Study abroad ends prematurely

As a result of pandemic, students studying across the globe are sent home

Short- and long-term study abroad students have been sent home during the past two weeks as concerns over COVID-19 make foreign travel increasingly dangerous. International students at Xavier, in response, are
returning home, remaining in Cincinnati or on campus.

The Center for International Education (CIE), in coordination with partner colleges for semester-long study abroad students, began notifying students that their abroad programs would be cancelled before spring break.
Students studying in Italy and South Korea were asked to return home, though at least one student has petitioned to remain abroad.

Ben Foley, a sophomore psychology major who intended to spend his spring semester in Cape Town, South Africa, through a Marquette University partnership, noted that a lack of communication created further stress
for students abroad. Foley explained that students were told on March 18 they had one week to find a way home. However, with most airlines shutting down, everyone on his trip left South Africa before Monday.

The lack of communication from Xavier and Marquette made travel home difficult for Foley, alongside other students on the trip. “We were really never given many updates,” Foley said of both universities. “There was a lot of speculation. We would get an email from Marquette or Xavier, giving us updates of what was happening around the world with coronavirus, but never telling us to expect to be home by a certain time, so that made things pretty difficult.”

Sophomore psychology major Amy Steeno was abroad in Maastricht, Netherlands, when the U.S. issued its travel ban warning. Her partner university offered to continue to support foreign students, but Xavier requested that students on her trip return home.

“It came to the point where we all knew that Europe was not going to get better and I’d rather be home, in case I got sick,” Steeno said of the choice between petitioning the school to stay, or returning to the U.S. “No
one wanted to be stuck in Europe and not have the opportunity to go home.”

A concerning element of Steeno’s study abroad cancellation is the idea that she may not be able to remain a full-time student if her partner university cancels fourth-quarter classes.

“I do feel like I don’t know the answers. I just don’t think staffs really know how to deal with it. It’s a pandemic, it doesn’t happen very often,” Steeno said. “There are rumors and everything, but you just have to
be patient. I know it will get resolved.”

Refunds for study abroad students are unclear at the moment. All possible refunds would come from partner universities and would either be transferred directly to the student or through Xavier. CIE Director Kim Diehl noted that the transitions for international students have been difficult, but the internal CIE community and the Xavier community at large have been quick to action.

According to Diehl, international students who lived on campus this semester were allowed to remain in student housing given their extenuating circumstances. Some students who have family in Cincinnati are staying in the area, while many have returned home during the past weeks.

Junior Student Government Association Vice President and international student Mahnoor Zahra noted that the CIE has further assisted international students through frequent communications and student visa
documentations. She also stated that Residence Life, alongside other faculty and campus figures, personally reached out to many international students during the transition period.

Diehl expressed gratitude towards the continuing sense of community within the CIE. She noted that students and staff have provided one another with trips to the grocery store and checked up on one another. The CIE is beginning to plan the continuation of regular programming, to the extent that social distancing and remote learning will allow. Diehl announced that the CIE aims to continue its weekly coffee hours and upcoming tax workshop virtually and hopes to conduct some in-person activities for available students when restrictions lessen.

“I don’t think that student interest has waned,” Diehl said of CIE programming. “Our office is working to make
sure students are being taken care of… We’re just taking things one day at a time.”