Albion students studying abroad this semester were required to come back to the United States due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Those studying in Europe arrived back home in the beginning of March.
While most students arrived safely back to the U.S., Tori Weise, a junior from Marquette, Mich., was still in Peru. She was the only Albion student still abroad.
Weise is a double major in International Studies and Spanish. She studied abroad in Peru this semester, fulfilling a requirement for both language and International Studies majors.
On March 12, Albion College emailed Wiese requiring her to come home as soon as possible.
“I said no, and I was told by Albion that I was the only Albion student abroad not coming home, but they understood and respected my decision,” said Wiese. “I had to sign a waiver saying that I understood the risk of staying and that Albion would not be responsible for me getting stuck in Peru or paying to get me out of Peru.”
Initially, Albion offered to pay for Wiese’s plane ticket home, much like it did for the students studying in Europe. However, because Wiese opted out of coming home, Albion retracted the offer..Weise knew this would happen before she made her final decision.
“They had a whole plan set out. All I had to do was give them the name of the airport, closest to where I live, and they had someone who would find me the soonest, most direct flight back home. One with the least amount of layovers,” said Wiese. “By signing the waiver, I was giving up that option.”
Wiese chose to stay before Albion required her to come home. Peru had less than 30 cases, and there were none in Cuzco, the city she was staying in. At that point, the program directors had no plans of stopping the program.
On the day she received the email, she was the only student in her program that had been asked by their college to return, but all eventually received similar emails. Most students, like Wiese, chose to stay.
“Other students received similar emails, but they all chose to stay, except for one or two students who were being threatened academically by their schools,” said Wiese.
Those students being academically threatened were being told by their schools that class credits would not count if they stayed in Peru.
“My rationale was that I was safer in Peru, and I wanted to stay as long as SIT would let me stay,” said Wiese.
SIT, the School for International Training, has programs all over the world. Wiese’s program’s central focus was about Indigenous Peoples and Globalization.The program was supposed to be focused on interview and field research, ending with a published 25-page paper about the topic of their choice.
“My program is all about people as its central focus. The program is really unique, because we spend the last month conducting field research about a specific issue relating to indigenous communities,” said Wiese. “My program has had to modify that. We’re still doing the research, but it won’t be as interview or field research heavy.”
Three days after Albion sent Wiese the email requiring her to come home, the president of Peru announced a 15-day border closure as well as a shutdown of all airports. A stay-at-home or quarantine order for those days was also put into place.
“For the next 10 days, I was with my host family in the quarantine,” said Weise. “During that time, I left the house once, and we didn’t have classes because they were working out how to get us all home and switch our curriculum online.”
The students who chose to stay had multiple video calls about classes and instructions on how to get home.
“The US Embassy emailed half my class one night close to midnight, and then the next day they left on a flight at around 11 a.m.,” said Wiese.
Wiese and the rest of her class received a U.S. Embassy email the day half of the students left. She then left Cuzco the following day on a humanitarian flight; a flight used to evacuate people from where their life or health is threatened, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Wiese and her class had to print out release forms and wear masks to the airport, as well as arrive three hours early and wait outside for two and a half hours.
Before any of the students were let into the Cusco airport, they were required to take a temperature test. Wiese explained that their temperatures were taken without being touched. The thermometer was held in front of their foreheads.
“I’m not sure what they would have done if we had a temperature, but luckily none of us in line did,” said Wiese.
Wiese’s plane had to make three different stops before she arrived at the airport closest to her hometown, K.I. Sawyer airport, which is located around 20 minutes from Marquette. She stayed the night in Miami before flying back to Michigan.
Like the students who studied in Europe this semester, Wiese was advised to self-quarantine for 14 days and distance herself from other family members living with her.
Even though her experience was cut short because of the coronavirus, her classes have been moved online. The Albion language department has since made a statement saying that any partial semester abroad for Spring 2020 will count toward major or minor requirements.
“I’m extremely grateful to Albion for working with me and staying in contact with me throughout the entire process, and I’m extremely grateful for SIT for working with the embassy to get me back home,” said Wiese.