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Open Letter to the Middlebury Administration from Middlebury Schools Abroad Students Requesting Transparency
This letter reflects the sentiments and collaboration of many study abroad students, but with the number of us there are across the world, it was impossible to reach out to every single one so explicit support is shown by a signature. All Middlebury students, regardless of affiliation, as well are parents are welcome to sign.
Published on 11 March 2020 at 7:47pm, GMT-3

Dear Administration:

In light of recent cancellation circumstances, Middlebury Schools Abroad students remain uncertain of our current status. In an email from President Laurie Patton sent out to the Middlebury community that none of us received, 1668 words were used to explain the future of Middlebury students. Only 62 of those words were relevant to our situation. This short paragraph told us to wait and see what would happen next for us without any indication of which schools are under review nor why. As none of us directly received this email, we had to rely on our friends who were going through their own struggles with the news of having to move out by Friday to carry the message for us. Furthermore, our program directors did not receive news before we did, so when we read those 62 words relayed from our friends, there were no answers as to what was next for us.

Following the initial cancellation catastrophe, we did receive an email from International Programs -- hours later -- which reiterated that Schools Abroad decisions will be made “case-by-case” and that we must simply wait and see. Unfortunately, by this point many of us were already in panic mode, wondering what our futures will hold. Soon after this email, Middlebury’s School in Oxford was cancelled. These students had been given no warning that their education was under threat. A third “logistics update” email was sent the next day to all students with clarifications for students studying on campus, but still no direct answer as to what will happen for students abroad. As for us, the remainder of study abroad students, we are left with no indication as to what is currently happening or what could be next in regards to cancellation or quarantine. As students abroad prepare for spring break, some programs have not mentioned any of the possible outcomes regarding re-entry into the country. Students have been given no information on the possibility of quarantine, restriction on travel or if and what they must do upon return. In terms of returning to the United States, we all remain unaware as to whether our programs are individually under review for cancellation or when that news could come.

This lack of information as to our current situation does not go without harm. Middlebury students across the world are panicking wondering whether or not they will continue their studies in the countries they have started calling home. Repeated worrisome phone calls to and from parents are resulting in gaps in our language immersion. Stress is causing students to lose focus in classes; thus, the longer we are all kept in the dark, the more likely it is that this will be reflected in our academics. Program directors have told us to read the news to keep updated, but some students find this to be a stressful process due to their own host countries’ lack of transparency or clear guidelines. We do not want to live in a perpetual state of dread, whether that be for another week before we are sent home, or until July when the semesters in Latin America are over.

Therefore, we, as the students of Middlebury Schools Abroad, ask for clarity in each of our situations. In addition to an immediate email to all Schools Abroad students with more detailed information about available mental health resources, we request knowledge of each of the following as soon as possible:

1. Whether our individual School Abroad is currently being seriously considered for closure, as this directly affects our academics and mental health

2. Whether Middlebury College will afford the same financial support to students being forced home from abroad as on campus, as this directly affects our financial situation since immediate international flights are significantly more expensive

3. Whether all Schools Abroad are currently being seriously considered for closure, as this directly affects the mental health of students in “safer” countries that are less affected by coronavirus and who are hoping the situation in their individual country will allow them to stay

4. Whether Schools Abroad students hoping to travel during the fast-approaching spring break will be asked to self-quarantine upon arrival by Middlebury regardless of host country standards, as this directly affects students’ decisions as to whether to travel while abroad or not

We are cognizant that many questions will remain unanswered for a period of time and can accept that the exact details of our academic situations post-cancellation will be worked out upon cancellation. However, we request that we are informed of each program’s possibility of cancellation to ease the fear and uncertainty among the students in every School Abroad. We do not want to spend the remainder of our semesters abroad concerned as to whether or not we will be sent home at a moment’s notice. We sympathize with the students abroad in China, Italy, and the United Kingdom, who were all sent home with expectations to pack up and evacuate a country within a week with only students in Italy being directly referred to mental health services to respond to the emotional toll this sudden change in events takes on students. We do not want to leave our new home countries in that way. Thus, we are respectfully awaiting your response as to whether we will continue to be left in the dark until our departures, or if you will work with us to ensure that the transition out of our new homes is as smooth as possible.


Regards,
Megan Salmon '21: School in Chile
Helene Gusman '21: School in Russia
Gillinda James '21: School in Chile
Lila Sternberg-Sher '21.5: School in Chile
Max Celander '21: School in Germany
Riley Allen ‘21.5: Externally sponsored program in Australia (externally sponsored kids have heard even less!)
Piara Biggs '21.5 : School in Morocco
Emma Ahadoberry - Pomona College Student Abroad with Middlebury
Irene Fernald '21: School in Russia
Anna Staab ‘21: School in France
Anna Loewald '21: School in France
Ella Dyett ‘20 Middlebury College
Taegen Kopfler ‘21: School in France
Hannah Abdelaal '21: Middlebury College
Madison Holland ‘21 : School in France
Alexandra Burns '21 School in Argentina
Taylor Lewis ‘21: School in Morocco
Olivia O'Brien '21: School in Argentina
Jennifer Kraft, parent, Chile student
Jay Pier, Pomona '21: Middlebury School in France
Austin Cashwell ‘21: School in Russia
Grace A. Metzler ‘21.5: School in Uruguay
Micah Raymond '21: School in Germany
Josiah Siegel '21: School in Germany
Andres Velazquez '21: Exchange at UEA, England
Camille Kerwin ‘21: School in Jordan
Araceli Arizpe ‘21: School in Jordan
Leah Baxter ‘21: School in Jordan
Matt Evans, Pomona 21 Middlebury School in Spain
Alec Lei ‘21: School in Spain
Jeremy Johnson ‘21: School in Japan
Rachel Horowitz-Benoit: CMRS Oxford
Daniel Garcia, Pomona ‘21, Spain
Lilly Kuhn ‘21.5: School in Spain
Hailey Kent 2021.5 (externally sponsored program in the UK)
Daniela Morales ‘21: School in Spain
Emma Ahadoberry - Pomona College Student Abroad with Middlebury
Sean Lovett - Middlebury College Student, Class of 22.5, On-Campus
Diana Milne ‘21: School in Spain
James Finn ‘20.5 - Middlebury College
Sam Loomis '21: School in Jordan
To sign this letter, add your name and Middlebury affiliation here. Abroad students-- please make sure to add which School Abroad you are attending: *
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