In the midst of a global pandemic, travelling abroad seems so far removed from reality that it’s almost fantasy.
The thoughts of a warm rush of air as you take your first step onto the Mediterranean tarmacadam of the runway brings a tear to the eye. Gone are the days of sightseeing and gracefully air-conditioned museums and never-ending art galleries. Even the very notion of being surrounded by an entirely different culture and language is almost asinine.
For many Trinity students, including myself, next year’s Study Abroad represented all of these ambitions. New friends in foreign places. Imagine the 2002 classic film, When In Rome, but with slightly fewer 15-year-olds and slightly more alcohol. A Mary Poppins-style bag of neverending stories to recite at opportune moments. An entirely new vocabulary of ill-pronounced phrases that your Irish friends don’t understand, and don’t care to. Maybe an attempt at a full fringe or a tres European long black coat, that all the Parisian girls are wearing. The simple opportunity to break boundaries of pretension and to not feel even a little bit ashamed of it.
At this point, it’s hard to recite something that coronavirus hasn’t marred or entirely destroyed. Weddings, funerals, birthdays, religious holidays, our precious St Patrick’s Day, have all been silently passing – with little or no recognition allowed.
On a much smaller, much less cardinal scale, the ramifications of this virus have left students all around the country at a complete loss as to the future of their studies. While many fear the effects online teaching may have on their academic success and mental health, others are apprehensive about the repercussions of rejoining with classmates in such close proximity.
If students are to go abroad, there is accommodation to be booked, flights to be organised and general personal preparation for moving to a new country
For those of us hoping to spend their next academic year abroad, coronavirus has shrouded all hopes of a new way of life in a layer of doubt and ambivalence. While other colleges have made the difficult, yet perhaps mollifying decision to either cancel or postpone study abroad for hopeful students, Trinity – somewhat habitually – has left its students in the dark.
If students are to go abroad, there is accommodation to be booked, flights to be organised and general preparation for moving to a different country.
Moving abroad can be a colossal change in a young person’s life, and for those who live at home during the academic year, it will be their first opportunity to envisage a life away from comfort and familiarity. As more and more time passes for students, without any clear message from Trinity about where exactly they are going to be living and studying next year, anxieties grow and doubts develop.
While we find ourselves caught up in the turbulence of a global pandemic, Trinity’s lack of effective communication skills leaves students lacking concrete knowledge about their futures and suggests an attitude of flippancy when it comes to College’s concerns over its students’ wellbeing.
For language students, the Study Abroad programme is indispensable for the opportunity it provides to enhance vocabulary, grammar and general fluency. It does not take a linguist to know that to surround oneself in the culture and language of a country is the most effective way to enrich one’s relationship with language learning. For many language degrees in Trinity, some time spent abroad is vital in fulfilling the requirements to graduate, so a lapse of clear communication from the college is troubling.
Afternoons spent in the Louvre or tours around the Sagrada Familia aren’t quite as compelling when you can’t afford the Metro pass to get there
As for those who must fund their year abroad without the financial aid of families or the government, this time of economic hardship is especially perturbing. Many students will find themselves struggling to find work this summer following the closure of countless industries, and the added strain of spending next year in an overpriced city with little or no savings is a daunting prospect.
Afternoons spent in the Louvre or tours around the Sagrada Familia aren’t quite as compelling when you can’t afford the Metro pass to get there.
If Erasmus and Study Abroad programmes are not to go ahead, it is time for Trinity to make a concrete decision. A year abroad is a big life event, which requires lots of planning. When coupled with the ever-pressing, inescapable threat of global extinction, it’s a quarantine cocktail from hell.
As universities around the country make decisions, Trinity students are reliant on the College to make a decision.
It may not be an easy decision to make, and it may result in mass disappointment, but it is imperative that College rapidly communicates with students. With angst already running so high among students, Trinity needs to put an end to this indecision, and follow the actions of other third-level institutions. It really is the least it can do – my budding full fringe depends on it.