Study abroad programs at risk amid COVID-19 


Curtis Chan

Penn State students tour China as part of a summer study abroad program during the summer of 2014.

Ibrahim Aksoy, Contributing Writer

Universities across the U.S. halted in-person class meetings and switched to remote learning to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). As of March 10, Pace University announced that it was switching to remote learning starting on March 11, lasting until March 29.

As more countries begin remote learning and nationwide lockdowns are put in place, the future of semester-long study abroad programs remains uncertain.

Although the impact of COVID-19 on American education is still developing, study abroad programs have already been affected. One of Pace’s earliest precautions was suspending all exchange programs with China and South Korea. 

As the virus continues to spread, more countries are taking harsh measures to stop the disease. Within days of Pace’s announcement to remote learning, a national emergency was declared, prohibiting all non-citizens’ entrance to the United States from Europe for 30 days. Some travel restrictions are already in place for China and South Korea.

Pace already extended its study abroad program deadline until April 15. However, as the new precautions are being taken all around the world, it is not certain if study abroad programs will be allowed to take place by education ministries in high-risk countries.

Pace students who are in study abroad programs are advised to follow local news as more countries start to impose lockdown in response to coronavirus, universities in Italy, Spain, and France ordered total shutdown. Nevertheless, no European country has asked foreign students to depart for their native country so far.

It is unclear how long the coronavirus crisis will continue to affect higher education. While Pace has suspended study abroad programs in China and South Korea, exchange programs in Europe and other parts of the world have yet to be affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Exchange programs in the UK and Ireland are in uncertainty as well as Vice President Mike Pence’s announcement Saturday that the U.S. is adding the UK and Ireland to the list of countries that are prohibited to enter the U.S. starting Saturday night. Pace currently has exchange programs with seven universities in Ireland and the UK.

However, these restrictions are valid for 30 days and may be extended depending on reducing the effects of the disease. Pace may make an announcement regarding study abroad programs in Europe after the results of the first precautions are observed.

Although the travel ban does not apply to American citizens and permanent residents, Pace has not informed students regarding study abroad programs’ future in Europe, though a travel advisory is given. Currently, Pace has exchange programs in 20 universities in 12 countries. Of which, 8 of them in Schengen zone, which the ban covers.

It is not clear if Pace will decide to cancel study abroad programs in Europe as the disease continues to spread around the continent. World Health Organization Thursday announced that Europe is the new epicenter of the outbreak. Spain, following Italy’s path, imposed nationwide lockdown. France has canceled all public gatherings and closed schools until further notice.

Students who are in China and South Korea are no direct access to the United States as major US airlines have canceled their flights to mainland China, Hong Kong, and South Korea in response to coronavirus outbreak. Even if they return the country, they will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Students studying in high-risk countries, or have traveled to China, South Korea, Italy or Iran, are advised to self-quarantine for 14 days and consult their doctors. International students who have traveled to high-risk countries or are already in a study-abroad program will not be allowed to enter the U.S.

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