Small colleges, big problems, with study abroad cancellations

Print More

By JOE DANDRON
Capital News Service

LANSING — COVID-19 has thrown travel under the bus, but what’s happening to Michigan students who are already abroad or who expected to soon head overseas? 

Some are coming home, but tough travel restraints imposed by President Donald Trump have complicated matters for students in Europe who want to return to the U.S.  

Michigan’s universities and colleges are abruptly bringing back students who usually have paid in full for their credits, living expenses and plane tickets when studying abroad.

Kalamazoo College shut down all upcoming trips. It then offered an alternative trip to Costa Rica, said Rei Gundy of Ann Arbor, who was scheduled to go to Spain.

But that trip was canceled too, he said. Now he faces the struggles of enrolling late in on-campus classes that already began.

“Initially, before it was even canceled, I was thinking about not going,” Gundy said. “They told us we weren’t going to Spain a little late, I thought. It’s been stressful.” 

Unlike most other Michigan colleges, K-College still offers in-person classes.

The pre-med junior said he was forced to find classes late for the final academic quarter of this school year. He’s had trouble finding one that fits his schedule as a basketball player. 

K-College isn’t the only one in Michigan with problems.

For example, Cornerstone University saw its own study abroad program coordinator quarantined for fear of the virus.

Some institutions swiftly brought students back from Europe, South America and Asia, Albion College among them.

“We’ve got less than 50 (students) a year for semester-long study abroad. We have told everyone to come back,” said Cristen Casey, the director of Albion’s Center for International Education.

“The college requires students to follow all state and national regulations when returning and they are required to stay off campus for 14 days upon returning,” she said.

Albion students can still complete their coursework since the college’s study abroad participants take all their classes online, Casey said.

Hope College had about 100 students abroad nationally and internationally, according to Greg Olgers, the college’s director of news media services.

Both schools said their first priority is doing everything they can to help students as they return. 

Albion brought students back quickly, Casey said, because the “first priority is health and safety.”

“The next step is taking care of those financial factors,” she  said. “But we aren’t there yet.”

In Gundy’s case, he said he hasn’t felt a financial hit, but some students have been forced to absorb the unexpected cost of more than $1,000 for plane tickets, plus other expenses.