FALL 2020 – What the heck?
A number of TAM graduates have asked me lately how TAM is coping during all of the disruptions caused by the pandemic.
So much of the TAM student experience has to do with the experiential education gained by traveling and living in different settings. A lot of planning goes into the moves TAM students make throughout the program. They live, study, and sometimes intern / work in different countries, and they often travel while overseas in order to learn as much as possible outside of the classroom. The pandemic has brought new challenges to this type of endeavor. How can one best plan and continue one’s experiential education in the midst of the uncertainty Covid has ushered in to our lives?
Since March, those of us in the TAM Office have worked hard to craft individual solutions for TAM students. We understand that each student has a unique set of circumstances and has specific personal and academic goals. It is always our aim to help students. In this sense, we maintain the same bearings these days, and we just have to work harder to come up with innovative, tailor-made solutions for each learner. This fall, some of our second-year students chose to go overseas to continue their coursework. Others flipped the semesters; they are now working on their thesis projects and plan to go abroad this spring. Others are taking remote courses offered by their overseas partner site. We asked TAM students to tell us what and how they decided to do this semester. Please see some of their answers below:
Jay Morgan – Class of 2021: I decided to travel to Berlin for the fall semester despite the pandemic because the abroad experience was central to why I picked TAM. Having studied and worked in Berlin before, I have long been in love with the city. My previous experiences taught me that it’s essential to actually go to the places we study in international relations or regional studies programs. You learn lessons actually being somewhere that unfortunately don’t translate over Zoom. I’m excited to return to the Bundestag for an internship next month. I’m also looking forward to learning this fall from professors whose work has been assigned reading in my courses over the last year. When weighing the risks with the benefits, it also helped that Germany has had overall success in managing the coronavirus within its borders. In Berlin and elsewhere, life is mostly normal with the addition of mask requirements on mass transit and in indoor public spaces.
The TAM staff have been extraordinarily helpful in dealing with the bureaucratic hurdles involved in traveling during a pandemic. I especially want to thank Katie Shanahan-Lindner and Sarah Hutchison in Chapel Hill and Daniela Jahn and Christian Wilhelm in Berlin. Katie advised those of us traveling on successfully applying for an exemption to UNC’s ban on university-related travel. Sarah made sure I had health insurance abroad from day one through UNC’s provider. She also asked that I give her updates while I was traveling in case I ran into any trouble en route. Daniela and Christian helped me navigate Germany and the EU’s travel restrictions. They provided me with documentation to prove I was traveling for purposes of study and have patiently dealt with a stream of questions from me over email.
I knew that coming to Berlin was the right choice for me academically, professionally, and personally. The TAM team spread across two continents did everything they could to get me here. Writing from my cozy East Berlin apartment, all I can say is Danke aus tiefstem Herzen.
Update – Jay recently published a piece about US foreign policy – check it out here. I had to use Google Translate, but Jay says it is pretty accurate.
Bridget Killian – Class of 2021: I am incredibly lucky to be a part of a program that has been very flexible and focused on helping students make individualized plans for their abroad experiences during the pandemic. While I am choosing to remain at home and take classes online, the program staff on both sides of the Atlantic have been extremely considerate and accommodating in such an uncertain time. Sarah has checked in with me several times throughout the summer and into the beginning of the semester and my professors in Amsterdam have helped me get the most out of my classes even with the time difference. I am thrilled to be able to continue my TAM experience, even though it is not how I initially imagined it would go.
Natalie Lunsford – Class of 2021: I am a second year TAM student on the European Governance track, currently studying abroad at VU Amsterdam. You read that right. Even during a global pandemic, I am studying in the beautiful, international city, Amsterdam! While so many plans have changed year, I am so fortunate and thankful to have been able to keep this one.
Since arriving I have made connections and friendships that I know would not have been possible from a distance! In my Core Concepts of Political Science course, we have been discussing game theory and basic economics. While I am not yet an expert on the how the market works, one thing I can tell you is the importance of building your network.
While I have been in Amsterdam, I have already met many amazing people from all over the world- including a large number of students who are specializing in similar research areas in the Environmental Governance, Sustainability, and Climate Change track. It is so refreshing to be in city that practices various sustainability techniques and that has a genuine interest in protecting their land and citizens from environmental degradation.
Sarah Lime – Class of 2021:
I am so grateful for the support I have received from TAM throughout the pandemic. I had initially planned to spend the fall 2020 semester in Berlin. In fact, the opportunity to study at Humboldt was a major factor in my decision to enroll in TAM. When COVID-19 threatened this opportunity, I must admit I was worried that I would not receive the experience abroad I had been guaranteed. However, TAM has adapted to these unprecedented times and allowed me to explore a variety of alternative options. Both TAM and the partners in Berlin were willing to switch the semesters, allowing me to write my MA thesis in the fall and complete my semester abroad in the spring.
Sarah Hutchison has been a source of constant support throughout these uncertain times. She has spent countless hours speaking with me on the phone and communicating with TAM partner sites to ensure I am aware of all possible alternate opportunities.
Despite the change in plans due to COVID-19, I admire TAM’s commitment to its mission and feel so fortunate for the program’s flexibility. I know the TAM staff has my best interest in mind, and they are willing to go to all lengths to ensure I have a fulfilling academic and personal experience, both in the United States and in Germany.