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The dream of studying away still persists

Not too far away from Concordia College, Moorhead natives Linka Wintersteen and Annika Pratt have always dreamt about studying abroad. This love for studying away was first sparked when Wintersteen attended the Concordia Language Villages for 11 years and when Pratt took a Spanish class in Concordia’s campus during her last year of high school. But the possibility of studying abroad for a semester in undergrad is no longer a reality for most seniors graduating next year. 

Linka Wintersteen, a senior student majoring in biology with a minor in chemistry knew that as a pre med student, studying abroad in Spain would be tricky for her degree, but she kept persevering. Her academic plans with her advisor set her to study abroad in the spring semester of her senior year, 2020.

“I wanted to study and live abroad since I was five years old when I first started learning Spanish. It was an incredible experience for me when I started going to Concordia Language Villages. It had a huge impact on me to appreciate other cultures of the world,” Wintersteen said. 

Pratt is in a similar boat as Wintersteen. Triple majoring in biology, computer science and Spanish, she knew she wanted to study abroad after a Spanish course at Concordia sparked her interest to pursue it as a major.

“My professor encouraged me to apply for the Cuba program and we planned to have it happen in the fall of my junior year, which was fall 2020, a few months after the pandemic outbreak,” Pratt said. 

Young Linka Wintersteen on a formative traveling experience. | Linka Wintersteen

But just like many students who had their Study Away programs cancelled for nearly three semesters, Pratt and Wintersteen were stuck studying nearby. In Pratt’s situation, the Cuba program was cancelled nearly thrice, causing her to switch to the Spain Study Away program that still was not yet decided by the college if it was possible to do in the spring of 2021.

“I realized that I don’t have the time to keep Study Away applications. It ended for me when the Cuba program got canceled in the spring of last year because the country still had large COVID cases. I was relieved when I withdrew my application because the uncertainty was a stressor in my life,” Pratt said.

Pratt knows there will be a lot more opportunities to travel in the future as applies to graduate schools. However, Wintersteen knows that doing Study Away at undergraduate level is an experience she will never get to have later in life. 

“I am going to do Study Away at my own academic and financial risk in the upcoming spring. I am a person who likes to plan, but I knew I needed to give it all I could to have my last chance to be a student in Spain. If that does not work, I just delay my ticket and go visit as a tourist in the summer rather than as a student,” Wintersteen said. 

Pratt says that the Global Education office in Concordia did as much as they could. She adds that they were straightforward and transparent with the students. 

Parker Phlaum. | Aya Al-Shakarchi

“They were good at answering questions that I had given the circumstances. and I cannot imagine how hard it is to be in their shoes at the moment,” Pratt said. 

Parker Pflaum, assistant director of the Study Away program, says that student mobility was extremely limited in the past 18 months. For the first time in Concordia’s history, there are only three Study Away alumni currently on campus. As a result of that, the Global Education office lost one of the most important assets they had in the past: word-of-mouth publicity.

“Normally, we have 300 enthusiastic students who Study Away and talk about their experiences once they are back on campus, but that is lost and we are trying to get that enthusiasm back by encouraging students and working with them to apply for programs,” Pflaum said. 

As a college policy, Concordia does not send students to countries with level four travel advisory. Most countries are coming out of that level four travel advisory, like France, Spain, Italy, Hungary, South Korea and Japan, where some students are heading for the spring.

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