Study abroad programs canceled due to COVID-19


Xochitl Gonzalez

Illustration by Xochitl Gonzalez COVID-19 halts study abroad programs.

Aaron Romero, Contributing Writer

As COVID-19, the new novel coronavirus, quickly spread around the world, U.S. students saw their current and planned study abroad programs affected.

According to The Dallas Morning News, universities in North Texas canceled international study programs at the beginning of March and asked students who were studying abroad to return home.

Marilyn Velazquez, a senior at the University of North Texas and a former Brookhaven College student, was one of 20 people selected to go to Japan this summer with UNT’s Mayborn School of Journalism. She said UNT always kept her up-to-date on matters related to the trip. On Feb. 26, she received an email from Amy Shenberger, UNT’s director of study abroad programs. Velazquez said the email informed students that UNT would continue monitoring the virus to determine if the program should be canceled.

On March 3, Velazquez received an email from Kathryn Conrad, a program coordinator at UNT, that said the trip would be canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Velazquez said she was offered other opportunities to study abroad, but declined them all.

Beth Delagi, a Brookhaven student, said her son Evan, a junior at Syracuse University in New York, was enrolled in a study abroad program at the university’s facility in Florence, Italy. He had been in Italy for a month when on Feb. 25 he was told the facility would close due to the virus. Evan said 350 students were involved in the program. He said he was on campus when all the students were called to a meeting during which they were asked to leave Italy by March 1.

Beth said her son had the possibility of going to other countries in Europe at the time. “We decided that the best thing for Evan is to get him back to the U.S.,” Beth said. “I think it was the smartest decision, but I still felt badly for Evan that this trip that he’s been waiting to take for years got taken away from him.”

Evan said he flew from Florence to Zurich, Switzerland, and then took a plane to Boston on Feb. 28. When he connected through Zurich, he was asked if he had recently traveled to China, and what his reason for traveling was. Evan said he was not asked similar questions in Boston. “That was what was shocking to me,” he said.

Evan drove from Boston to Syracuse but received an email from the university in which they told all students who had recently arrived from the canceled programs not to enter the campus for a two-week period at the request of the State Department. Beth said that her son is currently self-quarantined in New York and avoiding human contact as much as possible.

 Evan said that both the university and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are involved in tracking cases such as his and his classmates. He said that someone from home services calls him every afternoon and asks him to check on his temperature. “I’m just laying low in my apartment, and just making sure that I’m healthy,” he said. 

Evan is still in self-quarantine. Beth said she has not seen her son since January.