Students study abroad in spite of global pandemic

In more “normal” years, DePaul University sends their students to all corners of the globe through numerous study abroad programs. Students looking to go abroad could study in countries such as Italy, China, or Mexico. Due to the pandemic, one would expect studying abroad to be a non-option. However, despite travel restrictions and countries locking down, a handful of university students were able to pursue study abroad programs this fall quarter. 

Aidan Morrisey, 21, spent the first quarter of his junior year in Cork, Ireland. Morrisey was initially drawn to the Ireland program because of his family’s Irish heritage. 

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to study abroad initially, but Ireland felt like home,” Morrisey said. 

Despite having several relatives that live in Ireland, Morrisey has been unable to visit them due to travel restrictions.

Although many countries denied entry to American travelers, Ireland and the United Kingdom had fewer restrictions over the summer. Morrisey was able to find an inexpensive plane ticket and leave the United States without any obstacles.

“I bought my ticket a few weeks before I left and just came here,” he said. “As much as it seems that it wouldn’t have been, it really was just that easy.” 

Morrisey described his study abroad experience as unique, for many reasons. He was the only DePaul student who actually followed through with their commitment to the Ireland program. Additionally, because of Covid-19, he lives alone in a flat usually reserved for six residents. Another unique aspect of his study abroad is that he is unable to travel more than 10 kilometers from University College Cork’s campus. 

Despite these limitations, the economics student has made some good memories wandering the colorful corridors of Cork and conversing with some of Cork’s unhoused citizens. 

“It really is a one-of-a-kind study abroad experience, to be on a study abroad where it’s just you,” Morrisey said. “I’ve been doing some soul-searching.” 

Just to the northwest, 18-year-old Fiona Killaley is studying computer science in St. Andrew’s, Scotland. Killaley, who is going to spend all four years of college at the University of St. Andrew’s, feels as though she made the right choice in choosing to study outside of the United States. 

“At the end of the summer, it looked like the UK was handling coronavirus much better [than the United States],” Killaley said. 

Although cases have been on the rise in Scotland, as well as the rest of Europe, Killaley is grateful that the city of St. Andrew’s has not been impacted too severely. The county that St. Andrew’s is in, Fife, was in a tier 3 lockdown when Killaley spoke to The DePaulia, which placed standard restrictions on social gatherings as well as travel. During the first week of December, Scotland entered into a tier 4 lockdown.

Killaley, a Seattle native, was interested in attending university in the British Isles because her parents both attended university in Ireland. Her interest in the University of St. Andrew’s was piqued because of her love of golf, the national sport of Scotland. 

Killaley quarantined at her relatives’ home in Ireland for two weeks before moving to St. Andrew’s. Her possession of an Irish passport made the process of traveling across the pond easier amidst the pandemic. 

Since she’s been in Scotland, Killaley has been living in the university dorms and taking both online and in-person classes. Her favorite memories have been made with her new friends and embarking on outdoor activities like golf and even surfing.

Elsewhere in Europe, DePaul junior Jakub Parzygnat is about to begin finals at his Hungarian university. Parzygnant, a 20-year-old Chicago native, embarked on his trip to Hungary in August. He studies accounting. among other courses,at Corvinus University of Budapest. 

Parzygnat, who was drawn to the Budapest program due to his interest in Eastern Europe as well as the affordable price, saw this trip as a risk he was willing to take.

“Studying abroad was always an opportunity I wanted to take if I was able to,” Parzgnat said. “That being said, Covid hit, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to travel [to other countries]. Hungary had less restrictions on travel, so I decided to just risk it and experience traveling abroad during Covid.” 

Traveling to Hungary was also easier for Parzygnat because he has both American and Polish passports. 

Covid-19 cases in Hungary were relatively low until this September. Because of this, Parzygnat was able to take several in-person classes during the first few weeks of the semester. During this period of time, he made close friendships with other international students hailing from France, the Netherlands and Belgium. 

Parzygnat’s classes have shifted online as Hungary’s Covid-19 cases rise dramatically. The city of Budapest has implemented a partial curfew that begins at 8 p.m. and ends at 5 a.m. Police and the heavily armed anti-terrorist TEK units patrol the streets to ensure that citizens are complying to the curfew, according to Hungary Today. The only civilians permitted to leave their homes during the evening are those traveling to and from work, those experiencing a life-threatening emergency, or those who are taking their pets outside. In that event, one must stay within 500 meters of their residence.

Although he does not speak much Hungarian, Parzygnat has thoroughly enjoyed his time in the country. 

“When the [Covid-19] situation was less severe, my friends and I rented a car and drove around the country,” Parzygnat said. “One of my favorite memories was visiting Lake Balaton and learning about the lives of my new friends.” 

Overall, the experiences of students studying abroad during the unprecedented circumstances of 2020 have all been unique. For some, it has been an isolating, yet reflective experience. Others have made friends and socialized to the extent that their host countries will allow. Despite their experiences being far from what one would expect a typical study abroad program to be like, their experiences have all been striking and memorable. 

“I have no regrets about studying abroad,” says Parzygnat. “The friends I made are some of the closest friends I have now, even though I met them a few months ago.”