Students cancel study abroad plans


Alice Xu

This year, many students who signed up to spend the year studying abroad were forced to cancel their plans due to COVID-19.

Senior Ayush Suresh was enjoying his year-abroad in Bosnia until mid-March, when he was promptly rushed on a plane back to Houston due to COVID-19. 

“It was definitely shocking how quickly it happened and how quickly the events evolved, but we understood why,” said Suresh, who was studying overseas through YES Abroad. “It was better to be at home safe than be at risk.”

School Year Abroad (SYA) gives St. John’s juniors an opportunity to study in Italy, Spain, France or China. 

This year, many students who signed up for this program were forced to cancel their plans due to COVID-19. Juniors Ellie Eikenburg and Eliot Aiman intended to travel to Spain but had their years-abroad discontinued. Junior Ananya Agrawal had also planned to study abroad in Italy since she was in eighth grade. 

“I knew what the coronavirus was, and I knew that it was getting bad in Italy, but somehow in my mind the two dots still weren’t connecting,” Agrawal said. 

Agrawal tried to stay optimistic, but by May, her year-abroad was formally terminated.

“It was devastating at first,” Agrawal said. “I was very firmly convinced I was going to be in Italy right now.”

There is no way that this opportunity will be taken away from me

— Ananya Agrawal

Agrawal decides to look on the bright side—she enjoys being with her friends and studying U.S. History, which she would not have had the choice to take abroad.

“It took me some time to shift the way I was imagining my junior year from being in a different country to still being at St. John’s,” Agrawal said, “but I also knew that junior year at St. John’s was going to be great too.”

Every year, an SYA representative speaks to sophomore language classes about the various opportunities to study abroad. SYA also has informational sessions for interested students on their website.

“[SYA] is beneficial to everyone, not just in high school, because you’re living on your own,” said Sherifa Kehs, the liaison between the school and SYA. “You really want somebody who’s going to seize the opportunity and be independent.”

Agrawal still hopes to spend a foreign year abroad in college.

“There is no way that this opportunity will be taken away from me,” Agrawal said.