Coronavirus Causes SHC Students to Leave Italy

: Grace Gundlach Studying in Bologna, Italy
Grace Gundlach Studying in Bologna, Italy

Italy Center students are having to finish their courses back home after the program has been suspended.  

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread, study abroad programs are taking precautions to ensure the safety of their students. On Feb. 28, the U.S. Department of State raised the advisory to a Level 3: Reconsider Travel for the region. As a result, the SHC Italy Center is suspending all of its academic courses for this semester. All U.S. study abroad programs have been advised to send students back to their homes. Spring Hill College is working hard to make sure that the students in both Mobile and Bologna are safe as this issue continues.  

President Joe Lee, stated that as of March 2, none of the students are experiencing any symptoms nor have tested positive for the virus. Bologna, Italy was not one of the areas infected by the virus. By following the guidelines from the Alabama Department of Public Health, the students are to stay in their homes for 14 days and be cleared by medical professionals before visiting campus. 

Junior Tara Summers, who was in Bologna, expressed, “We are all so heartbroken and clueless as to what we should do next. This was the best opportunity and experience I’ve ever had, and it’s being ripped out from under me. We have no control over it. We are devastated.”

Jordan Byrne, assistant director of the Italy Center, stated that their number one priority right now is making sure the students get to their homes safely. Byrne also said that it is too early to determine anything for Fall semester students. The school has a lot of time before they have to make any sort of decision for next semester. This is a day by day issue. All other matters will be addressed once this is seen through. 

Ashley Rains, director of media and public relations at Spring Hill, also said that the Provost and the Italy Center are focusing on finishing this semester and also how the virus can affect Summer and Fall 2020. “As of this moment, Summer 2020 students are being told not to purchase their airline tickets as the situation with the new coronavirus unfolds.”

Some of the students were concerned about finishing the courses they signed up for. Rains explained that the school is trying to put together online and possibly streaming classes for the students. That way they can finish the semester without having to worry about being behind. Since they will be completing their current classes online, they will not be moving back to campus until the Fall semester.

Byrne stated that before the advisory level changed, Italy Center students were asked to stay in Bologna to reduce the risk of getting infected with the disease. It is believed that the disease is easily transmitted through air travel and other means of public transportation. According to the World Health Organization, older people have a higher risk of becoming ill with the virus, but they still advise all ages to protect themselves from the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists daily habits that can help prevent the risk of getting infected. 

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