From students who had planned to participate in either England Term or Europe Term in the fall of 2022.
I was sitting cross-legged on a patterned couch in a beautiful city in Guatemala when I got the news. It came from my roommate, who had just recently gotten COVID-19 and joined our little quarantine house, reading a mass Bethel email out loud.
I couldn’t hear anything else.
England Term is canceled.
Honestly, that was the last thing I needed. The tears came before I could finish processing. They were mournful, but more than anything, they were frustrated. Why let us register and put down deposits, let the entire trip be planned out, let us get our hopes up and base our four-year academic plans around this promise, just to shut it down?
I understand that Bethel is struggling financially and that the continuation of these programs is unsustainable. What I do not understand is the utter lack of accountability, communication and empathy from our administration surrounding this decision.
When England Term was one of the primary factors in my recruitment to Bethel, I expected it to be grandfathered in under any circumstances like these – anything else would be considered recruitment fraud. I expected that Bethel would communicate any issues like this to me far in advance so that I could seek out third-party programs and additional financial aid before all of the deadlines closed. I expected something a bit more personal than a blanket email giving “disproportionate relationship between the costs of these programs and the accomplishment of learning outcomes” as a vague reason for wrecking my academic trajectory. When I discovered the trip’s leading faculty member wasn’t addressed in advance and consulted in the decision, I was infuriated.
The only feeling lingering now is one of extreme disappointment in Bethel’s administration for the way this situation was handled. Nowhere in those half-hearted emails was the word “sorry.”
I first toured Bethel University as a high school sophomore who wanted to study English education. One of the main things that stuck with me from that trip was my meeting with one of the professors in the education department. In that meeting, she told me about England Term. As the program was explained to me, something awakened in me. I didn’t know much about the program beyond a few locations and authors they studied, but I knew there was something special that happened on that trip. I had to go on it.
Throughout the rest of high school, I toured other universities, many of which had better English programs and placed a higher emphasis on their creative programs, but none of them beat Bethel’s England Term.
When it came time to fill out my college applications, I only finished my application to Bethel because attending here was non-negotiable. From my very first exposure to the English department in Survey of British Literature I in the fall of my freshman year, I was encouraged to attend the department’s England Term. It has been something reiterated by every English professor I’ve had in my time at Bethel. The highlight of the English department was England Term. Now it’s gone.
I was sitting in Pancheros enjoying my lunch with a friend when I received the email. After an initial skim, I had to read it again because I could not fully comprehend the news of Europe Term, my Europe Term, being canceled. The semester-long program I had implemented into my four-year plan since my freshman year, the study abroad trip that had inspired me to go to Bethel for communication studies, the trip that had originally been planned for fall 2021 but had been postponed to 2022 due to COVID-19 — that trip had been cut because of financial issues. Later, in a Zoom call set up by Provost Robin Rylaarsdam, I would learn that these specific financial issues were lower enrollment numbers for Bethel’s 2022-2023 school year – my senior year.
There are not enough words in the English language to describe the turmoil of emotions I have felt in the past few weeks of processing the news. I threw away my packing list in sadness, frustration and disappointment. I scheduled a meeting with the study abroad office in desperation and in search of other study abroad opportunities. I cried and asked God why.
With these feelings, however, I have been supported on many sides by family, friends, fellow Europe and England Term participants, professors and those in the study abroad office. My professors didn’t even know about the cancellation until 10 minutes before students did. While I understand, as a poor college student myself, that funding these experiences is difficult and costly, I am deeply saddened by this opportunity being taken away from me twice. I hope the programs are able to return in the future, but for me and many others, it will be too late.
I came to Bethel University because I was excited about the strong Christian community that waited for me. I thought that we, the students, and our lives were put above other things and that Bethel wasn’t so much a business, but a community. As a senior who has been here since 2018, I can say I have been proved wrong on multiple occasions. The first few were disappointments I classified as bad luck – one being Bethel cutting my theatre major, meaning I was unable to go on England Term in 2019, allegedly the last time it would be offered. The last time some theatre classes I needed to graduate were offered was that fall. But losing England Term forever, something I had been trying to do since I came here as a freshman, was what broke me. I had applied and been accepted. I had spent years saving up. I was told what kind of places were being added to the itinerary. I was excited. After COVID-19 canceled the 2021 trip, I was finally getting my chance to go and see the world while studying what I love.
And then Bethel decided that even with all of that, the last group of accepted students couldn’t go. We offered all sorts of solutions and begged for them to reconsider, but they refused every time. No matter how much problem solving parents and students did, it wasn’t enough. Bethel claims to care about us, but in the end, they don’t. They only care about you in the way that a business cares about its product; how much money can you bring them? England Term was my dream for four years, and I had four years of daydreams and anticipation built up. Now, I have to find a way to graduate on time. So thank you, Bethel. You won’t see a cent of my money in the future.