Students Modify Study Abroad Plans as College Monitors Coronavirus Outbreak
By Gauri Mangala and Benjamin Pontz
Six Gettysburg College students who planned on studying in Shanghai, China this semester have changed their plans after a coronavirus outbreak led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to advise travelers to avoid travel to China. Some students have elected to pursue a different abroad program, while others have enrolled in classes on campus at Gettysburg for the semester.
The program was scheduled to begin on Feb. 12. On Jan. 21, those planning on studying abroad received an email from program administrators acknowledging the outbreak and promising to keep students posted as the outbreak evolved. On Monday morning, Jan. 27, students received a phone call from the Center for Career Engagement’s (CGE) Dean for Global Initiatives and Director Rebecca Bergren affirming Gettysburg’s awareness of the situation and a willingness to aid in the changing of travel plans, if it came to that. That evening, the CDC upgraded the travel advisory to Level 3, which recommends avoiding any non-essential travel. At that point, CET, the program provider, pushed the arrival date for students to Feb. 27.
Students began to consider their options before the determination to cancel the program was ultimately made. On Tuesday, Jan. 28, Bergren advised students in an email that began by stating, “this is not the message I hoped to write,” and continued that they might be better off pursuing another program or studying at Gettysburg. Bergren presented options for programs that had not yet begun including Nepal, Australia, and Jordan, while CET offered two non-Gettysburg affiliated programs: Taiwan and Vietnam.
Abby Hauer ‘21, a Public Policy and Mathematical Economics double major who had planned to study in Shanghai for the spring semester, instead decided that the Nepal program was best for her. She will depart for the country on Monday, Feb. 3, a week earlier than she had initially planned to leave for China.
“It’s more of a crunch than it would’ve been,” Hauer said. “There are pluses and minuses, but the pluses definitely outweigh [the minuses].”
Other Shanghai-bound students, like Garrett Goodwin ‘21, elected to return to Gettysburg for the semester. After hearing about the virus, Goodwin decided to delay studying abroad until the fall 2020 semester. He was able to find housing and enroll in classes; he appreciated the college’s help as he changed his plans.
“They were very prompt on their end and developed counter-strategies for me,” he said.
In addition to helping students adjust their plans for off-campus study, the college has been monitoring warnings from public health officials in an effort to prevent an outbreak of the virus on campus.
According to a campus-wide email sent last week, members of the college community have been to the Wuhan region of China in the last few months. College data shows that 63 Gettysburg College students hail from China. While no one has reported any symptoms of coronavirus to date, college spokesperson Jamie Yates said that the college has a plan in place to test anyone has exhibited symptoms and has recently been in China.
As the outbreak evolves, Yates says the college has a team in place to address new issues that may arise.
“We will continue to emphasize the safety and well-being of our students, and will also continue to be sensitive to the specific implications that international students might confront,” Yates said.
Nicole DeJacimo contributed to this report.