Goshen College announced last Tuesday that international courses scheduled for this summer and May term have been canceled due to concerns with the coronavirus.
Study-Service Term programs are expected to resume in fall 2021.
The courses affected by this decision are arts in London, filmmaking in Japan, hiking the Inca Trail in Peru and the summer SST units to Ecuador and Senegal.
Canceling these courses was a decision made based on four criteria: little positive movement has occurred in COVID-19 rates or changes in State Department and CDC travel restrictions at present; there is faint hope of being able to vaccinate students and faculty by departure deadline; SST programs are highly relational and involve extensive contact with host families and service placements, severely compromising the program; and recognizing that students need to plan now for their May and summer terms.
Seniors are now left to figure out how to finish their requirements by the end of this summer.
Ultimately, international travel is currently a high risk activity both for the students and faculty.
“Even if we are able to travel, restrictions may determine that our program is severely compromised,” said Jan Bender Shetler, director of international education, in an email to the student body.
Suzanna Yoder, a sophomore enrolled in the Senegal SST scheduled for this summer, hoped to “get to know the culture, and spend time with host families,” she said.
She, like many of the students affected by the change, is disappointed, but understands the reasons behind the decision.
Samuel Stoner-Eby, a sophomore, was also planning to go on SST in Senegal this summer.
“It just doesn’t make sense to send a large international group under current conditions,” he said. “It doesn’t make it any less disappointing, though.”
For some students, the decision was a long time coming.
Anna Osborne was scheduled to go to Peru in May term.
“I was just waiting for them to cancel it, and I’m glad that they did now rather than later,” she said.
In order to give students enough time to make alternative plans, the decision was made several months before the scheduled departure.
“We could see enough of the trends to cast grave doubt on our ability to travel at the end of April,” Shetler said.
The cancellation forced many students to make changes to their schedules, especially those still in need of SST or SST alternative credits.
One of the options that is in development is a domestic SST unit on Hopi and Navajo reservations in Arizona.
It started as an SST alternative program, but “when the summer SSTs were cancelled, we extended this to become a full SST and put the immersive part at the end of the summer,” Shetler said.
Students on this unit will take two courses on campus over May term that will prepare them to get the most out of their time on the reservations from June 14 to July 30.
“Even though they will not be abroad, I think it’s great that they’re still trying to offer off-campus experiences,” said Brandon Jimenez, a sophomore who was planning to hike the Inca Trail this May term.
Some international May term units will be attempted at a later date, like filmmaking in Japan.
Kyle Hufford, professor of film, intends to offer the trip again next year in hopes that current students will get the opportunity to try filmmaking in a new setting.
Eric Miller, a junior, was going to take the trip to Japan, but is not sure if he will be able to go even if it gets rescheduled.
“A film student will likely never get this kind of opportunity ever again in their schooling, thus Goshen should be doing everything it can to give students the opportunity to go,” he said.
Goshen College is planning to resume international SST units to Ecuador and China next fall.
“Of course, we are all fully aware that this pandemic is not entirely predictable,” Shetler said. “But all indications are that we will be able to travel and to open our programs again in the fall.”