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International Owls: Summer study abroad returns in full force

Photo courtesy Luis Duno-Gottberg

By Nithya Shenoy     8/23/22 11:55pm

The beginning of another academic year at Rice has seen the return of study abroad programs that were inactive the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rice offers students the opportunity to study abroad in multiple countries, from Costa Rica to Germany. These students not only take classes outside the United States, but also immerse themselves in new cultures and perhaps even improve their language skills. 

Chloe Corbitt, a McMurtry College senior, participated in Rice in Madrid, a Spanish and Portuguese Studies program this summer. It was led by Luis Duno-Gottberg and Esther Fernández and based around the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. 

“I heard about the program from Esther and Luis when [they] hosted an information session at Baker and was immediately interested in the study topics and itinerary,” Corbitt said. “It was the perfect study abroad option for me.”

Sid Richardson College senior Trisha Gupta wanted to find the right study abroad program for her. According to Gupta, she always wanted to study abroad in college because she had never lived outside of Houston. However, she also didn’t want to miss more semesters of on-campus experiences at Rice, which were affected by the pandemic. Gupta said she spent part of the summer in Copenhagen, Denmark through the Danish Institute for Study Abroad.

“When I found out that there were a lot of study abroad summer programs, I decided to try to find one that would fit with my summer internship’s schedule using the Rice Study Abroad search tool, and DIS ended up being the only one that offered a short enough program,” Gupta said.

William Tsai, a Will Rice College junior, participated in the Leipzig Summer Fellowship, which is offered by Rice’s German Studies program. Tsai said the program did not have strict COVID-19 rules. 

“Thankfully, there were close to no restrictions in the program itself,” Tsai said. “Unfortunately, the German government mandates masks in all public transportation such as trains, buses and streetcars.”

Corbitt said that the experience in Madrid was mostly normal. The mask requirement for public transportation was one of the few health-related policies.  

“For the most part, the experience was pretty normal. There was a COVID outbreak towards the beginning, but they were efficient with protocols and students had access to testing and were able to leave quarantine pretty quickly,” Corbitt said. 

According to Corbitt, the COVID outbreak had an impact on classes, but Duno-Gottberg and Fernández did a great job handling the situation.

“When the COVID outbreak happened, we did switch to asynchronous [learning], but then afterwards we went back to in-person lectures,” Corbitt said. “[Duno-Gottberg and Fernández] handled everything very well while still emphasizing that the students were there to share their opinion and participate.”

Gupta said her experience in Denmark was also mostly normal.

“The only COVID-related restrictions were needing to rest upon arrival and before departure, as well as being vaccinated in order to attend the program,” Gupta said. “All students were required to be in-person. Denmark has achieved a pretty high vaccination rate and low infection rate, so there was no significant need for COVID measures from the program’s perspective.”

Gupta and Corbitt both said that their academic experiences were interesting and enriching. 

“We had one class in lecture style   … and then had internships for class credit,” Corbitt said. “I got lucky and got a great internship with a fashion designer in Madrid, Inma Camacho, where I gained a lot of experience in business and entrepreneurship and customer interaction in Spanish.”

Gupta said that the DIS program’s academics were easier than Rice classes but still interesting since it centered on Danish concepts. 

“I took a class on economy and social change, and it was very interesting to dive into the nuances of the Danish socialist economy and the specific struggles that people still experience under the Danish political system,” Gupta said. “Socially, it was also an amazing experience to meet people from different universities.”

Tsai said he greatly enjoyed the experience his summer program offered him.

“The academic experience was absolutely wonderful. I can honestly say that my German has improved immensely during the months,” Tsai said. “While we had school during the weekdays, weekends were left free with little to no homework, allowing us to explore Germany and Europe.”

Tsai said that his fall study abroad program at Sciences Po will be significantly different from his summer experience. Sciences Po is globally ranked as the second-best school for political science, right in between Oxford and Harvard.

“First of all, I will be taking six courses — the maximum allowed amount,” Tsai said. “The students [at Sciences Po] are extremely intelligent. I fully expect the workload to be as much as a normal Rice semester if not more.”

Corbitt said that the overall experience of Rice in Madrid was valuable and meaningful for her future as well.

“I broadened my horizons when considering career paths for after graduation since I got to spend time in a new country and experience a different way of life,” Corbitt said. “Overall, the experience was wonderful and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to go with the Rice in Madrid Program.”

Tsai said that his social experience was even better than his academic one and that he made many unforgettable memories. Like Corbitt, Tsai said that the experience was eye-opening. 

“I visited student bars across the city, tried delicious German beer with my classmates and made unforgettable memories,” Tsai said. “Although study abroad has been an eye-opening experience, I dearly miss Rice and am looking forward to getting back in the spring.”

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