COVID-19 Halts Study Abroad Programs

The map on the third floor of Vulgamore shows where current Albion students are studying abroad. There are postcards from around the world surrounding the map. Pictures of students in different cities around the world are also posted on the board (Photo by Taylor Dietz).

Last Wednesday, Donald Trump issued a 30-day travel ban to most European countries due to COVID-19. American citizens traveling back to the United States could only enter the country through one of 13 major international airports, including the Detroit Metropolitan Airport. USA Today issued a full list of all the European countries affected by the ban, including….

Students from Albion College who were studying in Italy were required to come back to the U.S/ before the ban, due to a high number of cases of COVID-19 reported in the country.

March 3, Albion College gave the students in other European countries, like Germany and Denmark, the option to either continue their semester abroad or return to the U.S. and finish the semester “remotely,” via email.

On March 12,another email was sent out to the three Albion students studying abroad in Berlin, Germany, stating that the Albion College Response Team was requiring them to come home immediately.

Alivia Benedict, a sophomore from Vermontville, Mich., was in Berlin at the time of the email.

“Thursday around 4 a.m. an email was sent from Cristen Casey requiring us to come home,” said Benedict. “As the day went on other universities began to send similar emails and by Thursday night the three of us has our flights booked along with many other students in the program”

The Albion students who were a part of the Berlin program arrived in Germany on Feb. 5 and returned home on Tuesday, but their semester was not supposed to end until May 31. Some students from other colleges and universities participating in the program left as early as Thursday morning, right after the ban was put into place.

The email included an incentive saying that if the students entered the US no later than Friday at Midnight, then Albion College would reimburse their plane tickets.

“Originally they wouldn’t reimburse us for flights if they were after Friday,” said Jessie Butchley, a junior from Crystal Lake Ill. 

The US Traveler Health Declaration that the students were asked to fill out when they returned to the US. It asked about symptoms and any known facts about coming into contact with people who have COVID-19 (Photo courtesy of Jessie Butchley).

Much like Albion’s on-campus students, reimbursement for tuition, room and board, etc. is up in the air for the study-abroad students.

“As far as the program goes, we haven’t received any information as to whether or not we’ll be reimbursed,” said Benedict.

Classes are not ending for the Berlin students and have been moved online. The students get the week off and are starting back on Monday, but the formalities of the online classes are not clear at this time.

“The only thing we got was an updated course schedule, so the times work better for us, but only some people got that email,” said Benedict.

Upon their return to the U.S., the students were given a “United States Traveler Health Declaration” to fill out, given a check-up and were asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.

“I’m currently sick, so I marked down that I have a cough. So, when we got off a plane the CDC was there taking temperatures,” said Butchley. “They separated you into three different lines. I got called to the middle line, and they asked me questions about my cough, they took my temperature and let me go.”

While the students studying in Europe are all back in the U.S. and being asked to self-quarantine, some students are stuck in their study-abroad countries. Tori Wiese, a junior, is currently stuck in Peru and cannot return to the U.S. at the moment.

The safety of the students was at risk because of the spread of COVID-19 and ended most of their study-abroad experiences, an experience some might never get back.

“I’m really sad that it’s over but also sad for the state of the world right now,” said Butchley. 

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