The Nineteen: Caren Aveldanez ’21 and Ally Shearon ’22 in Germany

Caren Aveldanez and Ally Shearon are two of 19 undergraduate and graduate students studying abroad and Study USA this fall. "The Nineteen" is a series where we’ll take a closer look at these students’ stories to learn how global education is happening in this historic moment.

This is the third in a series from the Isabella Cannon Global Education Center titled “The Nineteen,” featuring Elon students participating in study abroad and Study USA programs this semester.

The majority of the more than 500 students scheduled to study abroad or Study USA this fall have instead enrolled in on-campus courses, many because their programs were canceled and some deciding to pursue global engagement in spring 2021 or a future term instead.

However, 19 undergraduate and graduate students are studying abroad or Studying USA this fall.

Students are on a range of programs, including:

  • Study abroad in Germany, Rwanda, South Korea and the United Kingdom
  • Study USA in Chicago and Washington, D.C.
  • Business Dual Degree in Spain, France and Germany
  • Physical Therapy clinical placements in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado and Pennsylvania
19 undergraduate and graduate students study abroad and Study USA this fall.

Global engagement during a pandemic inherently comes with more variables and ambiguity, including dynamic travel regulations, on-site health and safety considerations, risks to local vulnerable populations, and whether modifications are possible without compromising the integrity of the program.

All of this means that global engagement will look different for these 19 students – perhaps from how it ever has or ever will look again.

After months of waiting and not knowing, Caren Aveldanez ‘21 and Ally Shearon ’22 this fall finally boarded a plane for Berlin, Germany. For Shearon, this summer was filled with waiting and uncertainty. In fact, she spent the summer expecting her fall program in Berlin to be canceled.

Eight of the nine students on the CIEE Berlin program on a walking tour through the city.

“Even a month before we were planning on coming, I was not expecting to go,” Shearon said.

She kept waiting for the moment that she received the email telling her that the program was canceled, but even in the face of such uncertainty, she was determined to make her plans a reality. “I wasn’t going to let it go until they told me that I physically could not go to Germany,” she said. “As long as Germany was going to let us in, and Elon was going to let us go, then I still wanted to go.”

Both Aveldanez and Shearon are German studies minors and were eager to immerse themselves in the language and culture. They had heard positive feedback from friends about CIEE’s program in Berlin, noting their preference for a more intimate program in which they could build strong relationships with their professors and program director.

Fortunately for Aveldanez and Shearon, the CIEE program was able to safely move forward with their plans for the fall in Berlin. For Aveldanez, a senior graduating in May, this was particularly good news. She had been planning to study abroad during the fall semester of her senior year for a long time in order to work around major and minor requirements.

“For me, it was either I go now, or I don’t go at all,” said Aveldanez, who was overjoyed that she was able to follow through with her plans to study in Berlin this fall.

Aveldanez and Shearon visiting Park am Gleisdreieck during the partial lockdown.

As soon as they arrived in Germany, Aveldanez and Shearon were both tested for COVID-19 in the airport before quarantining in a hotel. Once they received their negative test results, they were both tested a second time and then were allowed to move into their residence halls.

Aveldanez and Shearon chose their courses carefully to maximize their time abroad. Their courses all include site visits and excursions, turning classroom learning into a hands-on experience that inspires the students to explore the world around them. Aveldanez and Shearon both love their unique and appropriately local class “The Grimm Brothers,” which explores German folk tales.

Their professors come from different backgrounds and are passionate about what they teach. Because of the small class sizes, Aveldanez and Shearon have been able to get to know them well, often receiving recommendations for restaurants to try and places around the city to visit. Their Italian professor, who teaches Food, Nutrition, and Culture, once took them to a farmer’s market to purchase ingredients to cook a meal together, which they all had a lot of fun with.

However, their time in Berlin has not been without setbacks. On Nov. 1, the country began a one-month partial lockdown in response to rising cases of COVID-19, which included shuttering restaurants, bars and entertainment venues. Aveldanez and Shearon say it is more difficult to be in a lockdown in a foreign country, but they feel more secure because of the support from their professors and program director.

Aveldanez and Shearon (center and right) with a fellow CIEE Berlin student by the East Side Gallery.

“We can still go to museums and explore the city, which has been our main priority since day one.  We’ve been spending a lot of time with the other people on our program, going to parks, and making meals together. The main difference is just that restaurants and bars aren’t open, so we’re spending more time at home but keeping busy as much as we can!” said Shearon.

Aveldanez and Shearon maintain their optimism and look forward to enjoying what the city has to offer them. Ally landed an internship in Berlin through CIEE with a German start-up company for her last six weeks in the city, which she is very excited to start. They have had the opportunity to go through this experience with a small group of other students – only nine others – allowing them to form strong bonds with one another.

“I wasn’t expecting any of this to happen, so being here was a shock. Everything we do, every trip we take, I’m always looking forward to it,” said Aveldanez.