Reflections From a Study Abroad Alumna: "Fear is a Natural Response"

Selfie of Catherine on a boat in the Norway
Posted by Catherine Lemus on

Major: Marketing
Location: Norway, 2019

As a study abroad alumna, what thoughts do you have surrounding study abroad programs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Catherine with a group of friends in NorwayIt is sad to see so many people across the world dealing with the same scary situation. At the same time, I am glad to see students being supported in their studies, no matter where they are at. I am thankful to have studied abroad last semester because now I feel so much more connected to the stories I see on the news each day. The majority of the friends I made while studying abroad are Europeans so it is sad to see countries like Spain and Italy being on even greater lock-down than us. Regardless, it is comforting to know I can still Skype and Face Time them (which we all plan to do this week) and reconnect emotionally despite the distance. I hope that others who are or have studied abroad are feeling a similar sense of community with their fellow exchange students. 

How do you think we should communicate about the importance of global education, given that travel is a scary thought for many right now?

Catherine posing with friends in front of monument in NorwayGlobal education builds empathy which is one thing that I think is lacking by some. Of course, we naturally worry about ourselves and close family first, but a global education makes all the stories on the news about other countries so much closer to home. It is important to build a sense of global community for students and studying abroad is a great way to do that! 

What advice do you have for students currently studying abroad?

Take comfort from the fact that much of the world is doing exactly what you are, staying in homes or dorms or apartments and trying to reduce close physical contact. Also, they should be proud to be learning first-hand how other countries handle critical times such as these. Even if the country they are in is not handling things the way we are in the US, this is a great way to recognize that there is no such thing as "normal" or the right way to handle tough times. Hopefully, they can appreciate that everyone is doing their best! Also, fear is a natural response but it is important to see that every country is putting an honest effort into doing good for themselves. 

Catherine in front of a picuresque yellow house in NorwayWould you study abroad again?

Absolutely! The relationships I built on study abroad are irreplaceable and have helped me to become more engaged in an empathetic way with the news and media. I would study abroad in the next 6 months, in fact, I am already researching flights back to Europe for the end of the summer. I don't want to do harm by traveling freely as a tourist while this virus is trying to be contained but I also think that human connection is a beautiful thing that should be somewhat embraced. 


Categories: Alumna, Global Engagement, Lessons, Marketing, Norway