Study abroad students continue international studies online

Baylor study abroad students were disappointed to be sent back home, but plan to continue international studies through online classes. Photo courtesy of Dr. Ginger Hanchey

By Elisabeth George | Reporter

The Office of the President announced earlier this month that all international mission trips and study abroad programs would be canceled this summer, but the University will, “explor[e] alternative opportunities and experiences for students as well as the possibility of opening up additional course sections over the summer months”. However, the effects have been far more immediate for current study abroad students and professors.

Waco junior Timothy Watson was studying at the State University of Economics in St. Petersburg. He is currently self-isolation for 14 days at his home in Waco. Watson said he will continue his semester through online courses with the university in St. Petersburg and started classes Thursday.

“I’m not sure how things are going to shake out here, but I might adjust my sleep schedule to be awake during St Petersburg time so I can be more present there. Because life here is online, so there’s no downside,” Watson said. “I made a lot of great contacts during the time that I was there, I made some wonderful progress in language. And I would like to continue building those relationships from a distance, if possible.”

Watson said that coming back to Waco was a personal choice.

“Baylor sent out their mandate [for students to return] about a week ago, but because my parents live in St Petersburg, I was granted an exception [with the program] to stay in the city … because I was essentially home … I still could have technically stayed in my program and done it all by the book and been above board, [but] I would have been assuming a lot of risks.” Watson said.

Watson said that with the level four travel warning issued by the State department, he felt it was best to return to Waco where, if things got worse, he felt confident in obtaining supplies and, if necessary, medical help.

Dr. Ginger Hanchey, lecturer for the Baylor English department, is the director for the spring 2020 Baylor in St. Andrews program. Hanchey and her family, as well as 15 Baylor students, were supposed to stay until the last week of May.

“We were disappointed, of course, when it became clear that we would need to go home — but home was the place we all wanted to be during this pandemic. And we tried to hold our own disappointment alongside the more significant tragedy of what the world was going through,” Hanchey said.

The students will finish their semester online through St. Andrews.

Hanchey said her favorite picture from the semester was taken on their last day in Scotland.

“For background, we walked to a nearby cathedral built in the 1100s. So, there we are, standing in the rain, in the freezing, in a graveyard, by a ruin, and it would be easy to say, ‘Well, that sums this semester up,’, but in the picture, we are all smiling huge smiles (except my 6-year-old). We’re linked together with our arms and hands. The blue North Sea is somewhere behind us,” Hanchey said. “And I’ve looked at the picture a lot since I’ve been home because it puts me in mind of the people and place I grew to love in such a short amount of time, and also of the great scale of human tragedy and hopefulness that we get to be a part of. This, to me, is what the best stories and the best life experiences are all about.”