To stay or to go?

In response to Covid-19, Trinity is allowing Erasmus to continue for Michaelmas Term on a voluntary basis

The Erasmus programme at Trinity has given students the opportunity to experience both a new university and culture since the 1980s. For many students, the chance to study abroad is considered a vital part of their college experience and may have even influenced their decision to enroll in a specific programme. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, Trinity has decided to continue to offer Erasmus exchanges during Semester 1 of the academic year. However, they urge students to take their own safety as well as the situation in the country they will be travelling to into account before making a decision. 

Brendan Tighe, the Erasmus and European Partnerships Manager at Trinity, spoke about the challenges students are facing this year when deciding whether or not to proceed with an Erasmus exchange. “With due consideration for their own health and safety as well as their academic progression, students need to consider the situation on the ground where they will be living as well as in their host university,” he said. “Students should also think about how social distancing may reduce opportunities to integrate into the local way of life and on campus.”

College made the decision to allow students to proceed with Erasmus for Semester 1 on a voluntary basis on May 29, noting that decisions about exchanges set to occur in Semester 2 will be made in September. Though the email stated that students are permitted to take place in an exchange as long as the host university is accepting students, Trinity is discouraging students from going if their host university is planning on solely online teaching. 

“Trinity would like to see as many students as possible benefit from such a transformative experience.”

 

To that end, Trinity will still accept students from other universities this year, but is taking extra steps to provide them and their home universities with up-to-date information regarding study conditions and travel regulations. “The student community in Trinity is truly enriched by having Erasmus students as part of our diverse community for part of their studies,” Tighe said. “Trinity would like to see as many students as possible benefit from such a transformative experience.” 

The organizing of Erasmus typically begins in the first semester prior to the year of the exchange. Students are given the opportunity to attend information sessions and talk to exchange coordinators before listing their preferences for universities to attend. After learning where they have been selected to go, the rest of the year is spent formalizing the exchange with the host university. This year, College is taking extra precautions to ensure that students feel as supported as possible in light of the pandemic, allowing any student who proceeds with Erasmus to reintegrate back into their course at Trinity as long as they return before the end of week 4 of Semester 1. 

In a break from tradition, students in courses where Erasmus is normally mandatory, such as European Studies, have been given a choice on whether to proceed with Erasmus or not. Though their experience will undoubtedly be different from those before them, many are optimistic about the opportunity and still intend to complete the exchange. 

“Quarantine will be more difficult away from my family, but I would rather have the opportunity to do Erasmus with the risk of quarantine than for it to be completely cancelled and lose out on the opportunity entirely.” – Orla Tracey

 

Orla Tracey, a rising third year in European Studies, is hoping to study in Seville for the full year given that the university is accepting Erasmus students. “It’s mandatory for the course, but I think it is really useful for life experience and, in my case, improving my language skills,” she said. “Obviously, quarantine will be more difficult away from my family, but I would rather have the opportunity to do Erasmus with the risk of quarantine than for it to be completely cancelled and lose out on the opportunity entirely.”

Once students make the decision about whether or not to proceed with the programme, however, there are additional measures to be taken to ensure that studying abroad is actually feasible. Elvi Wilson, a third year student in European Studies, is still planning to attend Moscow State University this year but admitted that there are more complications than there would be under normal circumstances. “I have lived in the same house my entire life and really need the independence and to put my Russian into practise, but there is the additional worry of visa applications and we all have to take a medical test, so it’s whether I can get both those things in time,” she explained. 

“I have been trying to maintain a stoic attitude and not worry too much about things beyond my control.” – Karl Ohlsson

Even for courses where Erasmus is not required, many students still consider it an invaluable component of their university experience. Rising third year Karl Ohlsson, who studies PPES, is hoping to spend this year at New York University but noted that he has had to consider “travel restrictions, increased costs and the possibility of getting sick.” Like many students, though, he has had to come to terms with the fact that some of these things may be out of his hands. 

“The worst thing would probably be to get stuck somewhere,” he said. “However, I have been trying to maintain a stoic attitude and not worry too much about things beyond my control.” 

Noting the monumental impact of the coronavirus and the importance of students being able to make Erasmus decisions on a personal basis, the staff at Trinity recognizes the desire to study abroad and the importance of the experience for many students. “Erasmus has been shown to have a positive impact on the student experience and presents an opportunity to improve language skills, gain self-confidence and independence and be immersed in a new culture,” Mr.Tighe said. “Whilst the typical Erasmus experience may not be possible, it may be an opportunity to have a very unique experience.”

Olivia Flaherty-Lovy

Olivia Flaherty-Lovy

Olivia Flaherty-Lovy is the Features Editor of Trinity News, and a Senior Fresh student of English Studies.