Globally Integrated Semester Provides Study Abroad Alternative

As part of Dickinson’s coronavirus restrictions for spring 2021, full-semester study abroad programs remained canceled. However, a new option created through the Center for Global Study and Engagement—the Globally Integrated Semester (GIS)—is combining a global focus with a shortened travel experience. 

The decision to cancel study abroad was seen as an inevitability by many and a surprise for few. Bethany Petrunak’22 said that it came as no surprise to her that study abroad will be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as many nations are struggling with the virus “and sending students abroad at this time would be a dangerous decision.” 

Ellery Coleman’22, expressed disappointment with the school’s decision, but said “I understand that the pandemic circumstances simply don’t make study abroad for the foreseeable future safe.” However, Coleman said that she is hopeful that “if it is safe in the fall, I absolutely want to see academic departments do everything the can to make it workable for seniors to study abroad in fall 2021.”

In the same email sent out, notifying students that study abroad was canceled, Dickinson announced that they will be “offering students the opportunity to participate in a global learning, cohort experience.” Sophomores and juniors are eligible. This global learning environment will give students the ability to take courses, participate in workshops, and “COVID-19 conditions permitting, travel to the Dickinson program site linked to their globally integrated course for three weeks after the end of the spring semester.” 

After taking part in coursework and intercultural workshop offerings, students will have the chance to travel abroad for two to three weeks at the semester’s end. The GIS course offerings are connected, in total, to Dickinson sites in twelve different countries. 

In one course, “Argentine Adventures Through Contemporary Literature”, students will be reading novellas (short novels or long stories) in Spanish and conducting analysis and conversation. When the class travels to Argentina at the close of the spring, Angela DeLutis-Eichenerger, an associate professor of Spanish, has a wide-ranging list of activities planned to build ties to their place of travel. 

“[Resident Director] Eliana [Torres] and I first anticipate a guided tour through Mendoza”—the Argentinian city where several of the course’s authors lived—”including the paseo [walkway] Di Benedetto (named for one of the authors to be studied in Carlisle, Antonio Di Benedetto),” Delutis-Eichenerger wrote in a typed response. This first immersion will be followed over the weeks by visits to military monuments, a hike into Mendoza’s mountains, and interactions with students at the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo (UNCUYO) who have studied at Dickinson.

On the other side of the globe, students will have the opportunity to test out language skills developed in Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Chinese GIS classes. Christine Liu, a visiting assistant professor of East Asian studies, will be leading classes during the semester, and hopes to spark a passion for the language in students “whether they plan to visit China in summer 2021 or not.”

“During the international travel portion, my students will learn with their Chinese instructor in Beijing and learn by ‘living in it,’” Liu explained. “On the one hand, students will take intensive Chinese language classes in a classroom setting. On the other hand, they will do sightseeing to explore Beijing and complete a specially tailored project which requires their interaction with local Chinese native speakers and observation of cultural differences.”

Because of the unpredictable developments in coronavirus spread and response around the world, GIS professors will need to be ready to alter travel and instructional plans. However, instructors seem optimistic that the international component of GIS will remain in place. 

In response to sudden restrictions, Associate Professor of French Benjamin Ngong wrote “We will just have to streamline the course content to the semester-long segment taught on Carlisle campus.” 

“But I’m very confident we will be able to proceed without any restrictions nor lockdowns because we owe that to our students,”Ngong added. Ngong’s “Intro to Francophone Studies” GIS class is slated to visit Yaoundé, Cameroon. Professor Marie Helweg-Larsen, a resident director with Dickinson in England, is equally confident about the travel plans of her “History of Science” class in Denmark. Her study tour, which she called “pandemic-resilient,” will explore the country’s Viking past, along with Danish perspectives on sustainability and happiness. 

 “Denmark has had very low rates of COVID compared to the US and has remained largely open during the pandemic,” she wrote.

The application deadline for the GIS program is November 24th. Students should email [email protected] to have their application opened, and can view a full list of course offerings on the Center for Global Study and Engagement website.