COVID-19 global spread, hits local

UW-Eau Claire study abroad programs cancel across Eurasia


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The CIE program and Intercultural Immersion programs have canceled the upcoming summer of 2020 trips to both Italy and China, in addition to the cancelation of spring 2020 Italy and South Korea abroad trips.

As COVID-19, the coronavirus, continues to spread across countries within Asia and Europe, its local impact has once again hit the UW-Eau Claire campus. 

However, there is a new target — study abroad and immersion programs for students and faculty.

According to email updates sent by UW-Eau Claire’s Center for International Education — updates obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Department of State travel advisories were enacted based on the continual spread of the coronavirus.

Because of these updates, the university decided to cancel the current spring of 2020 study abroad program in both Italy and South Korea, according to the emails.

Charles Vue, associate director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and program director for a Parisian study abroad trip during the summer of 2020, said he was disappointed when he heard about the recent abroad cancelations due to the coronavirus. 

The students and professor together have prepared for the abroad trip to France with high hopes of the experiences obtained, Vue said. 

“I have been working on making arrangements overseas with local hosts, plane tickets were already purchased and reservations have been made,” Vue said. “But then I thought to myself and came to understand that safety comes first.”

There are currently 12 students enrolled in the Italian partner institution, Istituto Lorenzo de’ Medici, and four students enrolled in the South Korean partner institution. 

Stefania Draghicchio, a second-year psychology student, said she was initially frustrated with the university’s lack of detailed responsiveness while she is currently abroad at the Istituto Lorenzo de’ Medici.

“I was very frustrated because (the university) really did not give us many answers right away,” Draghicchio said. “It almost felt as though they sent out this email and then turned off all their devices. I didn’t hear a response for a couple days.”

In addition to the current cancelation, CIE and Intercultural Immersion programs have canceled the upcoming summer of 2020 trips to both Italy and China. 

Vue said one of his primary roles through the study abroad program is to prepare a daily itinerary ahead of time. He said he does this to evaluate the variety of scenarios that may occur throughout the planning process. 

“A lot of work has been done to make these arrangements possible,” Vue said. “As I am almost finished with my schedule, in the back of my mind I think of what if we have to cancel the trip. How do I plan knowing that ‘what if’ is hanging over my head?”

Both the Italy and South Korea abroad trips have been classified as a Warning-Level 3, Avoid Non Essential Travel by the CDCP, who are in connection with the university.

Draghicchio said through conversations with other peers studying abroad, there may be grave ramifications if those who are directed to return home do not comply with these directions.

“For one of my other friends who is in the Three Cities program — her college recommended that she come back,” Draghicchio said. “She does not want to come back and the school had threatened to revoke her visa and call the authorities. There is more of a grave consequence for those who may reject coming home or returning home.”

Vue said the cancelation creates a vulnerable atmosphere for many who are involved with the abroad research program, especially when this trip is of high importance to students’ education paths.

“With the expense of being vulnerable to a virus, but then also the chance of not being able to follow through with a plan to do research,” Vue said. “Two of our students will be done with school by May of 2020. This means there’s no chance for them to be on a trip if we had to cancel.”

UW-Eau Claire will continue to instill safety precautions with the information provided by the CDCP and U.S. State Department — as it relates to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Draghicchio said she hopes the university will implement a more structured approach when relaying information to students who study abroad and face the consequences of the coronavirus outbreak.

“A lot of students are frustrated with this and how their universities aren’t giving them the full details right away — because I guess they don’t have the full details,” Draghicchio said. “I get that this situation is unknown, but (the university) should have been a little better prepared in the emails.”

Vue said he has now become mindful of both himself and students who are Asian and who may experience the impact of prejudice while abroad, as the coronavirus continues to spread.

“I am thinking about some way to disclose or display myself naturally, so that we are not lumped into being an Asian (individual) from China where we might be mistreated,” Vue said, “to proactively think about what I can do to distinguish our group.”

For more information or guidance in relation to study abroad programs and the coronavirus, contact the CIE through the university. 

Nelson can be reached at [email protected].