Chesapeake Semester’s return planned for fall 2021 after COVID-19 cancellation

By Piper Sartison

Elm Staff Writer

Washington College announced its commitment to reimplementing the Chesapeake Semester for students in the fall of 2021. 

Every fall, WC students are offered the opportunity to partake in the Chesapeake Semester. During those few months, students who participate in the program study the history, culture, and environment of the Chesapeake Bay, according to the Chesapeake Semester webpage. 

Around 10 students and four instructors are involved in this study. Students learn their course materials in a classroom setting as well as in the outdoors through camping trips, hiking, and canoeing. 

Due to COVID-19, the fall 2020 Chesapeake Semester program was cancelled for the first time since 2009, according to Benjamin Ford, Chesapeake Semester and Research Fleet program manager. 

“The nature of the program does not make for a remote learning experience. We just couldn’t do that in the fall of 2020,” Ford said.

According to Ford, because of the planned vaccine rollout as well as the campus’s response to the community transmission of COVID-19, WC is looking towards the return of the Chesapeake Semester with “optimism.”

There would still have to be some form of social distancing and masking policies, according to Ford; however, he is hopeful that the program will run like it has in past years. 

“One of the opportunities of the Chesapeake Semester is that [participants] are exposed to so many different careers and places that offer internships, [so] they have a broader understanding of what’s out there,” Ford said. 

The Chesapeake Semester also exposes students to traveling, camping, and other environmental activities while following an outlined curriculum, according to their website. 

“[The Chesapeake Semester] was one of the main reasons why I chose to come to WC,” senior Samina Soin-Voshell, who participated in the program in 2018, said “You’re spending all of your time with this group of eight people which is such a unique experience, but it also allows for really immersive hands-on opportunities that you would never get if you were taking normal classes.”

For Soin-Voshell, those experiences included trips to Belize and Guatemala. 

“It truly is such a cool experience to culminate the semester by applying everything you’ve learned to a different watershed and country,” Soin-Voshell said.

Despite its focus on the environment and Chesapeake Bay, the program is open to students of all majors. Soin-Voshell studied with students who were majoring in business and communications. 

“There’s no other setting where you’d be sitting on a beach with your professor, doing art or working on an assignment while they’re sitting next to you chatting,” Soin-Voshell said.

The Chesapeake Semester is designed to challenge students with a rigorous curriculum, all while exposing participants to nature, according to Ford. 

Ford said that the overall goal of the program is to push students toward a stable internship, accepting the fact that they might not know what they are going to do with their future. 

“The idea of the Chesapeake Semester is that we are studying the societal impacts of the environment on a coastal community and how the environment of a coastal community impacts the way people interact with their natural resources,” Ford said. 

Rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors can apply for the fall 2021 program by filling out the Google Form in Ford’s March 5 email.  There are no prerequisites for enrollment. To learn more about program fees, students should contact Ford at bford2@washcoll.edu.

Featured Photo caption: The Chesapeake Semester is a cornerstone of many students’ WC experiences. However, its fall 2020 iteration was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program plans on returning in fall 2021 due to the planned vaccine rollout and the College’s reaction to community spread. Elm File Photo.

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