96,171 confirmed cases.
3,305 reported deaths.
These are the continuous growing statistics of the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19. What started in the Wuhan province of China has spread throughout the world.
The high rate of infection and transmission has caused an unsuspected impact on study abroad programs.
The recent outbreak in Northern Italy has caused a slew of study abroad programs to be canceled. Rebecca Maher, a University of Connecticut student, was spending her Spring semester abroad in Florence, Italy.
On February 29th, she received an email from UConn at 2 a.m. announcing they were pulling her and the remainder of their students from Florence.
Days after the original email, Maher recalls,
“Nothing was worked out for days, so they didn’t give us the deadline of March 6 to leave Florence until after a lot of people had already booked flights for later dates. A ton of my roommates had to cancel flights, for a second time, and lost even more money on plane tickets,” Maher said.
Student returnees from Italy are restricted from visiting campus until two weeks after their return and are advised to home-quarantine. The students are only receiving a refund for the future excursions that had not yet happened. UConn is offering $475 to each student as compensation for flights. They will be able to finish their courses online or remotely to receive credit.
In Morocco, King Mohammed VI ordered the Moroccan students studying abroad in China to return. Upon the students’ return, they were quarantined immediately. Around 179 students were separated between two facilities in Rabat and Meknès. In recent days, they were released after an extended quarantine of 17 days, rather than the average 14 days.
Studying abroad not only offers the opportunity to live in a foreign country, but to many, they can travel internationally on weekends and breaks. The Coronavirus is creating hesitant travelers because there is the obvious fear of infection and for some individuals an even bigger fear of denied entry.
Alyssa Boysen had tickets to go to Venice, Italy for a long weekend. Due to the outbreak, she was deciding whether to cancel her trip. She fears what most do, of possible infection and denied entry. Both into Italy and back into Morocco, where she is currently studying abroad.
“My main concern for traveling to Italy was being unable to come back into Morocco, or to be put into quarantine for two weeks and miss out on classes and my experiences here,” said Boysen.
Boysen then received an email from her program, ISA. The email notified students they were now restricted from visiting Italy, China, and South Korea; confirming her thoughts on cancelling the trip. Luckily for Boysen, she received credit from the hostel she had booked and is in talks with the airline about a voucher.
Like Maher, Madison Hayes’ study abroad program in Italy prematurely ended. Hayes didn’t let this be the end of her time abroad. Instead of returning to the US, she continued to travel after the cancelation of her program.
Hayes flew to Marrakech, Morocco where she spent a few days traveling around. While on her way to Tel Aviv, Israel, what a traveler fears most happened to Hayes.
After disembarking the plane in Israel, she was denied entry due to her recent time in Italy. Frustrated and emotionally drained from the past few weeks, Hayes has decided to finally return home.
Studying abroad is seen as a defining experience of a student’s academic career. A time to expand your worldview and have “the time of your life.” No one expects their study abroad to end suddenly or to be strongly advised to stay stationary while abroad.
Coronavirus has study abroad programs and students scrambling. The assumption of a dream semester abroad has come crashing down hard.