Off-Campus Programs Continue Amidst Pandemic


Photo courtesy of Ryan Rogers

Ryan Rogers had the rare opportunity to study abroad this spring, due to Norway’s international students travel policy.

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the cancelation of several 2021-22 abroad programs, Luther has continued to offer a variety of off-campus study options. There are currently 31 students from Luther participating in off-campus programs — 29 in the United States, and two in Norway.

Alison McHenry (‘22) is spending her spring semester off-campus, taking part in the Rochester Semester program. She reflected on her opportunity to work with the Mayo Clinic and have an off-campus experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We can’t take care of any patients who are expected of having Covid,” McHenry said. “If their test results haven’t come back, or if they’re having symptoms, we can’t take care of them. In past years they were more relaxed with infectious disease and stuff.”

Claire Sullivan (‘22) is also studying in Rochester this semester, and believes the pandemic has affected her time off-campus.

“I think we’re not quite getting the same experience of Rochester,” Sullivan said. “We can’t really go out to eat, and I’m 21, but I’m not going to go to the bars here, and that is something that I normally would want to do. I haven’t even gone to a coffee shop. I mean, it’s something I could do, but it feels a little weird.”

There are many restrictions on international travel during the pandemic, but the Norweigan government and the University of South-East Norway decided to waive their travel ban for international students. This is how Ryan Rogers (‘22) was able to spend this spring studying abroad, participating in programs such as “Nordic Backcountry Skiing” and “Outdoor Leadership.”

“Norway has been fairly successful at controlling the spread of the virus, and the area I am studying in has had some of the lowest numbers of cases, even in Norway,” Rogers said. “So, even when following governmental guidelines, we are allowed to attend in-person classes without masks while still social distancing. The town I’m studying in is similar in size to Decorah, and it’s easy to forget that the pandemic is happening. I feel extremely privileged to be able to be here in a time like this – it’s a very special opportunity that I’m thankful to have taken.”

This is Rogers’ first experience abroad, but he has aspirations to study abroad in the future. He reflected on some of the elements of study abroad that he has enjoyed so far.

“While there have been many challenges, I could definitely see myself studying abroad again,” Rogers said. “I would love to go in a post-pandemic world with less restrictions on international travel. Being abroad even for a short time has greatly expanded my worldview, and I’d love for that to continue through future studies in other countries.”

For J-Term 2022, Luther faculty are offering 14 courses in Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America, Europe, Oceania, and the U.S. The J-Term course reveal will be on March 7 at 7 p.m. Elizabeth Finanger, the off-campus programs advisor at the Center for Global Learning, is helping students get ready for their abroad experiences in 2021-22.

“Luther, as well as our partner organizations in study abroad, are adapting and moving forward as we prepare for students to study internationally next year,” Finanger said. “We are preparing for our Luther semester and year programs in Nottingham, Malta, and Münster, in addition to Luther students who are applying to various partner programs around the world. We know that Covid won’t totally be in the rear-view mirror next year. Nevertheless, we are hopeful that travel to some – and possibly many – locations will be realistic.”