Business Students Remained Abroad During Pandemic

Written by Bailey Smith, College of Business Communications Intern

Max PigzaStephanie HermesAs spring semester began, two business students started their study abroad experience. Fourth year accounting student, Stephanie Hermes, was studying abroad in Amsterdam at Vrije Universiteit. Max Pigza, accounting and finance senior, was enrolled in the EM Strasbourg Business School in France. Unexpectedly, the two found themselves studying abroad during the global shut down. Stephanie continued her studies in Amsterdam during spring semester and plans to return to the United States at the end of July.  Max completed his studies in Strausbourg and returned to the United States in May with a Bachelor’s degree in European Management.  

Stephanie was not prepared to study abroad during a global pandemic. She attended classes in-person until mid-March. In response to COVID-19, classes transitioned to an online format for the rest of the semester. 

The social distancing guidelines in the Netherlands were fairly lenient. In the beginning, two people from the same household were allowed together in public but had to maintain 6 feet of distance. This was enforced by issuing fines if people did not oblige. By the end of April, enforcement had slowly become more relaxed, but citizens still exercised some caution and distance. Face masks were not required anywhere besides public transportation. Stephanie estimated that about 30% of people she saw wore masks in public.  

Although challenging, Hermes finished the school year strong. Coronavirus provided experiences that she would not have had otherwise. “It's easy to look at everything I lost and missed out on from the pandemic,” explained Stephanie. “But focusing on the silver lining has definitely helped me through the whole thing.” Hermes shared that studying abroad allowed her to make great friends, enjoy the outdoors, bike around the country and have time for self-reflection! She is grateful for her experience and the lessons learned along the way. 

Pigza noted that a common fear among international students was the potential inability to leave the country. Personally, Max was not concerned, so he decided to quarantine in France to continue his experience. “I decided to stay,” stated Pigza.  “I was too stubborn to call the experience over and knew that I would rather be quarantined in France than back at home.” 

Much like Netherlands, the social distancing guidelines in France were initially fairly lenient. President Macron asked citizens to stay at home and only go out if absolutely necessary.  Citizens ignored the simple guidelines, resulting in a major lockdown including nonessential travel being completely restricted, borders being shut down, all schools were closed, and a stay at home order was issued.  

Student safety is one of BGSU’s top priorities.  BGSU monitors student’s safety while studying abroad including a phone app. Hermes and Pigza felt safe during their experience.  

“We are very proud of Stephanie and Max for finishing the semester strong,” commented Ray Braun ’80, Dean of the College of Business. “We look forward to seeing them back on campus!”