Weeks after the university canceled non-essential university-sponsored travel to China, Education Abroad trips to Iran, Italy, South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong for the remainder of the semester have been suspended due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
“Texas A&M is canceling university-sponsored student education abroad spring programs to Level 1, 2 and 3 [travel risk] countries,” a campus-wide email from the university read. “Any student, faculty, staff or visitor traveling from or through Level 2 or Level 3 countries must self-isolate for a minimum of 14 days before returning to the Texas A&M campus”
In a Feb. 28 email addressed to students with a planned study abroad trip to Italy during Spring Break, the program coordinator stated: “Spring 2020 Italy program has been canceled due to the coronavirus. Each of you will receive a full refund of your program fee. The refund process may take some time, but I will keep you posted as soon as I find out when the refund is issued to your accounts. Thank you for your understanding and stay safe.”
On the same day, another email was sent to students currently studying in Italy assuring them their trip had not yet been canceled.
The email sent to students in Italy stated: “At this time, the CDC is not recommending canceling or postponing worldwide travel. We have decided not to cancel spring semester or summer term programs in Europe or Japan. However, we have decided to cancel spring break trips to countries with the CDC Level 2 Travel Notice. This includes official university travel to Italy and Japan. The decision to cancel the spring break trips is due to the WHO recommendation that travelers to Level 2 countries should self-quarantine upon return to the U.S. As such, we feel that imposing the self-quarantine on spring break travelers would negatively impact the remainder of their spring semester.”
Shortly after this email was sent, the CDC raised the Travel Advisories for Italy to a Level 3 warning, and the university followed up with a Feb. 29 email stating A&M is relocating all faculty-led programs currently in Italy back to College Station.
This decision to suspend the current Italy Education Abroad trip and the planned Spring Break trips is in accordance with University Rule 3.1, which states undergraduate students are not permitted to travel on university business to countries or regions on the Travel Advisory List.
Kinesiology sophomore Nadia Navarro planned to take an Education Abroad trip to Italy over spring break and said although she is disappointed with this outcome, she understands the university’s decision.
“I just can’t believe that this happened literally five days before we would leave,” Navarro said. “It’s just a sad situation because as much as I hated receiving the email, I know it’s probably what’s best.”
Camryn Lang, an English junior currently in Italy on a faculty-led Education Abroad trip, said the students on her trip should be back in the U.S. within the week.
“I know that the university wants [us to come back] as soon as possible, but the problem is rescheduling our flights because we have to go through a travel agency,” Lang said. “There has already been one student who left this last weekend, and some people are just booking flights and getting out on [March 3].”
Lang said the university is requiring students returning early from their Italy Education Abroad trip to self-quarantine for two weeks and said they will be able to complete their courses once they return to College Station.
“For people that are going home to grandparents or people that have respiratory problems, A&M has offered to do some kind of housing for quarantine for them, but we aren’t aware what that is going to look like yet,” Lang said. “A&M has also offered to give us housing for the rest of the semester if we can’t arrange anything else because even though it isn’t confirmed, it looks like they are going to want us to be in College Station to finish the remainder of our classes.”
The university stated if a Texas A&M Education Abroad program is canceled by the university due to the coronavirus, they will work to ensure students receive a full refund of their program fee.
This is a developing story and will be updated as we receive more information.
Editor's note: Camryn Lang is a former assistant news editor for The Battalion.