Coronavirus Affects Study Abroad Students: What Measures PC and Other Schools are Taking to Ensure Safety

by The Cowl Editor on March 5, 2020


Many students are choosing to return home. Graphic design by Hannah Langley ’21/TheCowl.

by Kyle Burgess ’21

News Co-Editor

With the beginning of spring in sight and the perceived long-awaited end to flu season, the rapid emergence of COVID-19 in China, more commonly referred to as coronavirus, has sent shockwaves as well as carriers throughout the globe. 

Recent cases of patients who have contracted the virus in countries such as South Korea, Italy, and even the United States have only added to increasing worldwide paranoia and led to many national governments taking precautionary measures to prevent the disease from spreading.

Providence College students who are currently spending a semester abroad in Italy now find themselves in the path of contamination with growing numbers of patients admitted to hospitals in regions such as Lombardy and Veneto. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) as well as the State Departments have both since ranked Italy at Level 3 for “Avoid Nonessential Travel” and “Reconsider Travel,” respectively. 

In a recent email to PC students abroad in Rome from Dean of Global Education Joe Stanley, PC students have the choice of continuing their programs onsite through remote coursework or returning home to the U.S. while also completing courses remotely for credit. Those students who elect to return are not offered housing back on PC’s campus nor are their travel costs covered by the College.

“As of right now, it seems as though we are in what I would call a ‘limbo period,’” explained Sean Breuche ’21, who is currently studying in Rome. “Our classes are suspended until March 16, and more and more universities/colleges with students in Rome are being instructed to leave the country for the United States. Given past conversations with these students, it feels that a majority of them will be taking online courses upon their return to the States.”

Breuche also noted how he and his classmates continue to receive constant communication from his host university, CEA Global Education, as well as Dean of Global Education  Grace Cleary. The students themselves are well-aware of the media’s hyperbolic presentation of the virus, but Breuche explained that they all simply want closure as to what their situation will be. 

“While all of us Providence College students want to stay here (after all, it’s paradise here), we just want an answer as soon as possible. I am sure PC is looking out in our best interest, but I strongly feel that they are currently delaying the inevitable, in that Italy will only become more infected and we will have to return home in the near future,” commented Breuche.

However, not all PC students abroad have reason for high hopes. Olivia Moss ’21 studied in Florence with Fairfield University Abroad before Fairfield University made the executive decision to send her home to Long Island, NY. 

“The PC students and I all went through Fairfield so Fairfield ultimately made the decision to send us home,” Moss explained. “Our school in Florence (FUA), however, did not close or even cancel our classes so I’m personally really upset that Fairfield made this decision so quickly without consulting FUA for advice.”

Moss continued stating her frustration, saying, “When a few students and I went to talk to FUA, they weren’t even aware that we were being sent home and that Fairfield cancelled our program. Now, we have been sent home with no information from Fairfield on what their plan is because they won’t accept online forms of the classes we have been taking for the last month at FUA.”

Additionally, Moss and her classmates did not get refunds for the costs incurred in travelling back home, alongside the lack of direction for how their academic semester will proceed. The students were, however, offered housing on Fairfield University’s campus and were permitted to take online classes from there or the comfort of their own homes. 

“There is also talk of normal classes offered at Fairfield but they haven’t formed any kind of construct for the remainder of the semester and we’re supposed to resume classes March 16,” Moss added.

PC has since reached out to Moss and her classmates via email to assure them of the school’s commitment to getting their credits transferred in their talks with Fairfield University.

As of March 2, the annual liberal arts honors program trip was cancelled due to escalating concerns about a potential coronavirus outbreak while visiting Paris, France. This announcement comes a day following the closing of the Louvre Museum for similar fears, as well as discussions between trip chairs Drs. Stephen Lynch and Suzanne Fournier with the PC Global Education Office and tour company EF Tours.

With inflated fears over this supposed super virus continuing to mount to dizzying heights back home in the U.S. and elsewhere, it remains to be seen what lies in store for PC students abroad in other countries in the coming weeks.