The Latest Updates on Travel Courses During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Kathleen Perry Contributing Writer

    The May travel courses have been announced, but there is great uncertainty as to whether the students will be able to partake in them or not, due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus.

    This is the time that the global education professor, Linda Beck, usually posts new course offerings for the May Term. This year’s trips were to be offered with locations including Boston, Germany, Nepal, Spain, and Coastal New England, and could have ranged anywhere from four days to two weeks. However, due to the COVID-19 virus, no one knows what the next day will bring. 

    This virus is now classified as a pandemic and there are cases in all 50 states within the U.S. It originated in China, and only now are they beginning to recover as it spreads to the rest of the world. The worst cases as of recent, are in Italy and have led to over 11,591 deaths, according to a New York Times Coronavirus tracking map as of this afternoon. Though this virus puts the elderly, those with diabetes, and individuals with heart problems at the highest risk, anyone can perish due to the severity of this virus’s symptoms.

    If institutions have reopened and are safe by May, students who chose to travel to Boston will be visiting special education schools. They will be learning about how they can use different strategies to make their educational environment as inclusive as possible. This trip will be led by Kate MacLeod and Brian Cavanaugh from May 17-20. 

    As of right now, everyone in the U.S. is being instructed to stay home and avoid all unnecessary travel. Social distancing is another strategy which is being implemented for the people of America, as well as for those in other countries. With these conditions, subject to change, it’s safer for everyone to stay where they are. 

    Before COVID-19 became a pandemic, there was a plan to have an Iceland trip from May 13th, through the 27th. This trip would have been led by Julia Daly and Rachel Hovel and it could have been counted for a general education requirement for a natural science course; it would’ve been entitled Aquatic Ecosystems of Iceland. 

    Hovel said that the course would’ve entailed students collecting “data in streams and rivers to understand the landscape and geological processes that influence biological communities in aquatic ecosystems.” Hovel referred to Iceland as being particularly relevant to Maine, as it has some shared North-Atlantic ecology. 

    Hovel still felt a desire to lead the trip to Iceland, despite what she described as “considerable uncertainty over the status of travel courses right now.” Hovel said, “I do research in the Canadian Arctic, and wish to give students a first-hand experience with Arctic/subArctic ecosystems.” 

    “Being able to experience glaciers, and the brand-new ecosystems that emerge as glaciers recede, is very striking,” Hovel said. “For students, it cements the principles of geology and ecology, and gives them a chance to practice the skills of observation and the scientific process.” Other travel courses give the students a similar learning environment depending on the field, in which they can have real hands-on participation. 

    Another aspect to take into consideration is that borders to many countries are closing, including the Spain border, which would prevent many of these travel courses, regardless of the University’s decision.