaluating interest throughout the application period, which began on Wednesday.

“I think it will continue to be one of those opportunities that you have to keep tabs on—highlighting which program you know of, how the virus is proceeding, how the vaccine rollout is proceeding, how U.S. State Department travel advisory levels shift or don’t shift, whether certain countries close [their] borders or not,” said Wintersteen. “For example, New Zealand and Australia have already made decisions that they’re keeping the borders closed through the end of 2021. So that means [that spending the] fall in Australia or New Zealand is not possible.”


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