Georgetown University and many of its study abroad partner programs in China have worked to coordinate new spring semester plans for students affected by program cancellations after rising concerns about the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
The university suspended all Chinese study abroad programs and university-related travel to China on Jan. 28 after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of State raised their travel advisories Jan. 27 to recommend travelers avoid nonessential travel and reconsider travel to China. Seven Georgetown students were affected by the program cancellations, according to study abroad adviser for Chinese programs Philip Kafalas.
After the sudden and unexpected cancellation of study abroad programs, Georgetown hopes to support students through this transition period, according to a university spokesperson.
“The university is working with all students affected by this travel moratorium individually to coordinate appropriate alternate plans and ensure academic continuity,” the university spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya.
The university has been helpful in its efforts to reintegrate students who wish to return to Georgetown for the remainder of the spring semester, according to Andrew Kaplan (SFS ’21), who had originally planned on studying at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing through The Beijing Center program.
“Georgetown has actually been fantastic about the transition, and I was a little bit surprised because I knew that they didn’t have a specific policy already in place and that this was a pretty unusual situation,” Kaplan said. “Once I got back to the U.S., I flew straight to D.C. and I met with my dean, I think it was the next day, and I started picking out classes with him. He was able to email each of the professors for the courses I was interested in taking and all of them individually approved me to join their class three to four weeks late.”
Many of Georgetown’s study abroad partner programs in China have also been working closely with students, prioritizing their safety and well-being, according to Associate Director of Marketing for TBC John Sember.
“The Beijing Center helped to facilitate students’ departure from China, made transportation arrangements from campus to the airport, provided masks, water and snacks, shared information and updates on the illness, and encouraged students to take a 14-day self-quarantine upon returning home,” Sember wrote in an email to The Hoya. “The swift decision to cancel was necessary in order to safely get all the students back home before the coronavirus infections spiked in numbers.”
Programs such as TBC and the Council of International Educational Exchange have been providing students with alternate options for the remainder of their spring semester, according to Sember.
“Many partner universities of The Beijing Center have been working closely with students to provide them with some options in this unique, emergency situation,” Sember wrote. “For example, joining another exchange program, enrolling late into courses at their home university and catching up on missed work, or taking this spring semester off and resuming studies next semester.”
The option to attend other programs ensures academic continuity for students, according to Chloe Tan (MSB ’21). Tan, who was originally enrolled in the CIEE Shanghai program, will now be attending a CIEE program in London.
“Overall, my alternative program will be the same dates and under the same itinerary as the original Shanghai program, so luckily there’s not too many changes to my semester schedule,” Tan wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I do not have any significant changes to my class schedule and I’ll be able to graduate on time.”
Despite the suspension of Chinese study abroad programs for the semester, programs for future semesters remain unaffected for now as research into the coronavirus epidemic continues, according to Sember.
“TBC is very sorry that this unexpected event has impacted the spring 2020 program and we hope to welcome the students again in the future once the coronavirus is resolved,” Sember wrote. “We still plan to run our summer and fall 2020 programs, but we will continue to monitor the coronavirus situation closely.”