News, Academics, Coronavirus Updates

OIP Suspends All Spring 2020 Study Abroad Programs

Boston College’s Office of International Programs (OIP) has announced the suspension of its Spring 2020 programs worldwide in light of the novel coronavirus outbreak, according to an email sent to abroad students and their parents on Thursday. 

OIP recalled all students currently enrolled abroad until the end of the semester and advised that students begin making plans to leave their enrollment site, with the goal of complete evacuation by Friday.

“Given the rapid spread of this virus, it can only be assumed that it will continue to reach places where there have been relatively few cases to date, and at a speed that is becoming increasingly difficult to predict,” Nick Gozik, director of OIP, said in the email. 

The email also addressed President Donald Trump’s announcement that the United States would be suspending all travel from European countries that are members of the Schengen Agreement, which allows passport-free movement across 26 countries, including France, Spain, and Italy. The UK and Ireland are not part of the Schengen agreement and are not affected by the travel suspension. 

“While the message from the White House still needs clarification, we feel that such bans will continue and flights will become hard to get and further disruptions are imminent,” Gozik said in the email. “Moreover, there is every likelihood that bans will be extended to other parts of the world, making it difficult for BC students to return home.”

Gozik cited the Centers for Disease Control recommendation that colleges and universities consider recalling study abroad students, the World Health Organization’s classification of the coronavirus outbreak as a “pandemic,” and the U.S. Department of State’s announcement of a “Global Level 3 Health Advisory – Reconsider Travel” as additional reasons for the cancellation. 

At the time of publication, OIP said that it had no updates on summer and fall programs.  

“We know that you might be very disappointed with the news, and wish that there was a different outcome,” Gozik said in the email. “Like you, the virus has taken all of us by surprise, and it continues to have ramifications at BC and beyond. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we get through the next several weeks.”

Emerson DeBasio, a former Heights editor and MCAS ’21, was enrolled at an external program in Aix-en-Provence, France when she received OIP’s email. DeBasio had already planned to fly back to the United States this week prior to the announcement. 

DeBasio said that OIP could have been more communicative as the virus spread across the world, specifically to the neighboring country of Italy. The program directors, however, were helpful and responsive to student emails, she said.

DeBasio said that, overall, it is a tough situation. But the announcement confirmed what the abroad students knew already. 

“We all knew that we were living on borrowed time,” DeBasio said. 

Featured Image by Leo Wang / Heights Staff

March 13, 2020