Through Crisis Comes Opportunity

Authored By:

College Study Abroad

You know the adage - when one door closes, another one opens. It’s not often that door opens on a different continent though.

At least, this was the case for Samuel Gass, a sophomore from Appalachian State University who was set to spend spring ’20 on CIEE’s Sustainable Development program in Beijing.

But like hundreds of students planning to spend a semester studying abroad in China, Samuel’s plans were abruptly thwarted due to the outbreak of the novel (new) coronavirus in Wuhan Province and the rapid spread of the disease across the Asian continent. CIEE canceled all spring and summer programs in China immediately after the U.S. Department of State and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised their travel and health alerts to level 3, which discourages travel to the region.

“It was a real sliding doors moment for me,” said Samuel, who, along with CIEE staff, worked quickly to find an alternative for the Sustainable Development program in Beijing. In just a matter of days, his flight reservations for Beijing were rerouted to land some 5,000 miles away from the capital city. “One day I was heading to Beijing for my semester program and next I was heading to Perth, Australia,” he remembers.

Samuel landed in Perth just in time to begin the semester on CIEE’s Arts + Sciences program which, along with our partner school, Murdoch University, has a rich offering of Advanced Sustainable Development coursework. But coursework is just one part of the experience. “As part of the Arts and Science program I was placed in a for-credit Sustainable Development Internship with a state parliamentarian.”

That parliamentarian was the Honorable Diane Evers, MLC – Legislative Council for The Greens Party in the South West Region. Ms. Evers is a staunch supporter of sustainable environmental practices including sustainable food production and land conservation. She is leading an Environmental Legislation Campaign that would provide Western Australian with the funds needed to rehabilitate and preserve lands polluted by the mining and gas sectors; protect the regions unique biodiversity; and prepare for the effects of climate change.

For Ms. Ever’s newest intern, this means a semester filled with documenting the effects of climate change in Western Australia’s rural areas and the costs involved in mitigation efforts.

“The staff here were vital in making the transition smooth and also accommodating to find the internship at such short notice,” remarked Samuel, who is still in awe at the Beijing-to-Perth experience.

CIEE Perth Center Director, Paul Hollick was instrumental in Samuel’s internship placement, but he said “it was heartening to see the positive attitude that Sam brought to this last-minute change of program. His placement in the Sustainable Development Internship was partly a result of Sam being prepared to put himself out there, to take on the unknown. The placement with a Greens Upper House member will be an experience that will hopefully stand Sam in good stead for his future career.”

All summer and fall '20 programs are backed by CIEE's no-risk, go-abroad Program Assurance Advantage.