Fight or Flight: Chapman Study Abroad Still Up In The Air

Chapman students have to decide if they feel safe enough to study abroad, with COVID-19 and a potential world war threatening at the same time. Graphic illustration by Scott.

Ava McLean has always dreamed of studying abroad in Japan. But when that time finally came, COVID-19 sent all her hopes and wishes for the journey crashing down.

Ava McLean (right) and her friend Kylia LaMure (left) who both had their study abroad trips canceled. Photo courtesy of McLean.

Her trip was canceled. Twice.

Now, she has just one more chance to try and achieve at least a sliver of her dream.

“I don’t have the option of going to Japan anymore, so I’m doing a summer abroad in Australia,” the junior animation major said. “Hopefully, with the new variants and the potential world war, I can at least do that.”

Like McLean, many students planning to travel abroad face the issues of the ongoing pandemic and the fear of a potential world war. However, Patrick Fuery, a summer study abroad professor and former dean of Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, is confident that it can go ahead while continuing to be safe and enjoyable.

Patrick Fuery, a Chapman professor and former longtime dean of Wilkinson College. Photo from Chapman University’s staff page.

“I was in London and Stockholm in mid-April and found travel easy and safe,” Fuery said. “There are of course aspects of those cities that have changed due to COVID, but everyone is enjoying the sense that life is returning to normal.”

Junior Alex Ford, who went through an outside program to study abroad in London this semester, mentioned that her program — via Arcadia University — has many safety procedures in place in regard to COVID-19 and other issues.

“They have incredible health care and all that set up,” she said. “We also receive weekly emails from them in regards to updates to Ukraine.”

After a year of study abroad cancellations due to COVID-19, programs are opening back up. However, some programs in Eastern Europe have been shut down due to the Russia-Ukraine war. Other universities, such as the University of Wisconsin, which has programs based in countries bordering Ukraine, have questioned if their schools should as well. 

Still, Fuery felt safe, even when close to Ukraine.

Emi Thomas, a sophomore English journalism major. Photo courtesy of Thomas.

“The cruel war that is being waged in Ukraine by Russia cannot be ignored, but the feeling [in London and Stockholm] was not dissimilar to how many people feel in the USA,” Fuery said. 

If a global conflict were on the horizon, some believe that Chapman would be of little help to students. 

“I certainly feel that if we were stranded Chapman would not help us at all, like just not do anything,” McLean said. “They’ve never been organized. I don’t have faith in their Global Center at all.” 

While sophomore Emi Thomas doubts Chapman has any protocols in place, she feels it’s more of the government’s responsibility to keep students safe than Chapman’s.

“I doubt that they’re thinking about the war because they are probably really preoccupied with what could happen with COVID,” said Thomas, the English journalism major. “Still, I hope that they’re thinking about every possible situation and making sure that every student is safe while they’re abroad.”

Daniel Garcia, a Senior Global Education Advisor at Chapman University. Photo from Chapman University’s staff page.

According to Daniel Garcia, a senior global education advisor, if something serious like a state of emergency occurs, Chapman will help coordinate the return of the study abroad students. The University will also provide socio-emotional wellness support to students impacted by these events, he said.

“Regional or global wars and local geopolitical conflicts will always impact those traveling, living, and working abroad,” Garcia said. “When situations become too dangerous, that is when institutions intervene to bring folks home or help find them safety.”

While sophomore Catie Beck knew that Chapman is prepared with COVID-19 protocols, she wasn’t sure about those regarding war. 

“I feel like there definitely should be some protocols, because there’s still a lot of conflict and fighting in the Middle East and anything could happen,” the psychology major said.

Sophia Moorehead, also a psychology major, had specific ideas about what protocols Chapman should have in place.

“I think Chapman should pay for flights back to the U.S. if we are endangered by the war in any way,” the sophomore said. “I also think they should have safe shelters and support us with food if needed.”

 Garcia said there are many safety protocols in case of emergencies and evacuations. This includes an app called AlertTraveler that sends students alerts ranging from informational warnings to critical alerts. 

“The [Center for Global Education] can send push notifications through the app and request that students indicate if they are safe or in need of help in states of emergency,” Garcia said. “This app helps us navigate global crises and monitor concerning geopolitical issues.”

Alex Ford, junior business major, in front of the London Eye Ferris wheel during her semester abroad. Photo courtesy of Ford.

However, Ford’s not too worried about global conflict or pandemic.

“I was concerned first going in, but it hasn’t deterred anyone from really traveling to countries near Ukraine. In fact, I was just in Prague,” she said. “In terms of COVID, I’m not too concerned. I think we’ve gotten to a point where if you’re boosted, you’re fine.”

While Moorehead has her concerns about the war, she agrees that COVID-19 isn’t a worry for her anymore.

“I’ve gotten COVID twice, so I am not afraid of getting it myself,” she said. “My only concern would be if I got it and had nowhere to quarantine or if I got it at the end of the semester and had nowhere to go and no support.”

But some still feel unsafe.

“It would be pretty worrying if I ended up not being able to leave Australia, especially because they’re kind of known to be anti-vaccination,” McLean said. 

Beck had a similar worry.

“There’s so many cruise ship horror stories you hear about with COVID, where the whole ship gets it or something,” she said. “So if COVID gets worse again, that will really worry me.”

Even with these concerns, Fuery is delighted to be leading his summer abroad trip again after the COVID hiatus.

“Travel is an experience quite like no other,” he said. “When we travel we immerse our self, our body and all our senses into a different environment, and in doing so experience things in a unique fashion.”

Students studying abroad largely feel it’s worth the risk.

In Thomas’s words:

“It’s now or never if I want to study abroad, so I kind of have to take this chance.”

Ford visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France during a weekend trip she took during her semester abroad. Photo courtesy of Ford.
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Sydney Scott is a sophomore studying journalism and data analytics. When she isn't writing, you can find her reading various books, discovering hidden places, or riding her favorite attractions at Disneyland.