Study abroad programs canceled amongst heavy cases of Coronavirus, select students to leave countries

Chico State and study abroad consortiums have begun to pull students from their study abroad programs amid the increase of coronavirus cases across the globe. 

Students continuing toward their degree in countries such as China, Italy and South Korea were notified by the University and their respective consortiums that their study abroad programs had been cancelled.

“The fallback for students who have received notice of their programs’ cancellation have been presented as either the continuation of a student’s courses in a different country that provides a similar program, relocating to a different country where students may live with family, or returning back to California to live with their families while continuing their classes online, if offered by the teachers from the original programs,” Intermediate Associate Vice President of the Department of International Education and Global Engagement Sara Trechter said.

“We’re trying to arrange time with those students and faculty, chairs and deans to help find those students an avenue to keep making progress to their degrees,” Trecheter said.

Aside from the University and consortium recommendation to suspend programs, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that schools should consider asking students to return home. 

“We’re getting direct communication from them (the CDC) but it’s our responsibility to always follow what’s happening around the world so we don’t rely on what the government tells us.  We are proactive in monitoring our students’ safety and that’s actually part of university policy,” Trechter said. 

At the time of departure, none of the students studying in China, South Korea or Italy had resided in a province that reported many confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to Tretcher. 

“We have a couple of students from China who returned. We have one student who is actually returning to Chico from South Korea and we have 23 students who are not necessarily returning to Chico, but whose programs were suspended in Italy,” Trecheter said. 

On Friday, the Butte County Public Health Department issued a press release from the Butte County Assistant Chief Administration Officer Brian Ring to announce a public health emergency regarding the coronavirus.

Since Feb. 28, the University has continued to send regular coronavirus updates via email to the Chico State community. The most recent update reminded students that the University is prepared if a case of coronavirus is confirmed on campus. This preparation includes the use of Konkow Hall, House 1 and 2, as a quarantine area. 

The University included a new announcement link on the Chico State website that will lead students to a regularly updated coronavirus FAQ page. 

“We’re keeping an eye on what the California governor is telling us and the California State University Chancellor’s office is putting out guidelines and we’re engaged in our own planning and communicating to the campus to the best of our ability,” Chico State University President Gayle Hutchinson said.“The most important thing for everyone to understand is that we’re preparing. We have a plan and we will keep you updated as much as we possibly can.”. 

Daniela Galvan, a third year student at Chico State had been saving for her study abroad program in Italy for two years before applying to the program in Fall 2019 and leaving for Italy on Jan 8. 

“I actually should be in Switzerland right now,” Galvan said. “I paid for everything and you can’t get all of your money back because of all the cheap, non refundable flights. At most they’re giving us half of our money back.”

Galvan first heard of the coronavirus while in Verona, but didn’t think much about it. A week later, Galvan received notice that her program was cancelled and is now back in Chico. 

“They (the university) just wanted us to be in communication with them and let them know if we ever felt unwell, but the University was really good at helping us stay calm and keeping us updated on the news,” Galvan said. 

Since arriving in Chico, Galvan has been on a 14-day quarantine at home. During this time, Galvan is not permitted to be in public areas. 

Galvan mentioned that a friend of hers had been tested for the coronavirus but the results came out negative. 

“Since I don’t know what classes will be offered, I don’t know how this will affect my path to graduation and it’s really nerve-racking to go from living my best life to not being sure if I’ll have to pay back the student aid I got because I won’t be taking the minimum amount of units,” Galvan said.


Kimberly Morales can be reached at [email protected] or @kimberlymnews and on Twitter.