Staff writer Bogdan Pietrosanu challenges KCL’s Language Departments over their replacement of cancelled study abroad with online teaching.
Language students were dealt a crushing blow at the end of last month as the first semester of our year of study abroad was cancelled. For many language students, like myself, the greatest enticement studying such a degree had been snatched away. In hindsight, the Global Mobility team made the right decision, with many countries having shut their borders and a second wave of the COVID-19 infections on the cards.
What followed, however, still baffles me. Replacing the first semester (jury is still out for what happens in the second semester) of study abroad would be a combination of language classes, online classes provided by partner universities, and an ‘enrichment program’ – whatever that means.
Outrage is an understatement for our reaction for this would be a waste of both time and money. Students began to bombard the heads of their respective departments, all asking for the same thing. Let us skip this year and go straight into our final year. Those who wanted to could come back and do their year abroad afterwards when, hopefully, the pandemic would be over.
Then, there was a glimmer of hope. The heads of departments replied, booking meetings with each of us, individually. Maybe they would listen, to reason and to the students. For those they spoke to, however, hope was turning to bewilderment. ‘They are shutting down any alternative to the program they are offering’. Our way or the highway. Many students now feel backed into a corner, forced to choose between interrupting their studies for a year or taking a course they don’t believe has much value.
Apparently, it’s a question of maturity. We won’t be prepared for our fourth year without doing our third year. But, if our year abroad is so crucial to our development, I have to ask how can it be replaced by online classes and an enrichment program (which still has not been explained)? How can having a few online classes a week compare to living in a francophone country when you are trying to learn French? How can 6-9 hrs of Spanish a week compare to living in Madrid?
If you are a student that has been affected by these decisions, or simply agree that this is an injustice, email the heads of the language departments and tell them what they are doing is not right.