As coronavirus spreads to Europe, more and more U.S. colleges are suspending study abroad programs in an effort to safeguard students. The new virus is a member of the coronavirus family that’s a close cousin to the SARS and MERS viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past.
In a statement released this week, Elon University announced that it would be suspending its study abroad program in Florence, Italy for the remainder of the semester due to the growing number of confirmed cases in northern parts of the country. “This was a difficult decision for the university to make, given that these students were already immersed in these important global experiences,” explains Woody Pelton, Elon’s Dean of Global Education. “This decision will send 21 students and one faculty member home this week, where they will continue to study remotely.”
Fairfield University also closed its Florence University of the Arts study abroad program this week, sending a total of 142 students home. According to ABC, the univesrsity said in a news release that it is working through the logistics of allowing students to return to campus hopefully after spring break.Those returning to campus will have the option of both online and hybrid courses to ensure they stay on track toward graduation dates. New York University also urged its students to leave Florence, suspending a study abroad program and offering remote classes as an alternative.
Perhaps the largest program canceled recently is the program hosted by Syracuse University. After suspending its program this week, 342 students are being sent back home. “We are working directly with our students to arrange their return to the United States. We will do everything we can to minimize disruption to their academic studies and their lives,” the university stated in a news release to students. “Many will choose to return to main campus. However, they will not return until after spring break.”
According to data from CNN, as of today more than 80,000 cases of the new coronavirus have been confirmed globally, with about 78,000 of those occurring in China. Other countries experiencing outbreaks include South Korea (1,766 cases), Italy (528) and Japan (189). In the U.S., 60 cases have been confirmed.
These abrupt university supensions are leaving students to figure out new study abroad and travel plans in the midst of an active outbreak.