After spending much of the past year away from campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students are reconsidering their plans to study off campus during the 2021-22 academic year. The Office of Off-Campus Study received fewer applications for study away this year than in previous years, with a majority of applications being for the spring semester rather than for the fall.
Last year, 339 students applied to study off campus for at least one semester during the 2020-21 academic year. That number has dropped to 209 applications for the 2021-22 academic year—a 38 percent decrease. Of the 209 students who have applied to study away for at least one semester next year, only 66 plan to study away during the fall semester.
Esther Park ’23 initially planned to study away, but she has now decided against it because of the disruption to her college experience caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I chose to come to Bowdoin specifically because I wanted that quintessential ‘we’re all on campus together’ kind of college experience,” Park said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “Because we were missing out on potentially a year and half of that, I thought it would be more valuable to me to be on campus and take classes here and spend time with my peers and my friends on campus.”
Director of Off-Campus Study and International Programs Christine Wintersteen said in a Zoom interview with the Orient that students are thinking about their options more carefully after missing time on campus.
“I think this pandemic has made [students] even more intentional about their choice about whether to study off campus,” she said. “Students have to identify and have a really clear understanding of why they’re studying off campus in the upcoming year, which is probably related to the decrease.”
Wintersteen said that travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic have also complicated students’ decisions. For instance, Australia and New Zealand announced that they will not allow foreigners to study in the country until 2022. This has forced students who want to study in these countries to pick an alternative program, defer study away until the spring or stay on campus.
The number of students planning to study away in the spring—164—is similar to the number of students who have applied to study abroad during the spring in previous years, Wintersteen said.
“The spring number is relatively strong, but I also think that that might also be based off of fall students who deferred to the spring. So the overall number is down, and then the fall number is low,” Wintersteen said.
Luke Porter ’23 applied to study abroad for a full year in Freiberg, Germany. In a Zoom interview with the Orient, he said he had always anticipated studying abroad in college. Porter did not see a reason to change his plan because of the pandemic, though he is still unsure if his program will run in the fall.
“When I made the decision I kind of assumed that Germany would just be doing better than we are, but with the rate of vaccinations there, that might not actually be true,” Porter said. “I hope that I’ll be vaccinated and even if I’m socially isolated there’s no reason to not be socially isolated there versus here.”
Jaida Hodge-Adams ’23 also applied to study off campus next year, but unlike Porter, she is still not certain about her decision to go abroad.
“I really do think that, since I’m planning on concentrating in international relations, I want to be able to get a more global perspective,” she said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “But I think my biggest concern, and the only thing that would make me stay home, I guess, is the fact that we were off last semester. And so I don’t want to feel like I wasn’t able to experience Brunswick, or be able to like experience life on campus to its fullest extent either.”