‘We’re in limbo’: King’s students on their Year Abroads

King’s hasn’t updated students about their year abroads since June


There’s no denying year abroad students have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. When everything went downhill back in March, thousands of students had to cut their year abroad short and rush back home from across the globe. For those of us supposed to be going on our year abroad in September, we watched in horror and hoped things would be different by the time we were supposed to leave the UK.

What has King’s done regarding the year abroad?

In April, King’s suspended all study and work abroad placements for 2020. Instead, languages year abroad students were told they would receive online classes taught by King’s for semester one. Whilst this wasn’t equivalent to a whole semester of immersion in a foreign country, it seemed the best option available at the time; the UK was in lockdown, there were no flights, and travel even within the UK was banned.

Over four months later and the situation surrounding coronavirus is very different, yet King’s has not updated their policy. Their last update to students was two months ago in June. As of now, there are two main options for the year group: do the King’s online substitute, or apply for an exception if you feel it is safe to go.

King’s has been slow in replying to exceptions, something made more frustrating when universities such as Bristol, York, and Durham are still allowing their students to go to countries such as France on their year abroad. For those doing the online substitute, there is an equal lack of support. Language students received an e-mail explaining the rough premise of the programme, but had no information about when the course starts, let alone when they could pick their modules for classes due to start in less than a month.

‘The lack of news since June is frustrating’

The lack of communication is incredibly frustrating amongst the year group. French student Giovanna told The King’s Tab: “I haven’t received ANY news from them and still do not know what I’m gonna do online (if I’m going to be enrolled in my French university or just KCL’s online French course).”

Another student said: “Being left in the lurch was scary but I’m understanding of what’s been said – this was a situation no-one saw coming and no-one knew how to deal with”. However they say that the lack of news since June is “frustrating” and that “none of us know what’s expected of us in the next term”.

SPLAS student Malika agrees: “I feel very confused and clueless due to the lack of new information provided regarding the year abroad. We also haven’t been provided with much information or details about the alternatives for semester one”.

French and Spanish student Leela says: “We still don’t really know the structure of this year abroad online and don’t even know what day it starts”. She also wants to know as soon as possible “if we are going anywhere in semester two, because four months isn’t a lot of time”.

Kat has had a similar experience and says: “It’s very disappointing to be caught in this weird limbo without actually knowing anything. I haven’t even heard about confirming my place from the partner institution, and when I asked my tutor about it she literally said ‘I don’t know anything about it'”.

‘Other universities are still letting their students do their year abroad’

Another issue students have with KCL’s response is that other universities across the UK and Europe are allowing their students to go on their year abroad if it is safe, rather than handing out a blanket no. Giovanna says: “Personally, I’m feeling so frustrated, because many universities in Europe are allowing Erasmus students to go abroad.”

Similarly, French student Sophie is upset with the lack of updates to the travel suspension as “other universities are still letting their students do their year abroad, and it’s quite disheartening to see them planning and even going off already while I’m stuck here”.

German student Lilith has evidence to back this up as she mentions her friend at Durham “who doesn’t even have a compulsory year abroad, yet is going to Germany.”

‘We are not a priority’

Languages students feel as if they have been completely forgotten about by King’s as they receive little to no updates, their concerns are ignored, and some are offered unsuitable opportunities. One Spanish student was sent an email about having online classes at a Mexican university which King’s “branded as an amazing opportunity”. However, students were only given three days to apply, had already missed the first week of classes and were then told the classes occurred at night.

One European Studies student even believes that the KCL replacement “doesn’t comply with the degree structure that was promised to us”. The third year of her course was supposed to contain no language and be entirely political modules in German. However, she says that “not only are we missing out on a year abroad, but it also changes our degree structure. We will have to do 15 or 30 credits of language modules again instead of improving our political knowledge.”

In addition, she highlights not only missing out on a year abroad, but also missing out on her university experience. “We are left with no possibilities to have real-life learning or support”. When she asked if she was allowed on campus, she was told no “to restrict levels of students, and because we are not a priority as we are supposed to be on a year abroad”.

Are students still going on their year abroad?

Many students are still receiving information for enrolment to their foreign host universities, being asked to pick modules, or pay insurance and enrolment fees. German student Kavya has “already had to choose classes and get insurance with no help”.

Many host universities still expect students to go on their exchange abroad, and many British students are in fact going in September or have already left the UK.

This makes it even more frustrating that King’s has not updated their policy since April, and have provided minimal information to students.

King’s College London has been contacted for comment

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