It was the perfect plan.
Katie Nothhorn was going to travel to Holland in April 2020 for an international competition as a member of Sue’s Stepper-ettes, a baton-twirling club based in Omaha. She would write a paper about the trip to fulfill the study-abroad requirement for an international studies minor.
Then the coronavirus pandemic hit, and the trip was postponed until at least August 2021.
The child, youth and family studies major from Omaha was one credit short on her minor — and intent on graduating in May 2021.
The answer came in the form of three-week sessions that the University of Nebraska–Lincoln created to provide online learning opportunities in the two-month time frame, from the end of fall classes on Nov. 24 to the beginning of spring classes on Jan. 25. The university is ending the fall semester early and starting the spring semester late to minimize student travel during the holidays and the heart of the winter flu season.
Nothhorn signed up for a three-credit course called Around the World with Coffee that addresses the history, geography and equity of coffee production. Even though it’s not a study abroad trip, it will count toward her minor.
In the class, instructor Yalem Teshome, a professor of practice in experiential education, is using technology to provide students an international experience. During the first week, students were joined by a professor from Jimma, Ethiopia, who presented on the agronomy of coffee. Other experts from the United States and Africa provided information about the economics of the global coffee trade. Students also virtually experienced a coffee ceremony conducted at an Ethiopian restaurant in Lincoln.
Nothhorn, who loves to travel and has been on numerous international trips as a member of the Stepper-ettes, would have preferred to complete her minor with a study-abroad trip.
“I talked to my adviser in the spring, and we decided to wait until August to see what would happen,” she recalled. “Then it’s August and COVID is still here.”
It was a no-go to wait until summer 2021 for scheduled study-abroad trips, she said. She didn’t want to delay graduation until August 2021.
“I grew up in a single-parent household, and it was too much money,” she said. “My mom has been paying for my college out of her pocket because she wants me to get my bachelor’s degree with no debt. She was pushing not to pay for another semester if she could avoid it.”
Her financial aid package for the 2020-21 academic year applies toward the course — “I was very, very grateful for that,” she said — and she can finish her minor without prolonging her time at the university.
Nothhorn wants to work in adoption and foster care or education-based social work. She is undecided between graduate school and entering the job market after her graduation.