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San Diego Colleges Canceling Study-Abroad Programs Over Coronavirus Concerns

A student walks by Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union at San Diego State Unive...

Photo by MILAN KOVACEVIC

Above: A student walks by Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union at San Diego State University, Sept. 24, 2016.

Colleges in San Diego are canceling study-abroad programs in China, South Korea and Italy because of government travel advisories over the novel coronavirus.

As of Monday, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention had issued level-three travel warnings for those countries and Iran. A level-three travel warning means the government is recommending people avoid all nonessential travel to those areas.

Listen to this story by Lynn Walsh.

“Most of our students tend to study abroad in the fall as opposed to the spring so our numbers are like a third of what they are compared to the fall semester,” said Denise Dimon, Associate Provost for International Affairs for the University of San Diego.

She is working to help 19 students enrolled in a study-abroad program in Italy return home.

“Parents and students are concerned about their finances and their academics but unfortunately the thing that we can’t fix which is the most important thing to them is that experience that they are now going to be missing,” she said.

Dimon said for most students coming home early means rescheduling a flight for an early date. She said the university is working with their partners abroad to eliminate as many extra expenses as possible, and that airlines have been waiving change fees.

UC San Diego suspended programs in China, South Korea and Italy this quarter. The university follows decisions made by the University of California system, which follows travel advisories from the State Department. As of Monday, San Diego State University said it had 12 students enrolled for a spring program in South Korea which it is suspending. Eight students had already left the U.S. when the advisory went into place.

At USD some students abroad in Italy have decided to stay. Dimon said the students are located in Southern Italy, outside of the impacted areas. But that could change, she said, and if it does, the students will be able to remain in campus housing even if the universities temporarily close.

“This is going to be their personal decision,” Dimon said. “They are staying at their own risk and against government guidelines that are recommending no non-essential travel in these locations.”

For the students returning to the states, the programs are allowing them to complete their academic work remotely.

“We have some students in Rome right now,” she said. “Their program is supposed to be four semesters and they just started. It’s just such a disappointment and of course, they can go back. Let’s just hope that by the fall semester things will be settled down a bit and our students can have these wonderful international experiences.”

Dimon said USD has 400 students who have signed up for fall study-abroad programs. Right now, she is advising all of those students to enroll in classes abroad but also on the San Diego campus, in case more programs have to be canceled.

“We’re trying to keep it open,” she said. “We just had a meeting this morning discussing how we can keep it open but also minimize the risk.”

USD will be following travel advisories and recommendations from the CDC and other government agencies but is also working with their partners abroad and other universities.

“There are some programs that don’t start until late September depending on where they are in the world,” Dimon said. “There are some programs that start in early July. So, we are just going to have to look and see how everything is going to be moving forward. We want to keep the students excited about the possibilities.”

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