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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Off-campus study proceeds, but not without hiccups

Two+students+flying+on+their+countrys+flag+meeting+in+the+middle+of+two+computers.+Graphic+by+Elisa+Lanusse.
Graphic by Elisa Carrasco Lanusse.

Nick Parker `23 arrived on the Grinnell campus when he was 18 years old. When he steps foot on it again, he’ll be nearly 21. “I will have been a Grinnell student for over three years,” said Parker, “[but], I will have spent a combined, you know, 30 or 40 weeks there.”

All classes besides the class of 2025 have had a portion of their on-campus college experience interrupted by COVID-19, but Parker’s situation is unique: he is one of just under 50 students studying off-campus this fall as some countries loosen COVID restrictions and begin allowing international students back within their borders. In an email to the S&B, Director of Off-Campus Study Alicia Stanley wrote that this fall, Grinnellians are studying off-campus in 20 countries across the globe.

Parker will be spending his 2021-2022 school year abroad at the London School of Economics – a significant shift from his original curricular plans. “My junior year I planned to go to Russia. I thought I was a Russian major,” Parker said.

“Or,” he added, “I was trying to be a Russian major.”

With language classes moving online and intermediate Russian not even offered during the first quarter of the 2020-2021 school year, Parker came to terms with the fact that these external factors meant it wouldn’t be possible for him to advance in the language quickly enough to successfully study abroad in Russia.

“It came to the point where I was like, I haven’t spoken Russian in five or six months, and even before that, that month that I had – the last month I’ve spoken Russian – was online,” said Parker. “I felt so stuck with it and so out of practice and I knew that it would be back online … I kind of just gave up.”

He wasn’t alone: Stanley wrote that “OCS advisers have worked hard to provide deferral and program change options to help students make progress towards their degrees and stay on track to graduate on time.” But for some students, those program changes may be more significant than others.

With his Moscow dreams dashed, Parker took matters into his own hands: this winter, instead of going the traditional route through the Institute for Global Engagement on campus, he reapplied for Grinnell approval, and instead decided to study abroad at the London School of Economics for the 2021-2022 school year.

“You’re dealing with so many levels of government and bureaucracy. At a certain point, you just have to fill out the forms and hope everything works out,” Parker said.

Parker is confident that his off-campus study will go as planned, and so are other students: Stanley wrote that there are around 130 students scheduled to study off-campus this spring, which is “comparable to pre-pandemic enrollment.”

Stanley also wrote that “managing continued changing local conditions and COVID restrictions has been another challenge for us as well as students,” but that at this time, the only programs that are truly shut down are those that take place in countries with closed borders, such as Australia and New Zealand. While COVID uncertainty has derailed majors, curriculum and past off-campus study, students and staff remain hopeful for the future.

(Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect the correct process for changing study abroad programs. A previous version of the article said Parker applied directly to the London School of Economics without Grinnell approval. The S&B regrets this error deeply. Updated on October 5, 2021, 10:37 pm.)

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Lilli Morrish, Arts Editor
Lilli is a second-year something-or-other major with a linguistics concentration, hailing from a small town in Oregon where the movie Coraline was set and whose main industry is theatre. She would like to talk to you about children's books, multilevel marketing, and your favorite bugs (preferably with pictures).
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