Coronavirus forces cancellations for SU Abroad students

Coronavirus cancels SU Abroad in Italy

Students studying in Florence will return home to avoid Italy’s outbreak with the deadly virus.
Published: March 2, 2020 | Updated: March 4th, 2020 at 1:45 pm
SU Abroad in Florence, Italy
Villa Rossa is home to SU Abroad programs in Florence, Italy.

As Coronavirus rapidly spreads in the region, the Syracuse University Abroad office in Florence has terminated its program for the spring 2020 semester. The students learned about the conclusion of their program last Tuesday after SU Abroad had previously suspended all student activities and trips beyond the Florence Center the previous day.

Italy’s eruption of cases has caused unrest in the nation, with most coronavirus cases concentrated in the Lombardy, Veneto, and Emilia Romagna regions, and a present case in the city of Florence. Compared to Feb. 21, when there were only 20 known cases in the country, the coronavirus is displaying its terrifying potential to spread worldwide in little time.

For those who were Florence dealing with the abrupt end to their semester abroad, this drastic measure has thrown a wrench in plans for many. Syracuse Abroad sent an email to the students, stating plans to suspend all operations by Feb. 27, and planning for quick departures from the program.

Of the 67 countries that currently have reported cases of coronavirus, Italy is one of the four countries to which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has demanded people to avoid travel to, with the third most cases of any country in the world.

For junior Joe Taylor the abrupt end to his semester abroad in Florence came just at the right time.

“Once news struck in Florence saying that the coronavirus had made its way into the city, people changed overnight,” Taylor said.

“I remember walking down the street seeing mobs of people buying necessities at the supermarket and families wearing masks downtown. Talk of the virus dominated every conversation in town.”

For those who have already returned to the United States, they will not be permitted to return to SU’s campus until after spring break.

While Italy’s Coronavirus situation has gotten progressively worse with more than 1,800 reported cases in the country as of Monday, not all Italians and Syracuse University abroad students showed immediate fear of this ever-growing pandemic.

“My host family didn’t really have a significant reaction to the spread of the coronavirus,” junior Matthew Lindsay said. “They acknowledged the potential threat of coronavirus not only in Italy, but also worldwide, but never really felt that we were in imminent danger.”

Despite the quick departure being necessary and imminent, SU Abroad stated in their email to the students that plane tickets would have to be booked separately of the university, to which they will be reimbursed. This includes any flights returning from the homes of the students back to the SU campus following the completion of spring break.

With this, many students’ travel plans have been thrown out the window entirely.

“The outbreak ruined my spring break because I, a dumb college kid, bought the cheapest, uninsured flights to Morocco and Barcelona,” Taylor said. “So I’m not going to see that money anymore.”

This is not the first precautionary action that SU has taken to protect its study abroad students from coronavirus, as the university suspended all study abroad programs in China earlier this semester.

Despite the quick departure being necessary and imminent, SU Abroad stated in their email to the students that plane tickets would have to be booked separately of the university, to which they will be reimbursed. This includes any flights returning from the homes of the students back to Syracuse University campus following the completion of spring break.

Florence students will have the option to either complete their semester of academic work on campus or via online classes once returned from their program.

SU is not alone in taking the action to cancel the remainder of their Florence study abroad program. New York University, Fairfield University, and Elon University have all confirmed in their own statements that their programs have been canceled.

Infographic: Coronavirus: What you need to know
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is a digital producer for The NewsHouse at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.