Georgetown University’s Office of Global Education postponed a Centennial Lab’s spring break trip to Cambodia until after the end of the spring semester, due to increasing concerns over the spread of the coronavirus in Asia.
Students enrolled in “Politics and Performance: Confronting the Past, Shaping the Future,” the affected Centennial Lab, which is a program of courses that focuses on experiential learning, planned to travel to Cambodia over spring break. Following reports that one passenger tested positive for the coronavirus after going on a cruise that disembarked in Cambodia, the OGE decided Feb. 18 to postpone the travel component of the class.
While Cambodia has reported only one registered case of coronavirus, health officials are now worried Cambodia may have opened its doors to an outbreak, according to The New York Times. The spread of coronavirus has led the university to cancel study abroad programs in China in January and South Korea this week.
As the coronavirus, also called COVID-19, outbreak spreads, the university is evaluating the health risks of study abroad programs individually, according to Vice Dean for Undergraduate Affairs of the School of Foreign Service Daniel Byman.
“The ongoing COVID-19 outbreak raises a number of considerations both in terms of health and safety, and also practical operational considerations with respect to the ability to most successfully support students abroad,” Byman wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Because local conditions, support from on-ground partners, and travel restrictions vary by country, and by program, the university reviews these decisions on a program-by-program basis, after careful consideration of all relevant factors.”
Cambodian Living Arts, which was set to host students in the Centennial Lab, is prepared to receive the class in May. The organization promotes creativity and innovation in the arts sector and works to get more arts and culture education into Cambodian public schools, according to the Cambodian Living Arts website.
The university is watching developments in Cambodia and will decide whether or not to run the trip in May depending on coronavirus conditions, according to Byman.
Professors Derek Goldman and Cynthia Schneider, who are co-teaching the course for the third time this year, remain hopeful the trip will run with its original itinerary and all students will still participate.
“Needless to say we are heartbroken about the situation, as sharing this trip with our students has been profoundly meaningful to us, and we are very hopeful that the trip will be able to happen in May with as many of the students as possible,” Goldman wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Cambodia is the ideal case study for the Politics and Performance Centennial Lab, which aims to study the important intersection of politics and performance through diverse examples from the past and present, because it is an example of a place where the arts play a vital role in a post-conflict context, according to the course syllabus.
Goldman and Schnieder are working to adapt the course material to account for changes caused by the trip postponement, according to Schneider.
“It’s much better to have it in the middle of the semester, much better, but we can still lead up to it during the course, and the students can still have a really fulfilling, meaningful, culminating experience,” Schneider said in an interview with The Hoya. “I think we’re all trying to make the very best out of a really regrettable situation.”
The 14 students enrolled in the course now must make alternative arrangements for spring break. Such last minute changes may pose a financial burden to students, according to Celia Buckman (SFS ’21), one of the students enrolled in the Centennial Lab.
“It’s really annoying that this came at such short notice.” Buckman wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I’ve had to replan my spring break overnight, which comes at a financial cost since everything is more expensive with such a tight turnaround.”
The university is coordinating with students affected by the Centennial Lab change in an effort to mitigate the effects of the postponement, according to Byman.
“SFS administrators are working closely with concerned professors and students,” Byman wrote. “The professors engaged us from the start regarding travel safety and are an important part of every decision we make. We are working with students, both as a group and as individuals, to make sure that no one faces problems regarding graduation credits or other possible academic issues.”