CORONAVIRUS

Iowa, Iowa State cancel popular study abroad programming in Italy

Precaution against coronavirus has hundreds of students leaving early

FILE - In this Feb. 29, 2020 file photo, a paramedic walks out of a tent that was set up in front of the emergency ward
FILE — In this Feb. 29, 2020 file photo, a paramedic walks out of a tent that was set up in front of the emergency ward of the Cremona hospital, northern Italy. The region of Lombardy has been the epicenter of Italy’s outbreak, registering the first positive test, and most alarmingly, 10% of Lombardy’s doctors and nurses are out of commission, because they tested positive for the virus and are in quarantine, said the region’s top health official, Giulio Gallera. (Claudio Furlan/Lapresse via AP, file)

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa and Iowa State University have added Italy — their most popular study abroad destination — to a list of coronavirus-related cancellations, forcing hundreds of students to find alternatives to complete their spring semester coursework.

By canceling the UI-backed CIMBA Italy program — along with participation in other study abroad programming in the European nation — the campus has multiplied its tally of displaced study-abroad students.

“Students should make immediate plans to depart Italy no later than Friday March 6th,” according to a message sent Friday to UI students participating in the program, initially pitched as an “exceptionally unique opportunity” for students in the UI Tippie College of Business.

“We are deeply saddened by this disruption of the semester and know that it causes hardship on students and families,” the message said.

The UI campus already had canceled its study abroad programs in China for the spring and summer semesters, and in South Korea for the spring semester, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designated both countries as “warning level 3.” The warning level means non-essential travel is not advised.

Those cancellations affected five UI students in China for the spring; 19 who had plans to study there over the summer; and four who were in South Korea this semester. Although five UI students plan to study in South Korea this summer, UI spokeswoman Hayley Bruce said the campus has “held off on opening up several applications given the outbreak” there of the virus.

In a message posted to its website over the weekend, the UI announced the study abroad cancellations in Italy following the CDC’s decision to raise its warning there to a level 3.

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The UI had 152 students studying this semester in Italy, which as of Monday had confirmed 1,689 cases of COVID-19 and 35 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. That is by far the most of any European nation.

The CDC also issued a level 3 travel warning for Iran, but UI doesn’t have any students studying there. It has one student in Japan, which has a level 2 notice — advising enhanced precautions.

In their Friday message to UI students participating in the CIMBA Italy program, UI administrators said most major airlines are waiving change fees, and the university would reimburse students for fees they end up paying.

“We will work to ensure that students can complete their coursework and earn full academic credit for the spring semester,” according to the message. “Classes will be suspended temporarily as individual instructors determine how best to complete the semester’s instruction. “

The UI didn’t provide more details about whether the displaced students would returning to campus or to their families, or whether some are transferring to other programs.

The campus advised any of the affected students who return and feel sick or learn they’ve been in contact with someone with the virus reach out to the UI Hospitals and Clinics and take preventive measures like good hygiene and staying home if ill.

In canceling its study abroad programming in Italy, ISU also compounded its tally of displaced students. It previously pulled students studying abroad from China, retuning them to the United States or moving them to other programs abroad.

ISU officials did not provide an exact number of students affected by its cancellations.

“We have notified students currently studying abroad in Italy and are making arrangements for their return to the U.S.,” according to a recent update from ISU.

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University of Northern Iowa spokesman Steve Schmadeke said Monday that UNI previously issued a temporary ban on travel to China and South Korea.

“Today we informed the campus we were putting the same restrictions on travel to Italy,” he said.

Current total study abroad enrollments are not available on the university websites, but statistics for 2018 and 2019 show Italy is the most popular destination for all three schools.

In the 2018-19 term, 155 UI students studied in Italy — ranking it ahead of No. 2 Spain, with 132 students; and the United Kingdom, with 113.

ISU totals for the 2019 budget year show 338 students studied in Italy — putting it well ahead of Spain, which had 229 students. And UNI reported 68 students studied abroad in Italy in the 2018 term, ranking it ahead of England, with its 60 students.

More than 1,309 UI students studied abroad in 74 countries in 2018-19. ISU reported 1,817 study abroad students in the 2019 budget year and UNI’s study abroad total reached 338.

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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