During the 2021 winter break, Oklahoma Christian University Study Abroad will have its first wintersession term. This group will travel to Vienna, Austria, to study and travel.
Assistant Director of International Studies, Kelsey Herndon, said they planned the trip in light of the extended winter break.
“As long as that extended schedule continues we will make this available if at all possible,” Herndon said. “We feel like it is a good time for people since there are not a lot of other things competing for their time.”
Students will have the chance to take courses specific to Austria like The Bible and the Holocaust or Studies in European Civilization. Junior Kayla Williams said she looks forward to being a part of these classes.
“It will be a great opportunity to learn, while also getting to experience a different culture,” Williams said. “You get to experience different cultures and see different viewpoints that you wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Herndon said students will learn not only in the classroom, but also while exploring.
“It is always the opportunity to build some relationships and just see people’s hearts and minds be open to new things and to have some fun too,” Herndon said. “Vienna is an amazing city, so I am looking forward to all those things.”
There will be 60 students attending wintersession in Vienna. The normal group size is 45 to 50 students.
Herndon said they wanted to make sure graduating seniors had the opportunity to experience study abroad after COVID-19 took the opportunity away.
“I know we live in a globally connected world and no matter what area you’re going into, you’re going to be connected to others from different backgrounds, religions and cultures,” Herndon said. “To be a good human, especially to be a Christian, you need to know a little bit about other things in this day and time.”
Senior Meredith Eck has one last opportunity to travel before she graduates.
“I was originally going to do a summer session, but COVID-19 made me change my plans,” Eck said. “Winter or summer session work a lot better than a full semester with Nursing.”
Herndon said planning with COVID-19 was straightforward based on how cautious Austria is with their guidelines.
“We feel good about the safety over there,” Herndon said. “Their numbers [in Austria] of cases are decreasing and vaccination rates are increasing, so we’re hopeful.”
For a year and a half, Study Abroad has had to postpone their trips overseas due to COVID-19. Williams said she will be participating in the wintersession trip with a fresh mindset.
“I am not too worried about COVID-19,” Williams said. “I plan on taking any precautions needed to stay safe while traveling.”
Eck said she has been fully vaccinated and plans to have the booster shot before she leaves for Vienna.
“I think it’s normal to have a higher baseline level of worry living in a pandemic,” Eck said. “ I also feel much safer because of how much more sensible Austria is about expecting masking and vaccination in public places.”
There are plans to continue Study Abroad in future years during wintersession in light of the fall semester schedule staying shortened.
“We feel like it is a good time for people since there are not a lot of other things competing for their time,” Herndon said. “It is a long break, so we hope to continue to send long groups throughout the winter.”
The Study Abroad wintersession group is set to leave Nov. 30 and return Dec. 20. This time frame will allow students to learn while also exploring Vienna and the surrounding area for three weeks.
Herndon said the whole process has been rejuvenating for Study Abroad and the students.
“It has been a blessing to get to know students and to see their excitement to travel again and to help them have this opportunity coming out of COVID-19,” Herndon said.
Having the Study Abroad program return after COVID-19 will allow for more trips during the coming school years. More information on future Study Abroad trips can be found here.