By Kristin miller
For more than 30 years, MSUM students have been jetting across the pond for a unique travel and study experience. Eurospring, hosted each year at Wycliffe Hall in Oxford, England, has been cancelled for the 2015 spring semester due to low student enrollment.
Just four students put in applications for this spring’s session. For a program which normally hosts between 12 and 15 students, which keeps costs reasonable for participants, the low enrollment meant they could not move forward with this year’s trip. The cancellation has been met by disappointment from faculty as well as students who have attended in previous years.
The program has been a staple of the MSUM study abroad department. In addition to a five-week academic program in Oxford, participants traditionally spend three weeks travelling throughout the European continent. Planned stops for the program this year included Istanbul, Venice, Florence, Rome, and Paris.
“It’s been so valuable for so many students for so long,” said study abroad director Janet Haak. She added that at conferences with study abroad coordinators from other universities, she has received plenty of praise over the unique nature of the program.
“Nobody does this. Everyone wishes they could do this, but nobody does this,” she said.
She said it’s likely the expense has made students less likely to turn in an application.
“The cost of the program just creeps up,” Haak said.
In previous years, the university had provided $2,000 to each participant of the program to help lower expenses. That practice however, ended in 2011.
Another factor which may have played a part in this year’s low enrollment is the autumn’s absence of main lecturer for the course Dr. Allan Chapman, who usually makes an annual visit to campus for recruiting sessions as well as a guest lecture. Haak said it was difficult to tell how much of an impact the missed visit had for enrollment.
“It’s hard to tell. He’s a great ambassador for the program,” Haak said, though she added that health concerns prevented Chapman from making the visit to campus during a previous year, and that had not affected enrollment.
Despite challenges faced by the program, steps are currently being taken to address what upcoming years will mean for the continuation of Eurospring.
A committee consisting of Haak, other faculty, Dean Tim Borchers and Josh Pietruszewski, a student who attended Eurospring in 2013, will be meeting to discuss the future of the program.
“I wanted to help do my part in keeping the program up and running,” Pietruszewski said about accepting the position on the committee, adding that “one thing we have been discussing is a Eurospring minor.”
The proposed minor would incorporate both the study abroad program, plus classes here on campus. The committee will be meeting to discuss this and other options for keeping the program alive.
Overall, Haak said that members of the committee tend to be “passionate about study abroad.”
They’re not the only ones. Haak said that throughout the five years she’s been involved with the program, she’s heard the same feedback from students — the consensus calling it a “life-changing” experience.
The benefits of the program go beyond the eight weeks spent abroad, according to both faculty and students.
“Having gone on Eurospring, I feel like there’s no situation I’m afraid of anymore,” said mass comm. senior and Eurospring 2013 participant Carrie Thayer. “In eight weeks I had years’ worth of experience.”
Thayer added on hearing the news of cancellation, “I was really sad that there was a chance people would miss out on the experience I’ve had. Clearly there are still people who want to go.”
“Eurospring makes you realize there’s another world out there,” he said. “When I first heard it was cancelled, I was shocked.”
Despite news of the cancellation and lingering uncertainty over the future of the program, both students and faculty remain hopeful that future students will be able to reap the benefits of Eurospring.
“No one has told me that this is going away forever,” Haak said. “I want to be hopeful about the future of the program.”