University of Georgia Stays Vigilant Against Spread Of Coronavirus Involving Study Abroad Programs

Many University of Georgia students are self-quarantining for 14 days in their homes after their semester-long study abroad trips were cut short due to the spread of coronavirus. 

Coronavirus, which originated in the Wuhan province of China, has now touched most corners of the world, including Georgia, where the first two cases were confirmed earlier this week.

Symptoms can appear 2 to 14 days after exposure, and can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The University of Georgia now joins a long list of colleges and universities taking precautionary measures to protect their students from coronavirus. All study abroads in South Korea and China have been cancelled, as well as study abroad programs in Italy, UGA president Jere Morehead said this week. 

Students returning from these countries have been asked to self-quarantine in their homes for two weeks before returning to the Athens campus as a precautionary measure. 

 Why It’s Newsworthy: Coronavirus is a current public health concern, and it’s localized in its effect on UGA students.  

 

Dr. Leara Rhodes, a Grady professor of international communications, has taught a number of study abroad programs over the years. She agrees with the university’s decision to bring study abroad students back home. 

“Anything that happens over there is ultimately the responsibility of the faculty,” says Rhodes, “So as disappointing as it is to come back, it is bigger than just that one student’s disappointment.”

Due to growing concerns of the prevalence of coronavirus, upcoming study abroad students have been advised to purchase flight insurance in the event of cancelled programs. 

According to Rebekah Ryan, Distance Learning Coordinator for the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, at this time there has been no talk of any form of cancellation for Grady’s travel writing Maymester programs. The withdrawal deadline was also extended for students who wished to pull out of a study abroad program amid Coronavirus concerns. 

For students whose study abroad programs are still going on, there is a silver lining to the sudden increase of student withdrawals and program cancellations. Several students who received study abroad scholarships were recently notified that they will be awarded additional funding, reallocated from the cancellations.

UGA has an enrollment of  more than 38,000 students, according to the UGA Factbook. But large universities are not the only ones taking rigorous precautions when it comes to protecting students in their study abroad programs. 

Dr. Sarah Speir, Director of Global Support and Student Engagement at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania, said there is constant planning occurring around Coronavirus for it’s 4,444 students.

Like UGA, Gannon is also adopting the standard of the self-quarantine for 14 days if you are coming back from a region of concern.

If you have students who’ve been in infected areas, it’s how communities and institutions are handling it,” she said.

That includes having backup plans, as the situation evolves day-by day. “Do you cancel, move up commencement or put off big campus programs if it becomes that bad?,” Speir said. “It may be a case where they might have to have classes online, people working remotely temporarily.”

Allison Pennington, Kate Ross, Cassidy Hannon and Simran Sethi are students studying health and medical journalism for Spring Semester 2020.

 

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