Study abroad in spring 2020 was certainly not what any of our students expected. The Vassar-Wesleyan Program in Paris celebrated the end of its semester on April 24 with a reception, held, of course, on Zoom. Vassar Professor Vinay Swamy, who was Resident Director of the program for 2019-2020, provided some highlights for students who were not able to attend. This virtual celebration seemed to us so charming and fun, yet of course bittersweet, that it provides a window into what students returning from abroad have experienced.
“Dear students and faculty:
“I hope that you are having a restful weekend, even though you are no doubt working on your final projects. I know that for many of you, for various reasons, attending the VWPP Zoom party was not possible. We missed you.
“I wanted to give you a little taste of the activities we did together. You must imagine all of this accompanied by the beautiful French song that was perfectly chosen by our DJ, [Assistant Director] Lisa Fleury.
“First some little surveys – what would you have chosen? Favorite beverages in Paris, favorite places to wander in Paris….?”
The students and faculty then shared some memories of Paris with slide shows, including Paris landmarks before and after the confinement due to the pandemic. These were not public, but you can see some similar images here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/24/world/europe/coronavirus-paris.html.
Professor Swamy sent a photo of the Zoom soirée with all the faculty’s, staff’s, and students’ pictures, and a photo of Assistant Director Fleury toasting the students with some red wine and a baguette!
He concludes: “While understanding that it is not at all the same thing as if you had been able to be there in person – just look at the wonderful articles that you did for the VWPP blog during the weeks you spent in France – I thank you for your confidence in the VWPP team, despite all the challenges, to conclude this spring 2020 semester. Wishing each of you good health and a future full of wellness and peace.”
If you are able to read French, do take a look at the students’ blog posts. One of my study abroad colleagues at another institution says that students who went abroad in spring 2020 feel the nostalgia more sharply than students from other semesters because their experience was cut short. The students’ reflections on their excursions, techno music, cheese, and more, are indicative of this.