SBGE students grieve the loss of study abroad trip

Faculty forced to cancel spring trip to Europe due to COVID-19 outbreak

Andrew Stez, Features Editor

An airport gate with rows of empty seats
Heidi Speck
Travel, both domestic and international, has nearly ground to a halt worldwide. Study abroad programs have been canceled across the country in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Business administration majors sophomore Kayla Nasralla and junior Angelico Lesnenko would be roaming the streets of Paris, Prague and Rome right now. They intended to be traveling around Europe, while also earning credits towards a concentration in international business.

In March, due to the spread of COVID-19, it became obvious to the faculty member leading the trip, professor of business management Randy Franz that, even if it went on, it would be dramatically different from what students expected.

“At one point it was like, we maybe could do this, but even if we went the chances of us being confined to our living situations was looking more and more likely, and many of the sites and places we wanted to go visit and talk to were shutting down,” Franz said.

“So it was not going to be nearly the kind of experience we had in mind for our students,” Franz said.

It was only a matter of time before school officials made the decision to cancel the trip, forcing these students to stay home and manage the new problems that arose from cancellation ranging from cancelling flights to making a new schedule three weeks before the start of a new quarter. .

Nasralla remembered the tense moment when the students were told that the trip would be canceled during their Thursday class. School officials from the study abroad department, School of Business officials Dean Ross Stewart and Associate Director of Undergraduate Programs Jake Carlson visited to deliver the devastating news.

“I started crying, there were other people that started crying. It was very emotional,” Nasralla said. “It was just an opportunity that was taken away. None of the students talked. We were all very sad.”

They were then immediately given the next steps.

With just a few weeks left before the end of winter quarter, the students who planned to study abroad rushed to reapply for the housing that they had already withdrawn from weeks prior, set up new course schedules and cancel their flights for the trip.

Nasralla and Lesnenko said that the School of Business and Carlson helped them to register for business classes with ease, even lifting the caps for business classes that were full so these students could join given the circumstances.

An empty arrivals pickup area at an airport
Heidi Speck
The arrivals area of Seattle Tacoma International Airport is empty following widespread stay at home orders in the U.S. and abroad.

Franz also described how some students, including Lesnenko, had to switch to concentrations that they already had credits for, rather than their preferred original choice of international business. For some, this meant that their original goal of graduating with a concentration in international business by their intended graduation date of June 2020 or 2021 was no longer feasible, meaning they would have to switch to finish on time.

Nasralla also described how she had trouble enrolling in some general education courses.

“I needed to take a UFDN class and since [Jake Carlson] is part of the business program he can’t lift the caps for Gen-Ed classes. So I was waitlisted for UFDN classes and literally just got in,” Nasralla said.

Another major struggle for students was being reimbursed for their flights. While the actual experience in the cities was paid for by program fees as a part of tuition and, therefore, can be reimbursed by the school, students are left to talk to their individual airlines about their flight refunds.

Lesnenko struggled to get her money back.

“No, I didn’t get any of my money back from my flight … They kept on telling me they would give me all my money back but they ended up giving me a flight voucher, I think,” Lesnenko said.

Nasrallla had a similar experience. Due to the sheer amount of people trying to obtain refunds, her airlines asked no one to call until 48 hours before the flight. Customer service wait times are also, in many cases, hours long.

Lesnenko also described how the news of the canceled trip was made worse by SPU’s announcement in March that the university would transition to remote learning for spring quarter.

“After it got canceled I was like ‘oh that’s okay, I can still be enjoying spring quarter back home with my friends and stuff at SPU.’ But then they decided to make all the classes online and a bunch of my friends had to go home,” Lesnenko said. “There is not much we can really do.”

The cancellation meant that students like Lesnenko and Nasralla had to adapt, and the help of SPU faculty and staff made that possible. But the grief for their lost experiences still lingers in more ways than one.

“We [Nasralla and her friends] keep thinking that yesterday, or today actually, we would have been going to Prague. And so it is really hard to think about what I would have been doing when I am literally stuck at home,” Nasralla said.