Study-abroad trip delayed by fire

An electrical fire at the Dalkeith Palace in Edinburgh, Scotland has delayed the departure of students scheduled to study abroad there, but officials say the program will continue as planned with minor changes.

Students enrolled in the program were notified of the delay the morning of their planned departure, Jan. 17.

Junior Megan Williams said when her mom called her with the news, her initial reaction was that her mom was lying.

“Then I thought, `What am I going to do for the next three weeks?'” she said.

“We realize this is an inconvenience to students,” said Cheryl Lochner-Wright, director of the Center for International Education. “But we’re just glad it could be worked out and the trip is still planned.”

Williams said she was lucky because she got to go back to the job she had during winter break, which is near her hometown of Boyceville. She had already moved out of her apartment in Eau Claire.

The fire, which occurred Jan. 15, caused smoke damage to parts of the palace. The main reason for the delay is that Dalkeith is without heat, water or electricity because of the fire, Lochner-Wright said. The problems are supposed to be remedied by the new departure date of Feb. 7.

Because of the three-week delay, classes at Edinburgh will be extended 20 or 30 minutes each, Lochner-Wright said. Students are still scheduled to leave Edinburgh on May 9.

This is not the first time a study abroad trip to Edinburgh has been delayed. The threat of terrorist acts during the Gulf War delayed another trip to Edinburgh – a trip, coincidentally, that Williams’ cousin was part of.

“I thought `What is wrong with us?'” Williams said. “We have the worst luck.”

Williams said she didn’t think the delay would ruin the entire experience in Scotland, but she is afraid the extended class periods will cut down on free time. That means the students would have less time to travel and to get to know the community, she said.

For the most part, students have been understanding of the delay, Lochner-Wright said, adding that the university’s biggest concern is the safety of the students.

The semester will go on as planned, she said.

“Despite this, I’m sure they will have a wonderful experience,” Lochner-Wright said.

Senior Anne Fowler, who studied abroad in Edinburgh last semester, said she was relieved the palace was not destroyed when she heard about the fire.

“(Dalkeith) is what made the experience what is was,” she said.

Fowler said it is really wonderful that students have the opportunity to stay in a building such as Dalkeith, even though staying in such a building does have its downfalls.

“It was definitely miserable in there because it was always freezing,” she said. “But it was a huge part of studying in Scotland.”

The three weeks the students will be missing will probably have an impact on their trip, Fowler said.

“That’s a huge amount of time that they won’t get to travel,” she said. “And that is so important.”