With fundraising money collected and arrangements made, junior Spanish major Mckala Lindsey was more than ready to study abroad in Chile this summer. However, her plans were suddenly uprooted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 18, the university canceled in-person classes for the remainder of the semester in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. For many students, this announcement also meant the cancellation of important events and trips.
“I attempted to move my study abroad to this coming fall. That program got canceled as well,” said Lindsey.
Chair of the department of modern foreign languages and cultures Dr. Tim Fox explained that the department is dropping the graduation requirement to study abroad for certain students due to the circumstances brought about by COVID-19.
“We are only waiving the study abroad experience for the current cohort of majors that were planning on studying abroad this summer or next fall,” Fox said. “They will still be required to complete the six hours of credit that comprise the study abroad, but we will be offering six hours of courses at the upper level for those students this summer in summer school.”
According to Lindsey, she has already completed many of the upper-level Spanish courses that are offered at AU. Lindsey explained that she believes the classes offered instead of studying abroad may not be as challenging as her current classes.
“Instead of going to a foreign country to advance my language skills and cultural competency, I am remaining stagnant in my language development,” said Lindsey. “As someone who plans to go to grad school for Spanish, this also places me in a difficult position as my language skills will not be as developed as others that are applying for the program, and I will not have a study abroad experience on my application.”
She has also found it challenging to adapt to her new schedule while managing her new responsibilities at home.
“I am stuck spending most of my days helping my brothers with their class work—leaving me to have to wait until the evening to even get started on my material for the day,” She said. “Then I have an entire day’s worth of assignments to complete in just a few hours.”
According to Linsdey, her professors are opting out of doing Zoom meetings. Instead, they are assigning more homework to supplement the hour-long class that they would normally have.
Lindsey isn’t the only one struggling with the new challenges. Senior nursing major Tucker Sorrells also had plans that were canceled. He explained that nursing majors were going on an intercultural trip that they had been planning for over a year.
“We were all so excited to go to these places and enter cultures and healthcare systems we were unfamiliar with,” Sorrells said . “All the seniors before us had told us how amazing and life-changing their trips had been—and then to have ours ripped away was so heartbreaking.”
Sorrells’s nursing classes that require excessive hands-on experience were drastically changed.
“The other day we had a trauma simulation,” said Sorrells. “Usually this is done in our simulation lab so we really get a good feel for what providing care to a trauma patient is like. Instead, we had to really just watch videos of trauma care and imagine ourselves in the shoes of the people in the video.”
Sorrells explained that this was a difficult learning experience because he is a “tactile and kinetic learner.” He also said the distractions at home make it challenging to find the motivation to do school work.
Many other students are also discovering how hard it is to be motivated to do school work while at home. Junior national security major Bryson Sleppy has been challenged to find the balance between his free time and his school work.
“At school, I was busy and always had things going,” said Sleppy. “I was able to plan out my days and when I would do my school work. While at home, I have nothing else going on, so I have to force myself to stop playing video games or watching YouTube and get work done.”
He has also struggled with having no in-person interactions with his fellow students and friends, as well as his co-workers at Reardon Auditorium where Sleppy works as an audio engineer.
“I really miss working with the Reardon crew—especially with all the events like Spring into Dance, CIY, Encore and commencement that were coming up,” said Sleppy.
He explained that the shift to e-learning was no surprise to him and his fellow classmates in his Intelligence class.
The class has briefings where students are each assigned different topics, such as China, ISIS or the world’s economy, to keep track of the entire semester.
Each Tuesday they get 90 seconds to brief the professor and the class on what happened in their topic that week, so the COVID-19 pandemic was no surprise to those students who were up-to-date on the progress of the virus every week since the start of the semester.
“I think for our major, the forced shift to e-learning is preparing us to be able to be more well-rounded within our career field—such as being solid in online interviews and briefing groups of people virtually through a video-conferencing software or a pre-recorded video, both of which we practice weekly,” said Sleppy.
Sleppy encouraged his classmates that all of this will be over eventually.
“Spending your time during this quarantine fearmongering and fearing for the worst is not a healthy use of your time,” Sleppy said. “Go outside, enjoy some fresh air—one of the few things that is not restricted at this time—and take care of yourself.”