As coronavirus spreads, 5C students’ study abroad programs abruptly canceled

A sign with Korean characters and pictures of washing hands, coughing, and wearing marks
A sign in Seoul, South Korea advises members of the public on coronavirus transmission prevention tips. (Courtesy: Jaimie Ding)

As COVID-19 — otherwise known as the novel coronavirus — continues to spread globally, more 5C students studying abroad are seeing their programs suddenly canceled.

Pitzer College has temporarily shut down its program in Parma, Italy, affecting two students, college spokesperson Anna Chang said via email. Two Scripps College students set to study in Seoul, South Korea and one in Florence, Italy were also impacted, Scripps study abroad director Neva Barker said via email.

Claremont McKenna College students abroad have been unaffected by the virus so far, but their programs are encouraging them to stay in their host cities, CMC study abroad director Kristen Mallory said. Some students in Italy are also currently being taught online because the Italian government closed some universities for two weeks.

We continue to closely monitor the situation and will make changes as needed,” Mallory said.

One Pomona College student’s program in Italy decided to close over the weekend after the State Department and CDC raised their warning levels for the country, Director of Study Abroad Nicole Desjardins Gowdy told TSL, and other Pomona students abroad have faced travel restrictions.

Pomona is continuing to monitor the situation both abroad and in the U.S., and is staying in touch with study abroad programs, Vice Presidents Bob Gaines, Robert Goldberg and Avis Hinkson said in an email to students.

Harvey Mudd College spokesperson Judy Augsburger told TSL via email Thursday that the college is “monitoring the current situation” and “our study abroad partners … have been in contact with both the students and their parents.” She did not specify how many, if any, Mudd students have been affected.

Three students, two from CMC and one from Mudd, who were planning to study in China — where the virus originated — had their programs canceled earlier in the year, before the programs began. 

Chang said the two Pitzer students in Parma are returning to the U.S. on Friday. She did not respond to a request for more information about what the students will do once they return to the U.S. by press time.

Syracuse University, which runs the canceled Florence program, is working to reassign the students in Florence — who were already over a month into their semester — to other programs, but it’s still unclear where they’ll be going, according to Barker.

The Seoul program was initially scheduled to start Feb. 25, but the start date was pushed back to March 4 when Yonsei University, where students attend classes, delayed the start of its semester by two weeks, according to Barker.

The Council on International Educational Exchange, which runs the Seoul program, announced the cancellation yesterday in an email to program participants.

The decision came in response to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raising its travel advisory level for South Korea to level three, “Avoid Nonessential Travel,” according to the CIEE email. CIEE said they’d provide participants with other options within 48 hours.

Jaimie Ding SC ’21, one of the two Scripps students set to study in Seoul, has been in the city for several weeks waiting for her program to start. She said she was surprised CIEE decided to cancel her program.

“I was shocked. I honestly did not see this coming,” Ding said. “I’m currently living in Korea, and … people are still going out, people are still going to restaurants, they’re going to malls, they’re still walking around the streets. For me it feels like everyone’s still living their lives normally.” 

“For me … [the virus] hasn’t really affected my day-to-day in Korea, living in Seoul, which is why this came as a pretty big surprise when it got canceled,” Ding added. 

Another Scripps student is studying in Italy on a program that has not yet been suspended, but the college is monitoring the situation, Barker added.

This article was last updated March 8 at 10:00 p.m.

This article was updated March 2 at 11:32 a.m.

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