As Coronavirus Spreads, College Largely Mum While Students Abroad Told Not to Travel

By Nicole DeJacimo, Investigations Editor

With college-sponsored spring break trips on the horizon and dozens of students studying abroad in Europe, the Center for Global Education and other study abroad programs released travel recommendations to Gettysburgians in light of an ever-expanding outbreak of the coronavirus.

Students studying abroad in Austria, Switzerland, and Hungary have received instructions to avoid travel to Italy, which, according to the New York Times, has more than 600 cases, a figure that has increased rapidly this week. Students studying in Rome have had their classes moved online and are being advised not to travel around the country. In both cases, fears include both the virus itself as well as the possibility of a quarantine of up to 27 days, which is believed to be the incubation period of the virus. In Japan, classes have been moved online, and students are permitted to return home and complete classes remotely for the remainder of the semester as that country works to contain an outbreak and preserve the planned 2020 Summer Olympics.

Meanwhile, three international trips scheduled for spring break, which begins next Friday evening, has been canceled, while the college’s emergency response team (CERT) weighs options for other planned travel as well as a broader college response. A college spokesperson did not have any information to share about what that response might look like as of Friday evening. She said the situation is “evolving.”

No campus communication about the virus has been sent since Jan. 31.

The Gettysburgian has been in touch with more than a dozen students currently abroad, most of whom are in Western Europe, and read communications sent to those students by their study abroad program providers as well as a message disseminated by the Center for Global Education (CGE). Many programs recommended that students limit their travel outside the country and some have canceled planned “study weeks” or other activities that would take students outside of their base country as fears of travel restrictions mount. In an email to students studying abroad sent Wednesday, CGE advised students to follow advice from the CDC and the World Health Organization and pledged to continue to monitor the situation.

Thea Toocheck ‘21 told The Gettysburgian that her program at Temple University Japan Campus (TUJC) suspended classes this week as recommended by the Japanese government. 

“Classes will be online for the next two weeks, during which time TUJ will decide what to do with the rest of the semester,” Toocheck said.  “They’re giving us the option to go home and complete classes remotely,” but she plans on staying in Japan as long as she can this semester.

“It’s certainly been an exciting, if rather inconvenient, twist to my semester!” Toocheck added.

Students studying in Hungary were advised not to travel to Italy due to “unpredictable” re-entry protocols, while students in Austria were advised not to leave Vienna.

“If you leave Vienna, we cannot provide the health and safety support we can provide to you in Vienna. In addition, if you travel we cannot guarantee you will be able to return to participate in your academic work,” an email said.

Students in Switzerland were told not to travel to Italy.

Gettysburg does have a handful of students studying in Italy this semester, though it is not clear whether any are in the northern part of the country, where the virus has been most acute.

An email obtained by The Gettysburgian from a student studying in Rome advises students to avoid both travel in Italy and internationally. 

“You might be placed into mandatory quarantine in Italy as you come back, because you show symptoms of the Coronavirus or simply because you come from a country that Italy considers/will consider ‘at risk,'” the email warns.

While the email says the program will not be canceled, all travel through March 15 has been canceled and future travel may also be affected.

A DIS program in Denmark has not imposed any travel restrictions, noting that neither European nor U.S. authorities have recommended against travel anywhere in Europe, including Italy. 

Programs outside of continental Europe have also suggested precautions, including wearing protective masks.

Caroline Doherty ’21 is currently studying abroad in Bath, England and says she is doing well because, “England is fairly isolated geographically from the European continent,” and the country overall has had less of a reaction than other European countries. Despite the calm, Doherty still plans on wearing a mask when out and about, as her program suggested.

“I personally think the coronavirus, though not being taken super seriously in England as of now,” Doherty explains, “has been taken more seriously internationally than it has been in the US.”

Claire Nagel ‘21 is currently studying in Spain and while her particular program is still running, her peers from other schools in other programs have been sent home.

“Right now I feel fine,” Nagel said. “So far there have only been two confirmed cases in Seville so I am just going about my normal routine.” Other than having to cancel her trip to Italy, Nagel is content with her program continuing with some restrictions until, “it’s at the point where [she] can’t go to class, travel, or really step outside, then, [she] would rather get sent home.”

At present, Gettysburg has not canceled any semester long study abroad programs other than programs in China, which were canceled in January. Thus far, three spring break trips have been canceled. The Fielding Fellows were to travel to Rome and Montenegro, the Contours of the Middle East program was to travel to Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, and the Strategy and Leadership in Transformational Times (SALTT) program was to travel to France. All three were canceled. The Eisenhower Institute’s domestic trips and immersion projects to Latin America through the Center for Public Service are still planned to proceed, a Penn Hall source said.

Update: This article was updated at 3:15 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 29 with additional information about spring break travel plans.

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Author: Nicole DeJacimo

Nicole DeJacimo ‘22 is the assistant news editor of The Gettysburgian and is a double major in Political Science and English. She is a Jersey Girl to the core but won't hesitate to call Gettysburg, home. During her free time, Nicole enjoys singing, reading, going to Waldo's and having movie nights with her friends. She plans on moving to D.C. after college to work as a political speech writer.

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