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Brandeis students return to study abroad

Students travelled to Siena and Copenhagen this summer, and more than 50 are abroad this semester.

Images of students in Siena and CopenhagenPhoto/Courtesy

Laura Walkup ’23 wasn’t sure until a few weeks before her plane left for Cophenagen if she would actually be able to study abroad. 

“I viewed this as my one chance to study abroad, since the middle part of my college experience was interrupted by COVID,” said Walkup, an economics and business major from Framingham, Massachusetts. “Up until the week before we left, it would have been very difficult for us to get into the country.”

But, after months of requiring quarantines for travelers, Denmark suddenly opened its doors to vaccinated students without a quarantine requirement.

“I don’t think I was really truly believing it until I was there,” Walkup said. “But as soon as we got there, it was amazing.” 

Walkup visited art museums and renewable energy projects and studied different agricultural techniques in Denmark, while also getting to know Copenhagen, fulfilling course requirements, and making new friends.

She was one of 19 Brandeis students who studied abroad during summer 2021, the first Brandeis students to go abroad since global academic programs were paused due to the pandemic in March 2020. 

Eighteen of those students studied in Brandeis-run programs—six on the Brandeis in Siena: Making, Seeing, and Mastering Art in Tuscany program and 12 in Brandeis in Copenhagen: Business and Economics in Denmark. One studied abroad on another approved program in Ghana. 

Aileen Cahill ’23, a triple major in Education Studies, English, and Art History, from Worcester, Massachusetts, had her eye on the Brandeis in Siena program since her first year on campus. It was an experience she won’t forget.

“Anywhere from 2 to 5 days a week, we were out in the field, at a museum or at a church or taking a trip to Florence,” Cahill said. “We were very engaged in the art and culture, and very lucky to be able to do that.” 

This fall, Brandeis has more than 50 students going abroad for the semester or the year in places like Mexico, Ecuador, Ghana, South Korea, and throughout Europe. 

“We are really excited to be able to have Brandeis students abroad once again,” said Alisha Cardwell, director of Study Abroad. “While it looks a little different, the goals and the benefits remain the same, to help students build flexibility, communication, and to experience studying and living in another location and culture.” 

The Office of Study Abroad took extra health and safety precautions this summer to make sure students could travel securely and still have a rewarding academic experience, and will continue to do so for programs throughout the year. The office considered shifting quarantine requirements and testing policies in determining the safety of programs and developed plans in case any student got sick while overseas. All Brandeis students are required to be fully vaccinated prior to studying abroad.

“I knew that going abroad would be safe, and that Brandeis would be taking safety measures,” said Jasper Wolf ’24, an art history major and pre med student from Durham, North Carolina, who studied in Siena. “It felt like a really cool opportunity, and I wanted to take advantage of it.” 

Seeing how other countries were responding to COVID was part of the experience. In Italy, where vaccination rates are lower, students said they noticed more masks than before they left the United States. They also took advantage of many outdoor activities. In Denmark, where vaccination rates are higher, students said they felt more relaxed than at home. In both countries, tourists weren’t as present as in “normal” years. 

“It is a crazy time in the world, that’s kind of what made it so great,” said Geoff Clarke, a lecturer in economics and faculty director of the Brandeis in Copenhagen program. “One of the real benefits of the program was that the students got a chance to get back to ‘normal,’ to experience a place where things have been run pretty well COVID-wise. It was really terrific.”  

Students who had not been on campus yet or not been on campus prior to COVID were able to connect with each other in person for the first time. Because Copenhagen students couldn’t travel to other countries for the weekend, as in past years, the students became a close-knit group. 

The same was true in Italy, where students had the opportunity to experience the wonders of Renaissance art without being surrounded by the typical throngs of summer tourists. 

“I’ve been to Italy before and it definitely felt different,” Wolf said. “Because the places we went to were less packed, it was much more personal, you had a more intimate experience with the exhibits, with the art, the monuments, and the sites.” 

The study abroad experience may be different than it used to be, but it is still well worth it, Walkup said.

“Even if you’re not getting the experience you would have gotten two years ago, you’re getting a new experience,” she said. “At some point we are going to have to go back to a more ‘normal’ lifestyle. Studying abroad helped me with that.”

Categories: Arts, Business, Student Life

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