Coronavirus concerns cancel study abroad trip midway into the semester
Trastevere is a quiet neighborhood in Rome where narrow cobblestone streets and tan-colored buildings create a charming atmosphere. It is a small neighborhood for locals and tourists alike to peacefully enjoy the many restaurants, pubs and piazzas there.
Located along the ancient Tiber River, it contains various American universities for study abroad students to experience the city of Rome. John Cabot University, also known as JCU, is the university’s affiliated school for students to study abroad in Rome. It was there on Jan. 13 that university students arrived to start their Spring semester abroad.
Their time there was cut short, however, when on Feb. 29, students received notice from the university’s Institute of Global Studies saying that they had to return home due to concerns from the coronavirus epidemic.
“In light of the rapidly changing situation with the COVID-19 (known as coronavirus disease 2019) and the U.S. State Department’s travel advisory for Italy, the University of Delaware has decided to cancel the spring program at John Cabot University in Rome,” the email said.
Since the students began their Spring semester classes on Jan. 20, they were approaching their midterm period before being told to return to the United States. The students are not returning en masse but were told to contact Concur World Travel, a travel agency the university is partnered with, in order to arrange for flights home.
The university is covering the cost of the unexpected return flights. The university is also looking to financially compensate for the remaining cost of the housing that the students can no longer utilize. The university is not compensating for tuition, however, as the students will still be enrolled in their classes and will continue their studies online.
“They are going to take the courses they were already enrolled in and offer them online,” Andrea Boyle Tippett, director of external relations for the university’s office of communications and marketing, said. “[JCU is] working on ways to present them remotely rather than in person.”
This allows students to stay on track for their academic requirements, including those enrolled in the World Scholars Program who have to complete two study abroad trips.
None of the returning students have coronavirus, according to Boyle Tippett. Rome is located in the central region of Italy, while most coronavirus cases are being recorded in the northern regions such as Milan, a city 357 miles north of Rome. Their removal is a safety precaution by recommendation of the U.S. Department of State.
“The State Department gives guidance to all Americans on the level of perceived threat in each country around the world,” Boyle Tippett said. “Italy was on a Level 2 and then on Friday it was moved to a Level 3. At that point the university made the decision to bring the students home.”
The U.S. Department of State uses a one to four threat-level scale concerning the safety of travel to a foreign country with Level 1 being an “exercise normal caution” advisory and Level 4 being a “do not travel” advisory. Italy’s Level 3 status means that the State Department advises individuals to “reconsider travel” there.
So far, those studying at JCU were the only students abroad that the university has sent home. Students who are abroad elsewhere in Italy are not in a university-affiliated program. Therefore, they are technically on a leave of absence from the university and have to work independently with their host organization to decide whether they would have to leave or not.
On Monday, the university sent out an email to students on leave of absence, informing them that those traveling internationally in a non-university-affiliated program should adhere to the Center for Disease Control’s recommendations to not travel to countries that are listed as Level 2 or Level 3 threats.
The email also informed students that individuals who have been to those countries with a threat Level 2 or higher must self-quarantine themselves upon returning to the U.S.
“If you have travelled to a Level 3 or Level 2 area, you will be required to self-quarantine at another location for at least 14 days before coming to campus for any reason,” the email stated.
The email listed several ways to self-quarantine oneself at home, such as wearing a face mask around people and pets at home and to consistently wash one’s hands.
“Clean ‘high-touch’ surfaces daily with a household cleaning spray or wipe,” The email stated. “Monitor your health and if you develop a fever, cough or feel short of breath, call your health care provider BEFORE seeking in-person care.”
There is at least one student who is studying in Florence, Italy outside of a university-affiliated program according to Boyle Tippett.
The university continues to keep a close watch on the outbreak throughout the rest of the world, but will focus on places where students are abroad.
“Students are currently in Australia, the Cayman Islands, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, [and] Spain,” Boyle Tippett said. “To my knowledge those students are there currently but of course we are monitoring the situation and if they need to be brought home we will bring them home.”
Students can find more information from the university’s coronavirus website at https://www.udel.edu/home/coronavirus/.