Updated Monday, March 2 at 7 p.m.
The University Studies Abroad Consortium announced on their website on Friday, February 28 that all study abroad programs currently in progress in Italy and South Korea have been canceled due to increased travel advisories from the CDC and U.S. Department of State in light of the rising numbers of coronavirus cases.
According to the update on USAC’s website, the program would officially be ending on Sunday, March 8 and study abroad travel insurance students booked with the Cultural Insurance Services International would be ending on Tuesday, March 10.
In an email to the Nevada Sagebrush, USAC Director of University Relations and Communications Kim Tulman said, “The health and safety of our students is our top priority so during periods where the U.S. Department of State and the Centers for Disease Control travel advisory levels increase to a 3 or higher, USAC’s policy is to suspend the program operations until those levels decrease.”
In early February, USAC canceled all programs in progress in China, confirming all students had departed from China by Tuesday, Feb. 4. On Friday, Feb. 28, USAC announced Summer Session 1 programs in China had been canceled as well.
In the Italy program cancellation announcement, USAC advised students to contact their airlines as soon as possible to leave Italy. USAC is reimbursing students up to $500 for their cancellation and change fees but is advising students to ask for a change fee waiver from their airlines.
For students affected by the Korea Spring 2020 cancellation, students will also get reimbursed up to $500 on travel fees. The program will officially end on Saturday, March 7.
Students returning from South Korea are not able to finish any courses online due to their host universities not offering online courses, while students returning from Italy will have the opportunity to finish some courses online. Students returning from South Korea will be allowed to defer their participation in a Korean program to a later term or transfer their application to a summer program in another location.
In the China summer session cancellation announcement, USAC advised students to defer their China programs to a later term, or choose another program. According to the website, USAC will transfer any payments or applications from the China program to other programs. USAC will be offering full refunds of the $500 enrollment confirmation deposit and a $100 application fee.
For all China, Italy and Korean programs, USAC maintains students will be able to keep all USAC scholarships.
Madeleine Stuart, a junior at the university studying abroad in Torino, Italy, arrived back in the U.S. on Sunday after USAC ended its programs in Italy.
“People were joking about it but I don’t think anyone thought [the program] would really get canceled,” said Stuart. She said that after multiple cases were reported, classes were canceled for a week at the Italian university she was attending.
“It happened really fast. Like in a day. And once [the Level 3] happened…they emailed us saying that the program had been canceled and the end date was March 7 and from then on, we would basically have to leave the country. They kind of gave us some information on how to change the flight but basically ‘You need to book your flight and leave,’” said Stuart.
In the Torino airport, Stuart was questioned on if she had been to China in the last two weeks.
“On the flight from Torino to Munich, they had us fill out forms with our personal information on it in case there was an outbreak and they needed to track us down,” said Stuart. “In the U.S., there was no screening…They only asked if I had come from China.”
She and other students are now concerned about their credits.
“I don’t think they’re really angry at USAC, they’re more angry at the fact that it’s happening this way,” said Stuart about the students in the canceled program. She said she was remaining hopeful that USAC would be successful in transferring its classes online in order for students to receive their planned credits.
Other programs are under watch, as well.
“As an everyday health and safety protocol, we monitor over 50 locations daily. Considering the fluidity of the situation, it’s hard to pinpoint a specific country that’s on a “watch list.” That being said, we are keeping an eye on Japan due to its proximity to South Korea. However, the latest communication as of today with our overseas Japanese partners is that the program is proceeding as scheduled. Students will depart for Japan at the end of March,” said Tulman.
All students in affected countries are advised to reach out to their program advisors for any additional assistance they may need.
Donica Mensing, a professor currently teaching in France, said the USAC director in Pau has not shared any information about the spring or summer programs. Mensing said the USAC director advised students not to travel to Italy.
“We continue to monitor the global health situation and will continue to communicate next steps with students and parents. We are hopeful that the number of coronavirus cases begins to wane because we know that students often dream and plan for years to make study abroad a reality – not to mention the positive impact it has on their academic experience and future careers,” said Tulman.
She also mentioned that there are other programs that USAC offers in countries that have not been affected by the coronavirus.
Currently, the Center for Disease Control has reported Italy as a ‘warning-level three’. The CDC recommends travelers avoid all nonessential travel to Italy. Vice President Mike Pence also announced on Saturday, Feb. 29, the U.S. State Department raised the travel warning for northern Italy to Level 4, a “do not travel” alert, which is its highest level.
“We are going to increase, to the highest level of advisory—which is level four—advising Americans to not travel to specific regions in Italy and South Korea. The president has also directed the State Department to work with our allies in Italy and in South Korea to coordinate a screening, a medical screening, in their countries for anybody coming into the [U.S.]…” Vice President Pence said in the press conference.
Delta and American Airlines have suspended flights from New York to Milan after the U.S. government placed travel restrictions. Delta also announced on their website between February 25 to April 30, the coronavirus may impact all flights to Italy.
Italy’s Civil Protection Authority reported the country has 1,694 confirmed coronavirus cases and approximately 34 people have died. Italy also has the most coronavirus cases in any country outside of Asia.
The Italian government put 11 Italian cities on lockdown located in the Lombardy and Veneto, on Friday, Feb. 21.
The CDC also placed South Korea as a ‘warning-level three’ and recommends travelers to avoid all nonessential travel to South Korea. South Korea currently has 3,736 confirmed cases and 21 deaths.
China currently has around 32,616 confirmed cases of the virus and 2,912 deaths.
This is a developing story. Check back to the Nevada Sagebrush for more updates.
Staff Report can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.