As the coronavirus spread to a growing number of countries, LMU students are being sent home from several study abroad locations. Programs in Italy, as well as a program in South Korea that was scheduled to begin in March, have been canceled, according to Executive Vice President and Provost Thomas Poon in a statement sent out to the University. In the statement, Poon emphasized that students' well-being is a priority and included information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the virus.
As of March 3, all Global Immersion trips that were supposed to take place in spring 2020 have also been canceled, according to an email from the BCLA Dean's Office that was sent to students participating in the Germany, Ghana and Greece programs.
According to the World Health Organization, “Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases … Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.”
In response to an uptick in coronavirus cases, the CDC has posted Level 3 health travel notices for both Italy and South Korea, strongly discouraging all “nonessential travel.” In Italy, the total number of recorded cases has reached over 2,500, and in South Korea the number is greater than 5,000, according to The New York Times.
Lisa Loberg, the director of LMU’s study abroad office, said, “We canceled our spring 2020 semester program at Sogang University in Seoul, South Korea, which had not yet started, and Gonzaga University closed their Florence program, where we have 15 LMU students.” According to Loberg, the program cancellation in Seoul will impact two students.
“We are closely monitoring the situation related to the coronavirus (COVID-19). LMU Study Abroad is in communication with our on-site partners and receiving updates from government agencies," said Loberg.
LMU does not directly operate the affected programs in Italy, but in addition to the 15 LMU students studying in Florence through Gonzaga University, and one was studying in Bologna with the Spring Hill College Italy Center, according to Loberg.
Kelly Sidney, a junior studio arts major, is one of the 15 students currently enrolled in the Gonzaga-Florence program. She said, “I got an email from the school, but a couple days prior I started to notice that NYU and USC had pulled their kids back … I understand why the university did it. I know it would be awful for a student to not be able to get back into the states, to get sick or to even be quarantined," said Sidney about her program's cancellation.
Sidney continued, “I’m not overly happy about it because, as a junior, I don't really have another opportunity to study abroad. Any other circumstance where I could or would return to Europe would be completely different. I probably wouldn't feel as embedded in the community. It wouldn't be for as long of a time … There’s not really a price tag that can be put on the experience.”
According to Sidney, both LMU and Gonzaga have requested student flight itineraries and for students to move out of their homestays by March 6.
Loberg said, “We know that the disruption of study abroad plans is certainly not ideal, but it became a necessary step due to growing health and safety concerns in the region.”
According to Loberg, summer and fall 2020 study abroad programs are currently planned to run according to schedule. However, LMU is prepared to make any necessary changes to the programs. There may be developments in the future regarding other study abroad programs.