Administrative troubles have brought an end to Binghamton University’s Semester in London program, but coordinators in the English department have hopes of reviving it by spring 2020.
The program, which was offered every spring, had been going on for almost 40 years. But according to Joseph Keith, chair of the English department and an associate professor of English, tensions between the University’s Office of International Education and Global Initiatives (IEGI) and Academic Solutions, the organization that ran the program from London, led to its cancellation. While the English department hoped to find a new provider and continue the program, the IEGI informed them that the department would have to reapply the program.
Keith wrote in an email that the program has impacted many students over its four-decade-long run.
“It is a source of great stress for the English department,” Keith wrote. “The program has been running successfully for nearly 40 years and has provided a deeply, meaningful [and] often life-changing educational and life experience to not only so many English undergraduates but also students from other majors and other SUNY schools.”
Trisha Bello, assistant provost of international education and global affairs for IEGI and director of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), wrote in an email that the office is attempting to figure out a way to keep the program.
“The IEGI has a [long-standing] collaborative relationship with the English [department], particularly as it relates to the administration of the Semester in London program,” Bello wrote. “This program has been running for close to 40 years, and we look forward to identifying ways by which to successfully continue to offer the program for another 40 to come.”
The program allows students to learn about British art and culture both in class and through various school trips. Katherine Fucigna, a senior majoring in English who attended the program during her sophomore year, wrote that the program was a unique experience.
“Taking classes like British Life and Culture and British Art and Architecture, while being literally surrounded by it, was like no other educational experience I’ve ever had,” Fucigna wrote. “I have so many incredible memories from the Semester in London program, so it really breaks my heart to think that future students might not have the same life-changing opportunity that I did.”
During the program, students live in fully furnished London flats, with a staff member on call 24 hours a day in case of emergency. Additionally, students do not have classes on Monday or Friday to allow for travel. Fucigna wrote that these amenities added to her study abroad experience.
“The University did an amazing job making sure we were all comfortable and had every available resource in terms of information, travel, support [and more],” Fucigna wrote. “They also organized so many trips and outings outside of the city, so I never felt like my experience was restrained to just London. My class schedule also afforded me the opportunity to travel to six other countries during my time abroad, which was incredible.”
Jonah Goldstein, who graduated from SUNY Geneseo in 2018, attended the program in spring 2018 and wrote in an email that he had mixed feelings about the program and the relatively small class sizes.
“Because of the program’s shrinking size, there were only 13 of us. It is not easy to spend most of your waking hours surrounded by the same dozen people for nearly four months,” Goldstein wrote. “Furthermore, owing to the fact that the program does not involve an actual English university, but rather a single classroom in the Florida State University [London Study Centre], we did not meet any other students in our time there. This was rather isolating and did not make us feel at all a part of the city.”