The University of Florida alerted students on March 2 that several study abroad trips would be canceled as a result of the public health emergency known as the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Coronavirus outbreak crushed the dreams of UF students who wanted to study abroad.
China, Iran, Japan, Italy and South Korea are among the university-sponsored programs that were canceled, according to the alert. Travel programs that are funded by external agencies and administered through the UF Foundation and UF Division of Sponsored Research were canceled as well.
The panic developed after Florida experienced its first cases of the COVID-19 virus. A Santa Rosa County man and a Lee County man died as a result, according to the Florida Department of Health. Both victims recently returned from international travel. As of March 9, more cases of the virus were reported throughout Florida. According to the Florida Department of Health, by March 16, 142 Florida residents and 18 Non-Florida residents have tested positive for COVID-19. The number continues to increase because there is no vaccine for the virus.
Following the concern, UF canceled several trips to the countries that have experienced COVID-19.
The effort is to limit UF students from contracting the virus and making sure that returning students are not affected. Students that are returning from any of the countries are required to self-quarantine and to stay off-campus for 14 days after their return, according to UF’s alert.
While it is an effort of safety, UF students are not pleased with the canceled trips. Mario Bennetti, 21, is a marketing major at UF. He was going to be studying abroad in Rome, Italy for the summer. He had his eyes set on making this trip since his freshman year and that he has been preparing for the trip since August, explained Bennetti. The trip was important because he wanted to experience European culture, said Bennetti. “I think UF was foolish to cancel the plans so quickly. The programs aren’t for another three months,” he said. “UF rode the wave and followed what a lot of other schools have done…”
It was more of a panic and even less of a decision, said Bennetti.
“I have to re-plan my whole summer now,” he said. Bennetti voiced concern for UF’s lack of urgency to refund the money spent on the study abroad program.
Bennetti tweeted, “I’m glad UF study abroad can take a $375 deposit from my checking account in two seconds, but when the program is canceled it’ll take three weeks for them to send me an obsolete paper check in the mail.” He wants the money back so he can start preparing for other summer plans and its expenses, said Bennetti.
Lara Dusing, 20, is a telecommunications major at UF. She had plans to study abroad in Florence, Italy. This program was important to Dusing because she has never left the U.S., and it would be her first time traveling. However, she felt canceling the trips was appropriate. “UF is just trying to do the best they can to protect their students…,” said Dusing. “It’s impossible to predict what the virus will be like in the next few months, but I think UF made a smart decision.”
It is not determined whether UF will cancel other-study abroad programs.
Madeline M. Thompson, 22, is a material science and engineering major at UF. She plans to study abroad in Germany until she graduates. Thompson fears that her trip may be canceled as well. Thompson explained that while she agrees with UF’s decision to cancel short-term trips, canceling the long-term trips would not make sense. “It’s my decision if I want to risk infection,” said Thompson. “By the time mine ends (her program), this pandemic situation will be totally different.”
Her graduation will be delayed by one semester if the program is canceled, said Thompson. “It will cost me a lot of time and money that I’ve already invested,” she said. Aside from canceling trips, UF is taking more precautions for the COVID-19 virus. The university would install hand sanitizer dispensers throughout campus, distribute sanitizer to professors and custodial workers and install disinfectant spray systems, according to the alert.