Written by Ben Lane and Emma Jones.
Canceled study abroad programs have led to an increased number of upperclassmen planning to participate in international programs (IP) in the upcoming summer and fall semesters.
A “slightly” higher than normal number of juniors and seniors will be attending study abroad programs this summer and spring, according to Audra Pleasant, executive director of IP. Traditionally, these programs take place during students’ sophomore year when degree planning allows greater flexibility in schedules. IP does not keep records of the classification of students when they study abroad. However, Pleasant compiled data based on the number of hours students have taken, which may indicate what classification a student will be during their abroad semester. Based on the number of hours students have taken and may have taken by the end of the spring 2021 semester, over half of the students going abroad in the upcoming semesters are presumed upperclassmen: 37% are current juniors, 38% are current sophomores and 10% are current freshman.
“Especially for next fall, it does look higher than I would’ve guessed — higher than the usual percentage [of juniors and seniors],” Pleasant said.
For fall 2021, 33% of students signed up to go abroad will be sophomores, 43% will be juniors and 23% will be seniors.
Pleasant said that despite the higher number of upperclassmen, younger students have still been able to sign up for the program they want to attend. Every program for fall 2021, except for Harding University in Australasia (HUA), still has space available. There will be a “larger diversity” among students instead of an exclusion of students, Pleasant said. She believes that because so many students have deferred trips, perceptions of which school year students should study abroad may change.
Junior Zoe McCurley is currently signed up to go to Harding University in England during the fall of 2021, the first semester of her senior year, and is optimistic that the trip will not be canceled.
“I have been a little apprehensive about spending a semester abroad during my senior year, but thankfully my adviser in the [communication sciences and disorders] department has been very helpful in making sure I still get the chance to experience this once in a lifetime opportunity,” McCurley said. “Because I came into Harding with a few extra credit hours, I have stayed ahead by a semester, which has allowed me a lot of flexibility in planning my schedule around this trip.”
Several students, however, have had to cancel their abroad plans altogether. Sophomore Bradley Dodd was signed up to go on the Harding University in Greece and Florence (HUG/HUF) trip during fall 2020, then rescheduled to HUF during spring 2021, and has since decided he will not be able to take a semester abroad.
“It’s just too late in my college career to be rearranging my schedule to only take [general education courses] abroad,” Dodd said. “I just gave up after the trips were canceled twice.”
Faculty have also been affected. Dr. J.D. Yingling, professor of kinesiology, was supposed to go to HUA in fall 2020. He and his wife, Kim Yingling, who also teaches at Harding, had planned on going since the beginning of 2019. After HUA of fall 2020 was officially canceled, Yingling was not on the schedule to teach classes on campus for fall 2021 and had to “scramble” to find students to fill in classes that were added late, he said. Now, both Yinglings are set to go to HUA in fall 2022.