College advises students planning on studying abroad this fall to register for on-campus classes, housing lottery

Rebecca Tauber

Students who applied to study away programs this upcoming fall have been advised by the Office of Study Away to register for Williams classes and housing in the coming weeks should programs be cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

 “We do not know yet if programs will be back up and running in the fall and we likely will not for another few months,” wrote Assistant Director of International Education and Study Away Isabel Hansen in an email to all students who applied to study off campus next semester.

She added that those planning on studying abroad in the fall will also have the option of deferring their programs to the spring semester.

With the addition of more students in the housing lottery, the College will be implementing its new double-single and triple-double system, in which flex rooms are designated as doubles, and certain large doubles are designated as triples. 

“Between these two adjustments, as well as not having some/all of a residence hall offline next year (like we had half of Morgan this past fall and Garfield last year), we should have enough beds,” said Doug Schiazza, director of the Office of Student Life. “However, if absolutely needed, we may also use some/all of Dennett Ground & Morgan Ground, and perhaps convert some larger singles into temporary doubles.”

The housing lottery, which was originally supposed to begin the first week of March for rising seniors and in subsequent weeks for other classes, has been postponed and will likely take place in mid- to late-May, he said.

“With the changes to online classes and everything going on in the world right now, we realize that the lotteries can be an additional significant stressor for students,” Schiazza said. “We felt that it would be prudent to postpone the lotteries to a point in time when other stressors are hopefully alleviating a bit.”

For students originally planning on spending the fall away from campus, the College’s advice to prepare for on- and off-campus options brings both reassured flexibility and the added stress of last-minute pick group planning.

“I was somewhat relieved that I could choose classes and housing now to be safe and wouldn’t have to pick into a triple if study abroad was cancelled,” said Hugo Hua ’22, who hopes to study in France in the fall. “But also somewhat disappointed since it shows that cancelling study abroad could be a very real possibility.”

“Although the email from the study away office didn’t share any news about the uncertainty of next fall that I wasn’t already aware of, it was still a little overwhelming to receive the housing update on the first day of remote classes,” said Liz Ostermeyer ’22, who plans to go to Berlin. “I wish they would have updated us before classes started so the scramble to make housing lottery plans didn’t coincide with the trouble shooting of this first week of class.”

Other students are now rethinking whether they want to study abroad at all. 

“Personally, I have been reconsidering if I want to study away during the school year after losing half of a semester on campus, so I appreciated Williams sending the email in an effort to preemptively problem solve,” said Georgia Ganser ’22, who applied to study in Ireland. “At the same time, though, the idea of entering into the housing lottery and beginning to think about classes offered in the fall was something that had not been on my mind at all this past semester, and now I feel kind of unprepared to do so.” 

Ganser continued, “I think the most significant thing that this email proves is that the uncertainty which [COVID-19] has introduced to a lot of students’ lives extends far beyond the spring of 2020.”