As a biochemistry and music double major, my four-year plan here at Goshen has had little room to change and has not varied much since I’ve arrived. I knew exactly what classes I would take, how my years would flow and when I would go on Study-Service Term. 

I had originally planned to go on SST the summer after my sophomore year with a group of my closest friends. 

Excitement was bubbling as we nervously prepared to live with host families, speak a language foreign to us and expand our global perspective in ways we could never imagine. 

In March, when I found out my summer SST trip to Ecuador was canceled, I remember exactly where I was, what I was doing and who I was with. 

My plans, preparations and hopes of going on a semester-long SST began to crumble.

In the midst of my shock and disappointment, I knew I had to begin to make other plans to complete SST. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to spend a semester on SST, I looked at off-campus May term options. 

I settled on Arts in London and began the preparation process again. 

Alas, when the news came that this trip was cancelled, I felt it again. 

The majority of my housemates in the intentional living community I live with had planned on doing some sort of SST this summer, either semester-long or May term. 

The newly-familiar shroud of disappointment and frustration returned and stayed for a while.

For others, there is still hope. 

For me, I am left with a stubborn four-year plan that doesn’t allow me to go on SST off campus during my time here at Goshen. 

My father is from Beijing, so my family has traveled to China many times in my life. I started going to China at a very young age; however, every time I go, I feel humbled by the vast cultural differences and the expansive global perspective I gain. 

Knowing the impact and importance of traveling to a place that will offer new experiences that humble and broaden our minds, I feel saddened for the people whose only chance to have those experiences would’ve been while attending SST at Goshen and now cannot.

At Goshen, SST is part of our heritage and is something that attracts many students. 

I know it attracted me. 

Knowing how my heart can be changed by new cultural experiences, I felt excited for an experience of my own. 

It feels frustrating, for more than just myself, to miss out on this opportunity and others due to COVID-19. However, hope is not lost. 

I know many who are still striving to complete SST sometime before they graduate, fighting for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity the off-campus semester will provide. 

Many are planning on trying for a domestic SST option, something that would provide a broadening of perspective of our own nation. Others are planning for SST or May term at a later date. 

As for me (and my trusty four-year plan), I am left completing all of my SST requirements on campus through alternative classes. 

While learning about different cultures, languages and topics within global perspectives is vastly educational, it’s nowhere near experiential. 

Nothing compares to living it. 

However, Goshen has instilled in me the curiosity that I will carry with me through all my future travels, a desire to learn and open my heart to new experiences with new people in new places. 

Just as the pandemic has been unpredictable, I have faith that there will be wonderfully unpredictable moments of good and joy that I will experience in my time on campus as well as my future travels, post-pandemic.

Ainslee Zou is a junior double majoring in biochemistry and music. She is from Bristol, Indiana. Zou is also a member of the Student Ministry Team on campus.