During Winter Term 2020, I studied abroad at Lawrence University’s London Centre for ten weeks. By the end of my study abroad, however, the world was shifting drastically every day in response to COVID-19 and, thus, each day meant re-evaluating and rescheduling plans in a new global context and moral lens. Back home, we were hearing about all the worry, precaution, and panic that was setting in. Yet, in London, with tube lines remaining open and streets still bustling with people, I felt distanced from that panicked mentality. Of all the surprises and challenges you find yourself met with on a study abroad, a global pandemic was not one I had thought I would encounter.

Author in London.

Returning to campus for Spring Term was something I had been looking forward to. Amidst the emotional tidal wave that comes with returning home from a study abroad experience, I was looking forward to grounding myself in the comfort and routine that Lawrence, the place that I now considered home, had always held for me.  However, that stability was soon to be taken away due to Spring Term moving online, and all the anticipation of coming back was completely disfigured as COVID-19 took hold of the world. The reunions I had imagined with friends were now gone, and in their place was a huge hole where uncertainty and anxiety lingered. 

Like always, Lawrence was there to offer support, and as a community, we all looked to each other to lean on in such a time of uncertainty. I think we all knew that the London Centre was looking out for us, and paired with the skills that living abroad had given us—like the ability to adapt and face challenges head-on—we were all able to tweak our plans and adapt to the pandemic’s effect despite being caught off-guard by it all.

Facing the task of reimagining what Spring Term was going to look like was especially hard for students who were looking forward to studying abroad in the spring, like Caroline Garrow ‘21, who was in London Winter Term and planned to continue on at the London Centre into the spring.

When asked about how she went about dealing with the sudden changes, she paid tribute to her incredibly supportive advisors who helped rework her courses and find a way to supplement the internship she was going to participate in initially. “I will admit that I spent many days trying to see how my “puzzle” would fit together again, as my London courses were a key part of my self-designed major. Hopefully I will get Humpty Dumpty to fit back together again,” said Garrow.

Reimagining Spring Term became a task that we all faced, students and professors alike, and for people like Christine Hoenigs, director of the London Centre, not having students for Spring Term certainly took some readjustments. “I have been focusing on producing more and new class materials for the new academic year, as unfortunately London Centre Spring classes couldn’t be taught online.”

In all of this, however, there is hope of a return to normal. “London will wait for you and will be here for you to explore when you are ready,” said Hoenigs. “See this as a time to prepare for a future visit, rather than time lost.”

The same holds true for all of the amazing programs that Lawrence offers. Those places will still be there waiting for you at the end of this all. In the meantime, finding new ways to engage with the place in which you expected to be living during your study abroad is a good exercise in flexibility and open-mindedness – one that will be invaluable once you finally do have the chance to go abroad.