COVID-19 cancels Southeast study abroad trip; students pay the price
Thursday, March 26, 2020
Graphic by Ally Bruemmer
Instead of packing for Europe, Southeast students who planned to study abroad over spring break are instead packing for home as the university-sponsored trip was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Attendees of the trip included students enrolled in business, marketing and management classes and a university studies course. This trip counted as a three credit hour course requiring students to pay different tuition fees to be counted toward their degrees. Those courses included BA 560, MK 560, MG 560 and UI 343.
Corporate Communications junior Stephanie Williams is one of the students who has been looking forward to the trip that was scheduled for March 13 through 22.
Williams said the students are still able to get credit for the course by submitting alternate assignments, such as written papers. She said students were informed they would not get refunded for the course if they dropped it.
“The Provost advised us to stay in the course, finish it out, get our three credits worth and it will count as our study abroad [credit],” Williams said.
Williams said the trip called for a significant amount of preparation, time and money that students had to sacrifice. She said she feels a lot of the money spent for this trip was wasted. She said her mother signed a Parent- Plus Loan to help her have enough money for the trip.
According to Williams, the group has had consistent meetings since the fall semester to prepare for their trip. These meetings included discussions on the proper ways to travel through airports, being respectful in museums and constant reviews of the itinerary.
Other preparations included buying mandatory travelers insurance, suitcases that fit the necessary requirements and new clothes to blend in with crowds in London and Paris to avoid being pickpocketed.
“That has been a big impact on me because I try to prepare as much as possible and have as much ready to go,”Williams said.
She also said she bought shampoo, reusable bottles, a new satchel that would be more secure, a travel towel that was light for travel and more.
“I spent 55 dollars on a new suitcase that I don’t even really don’t get to use because I don’t use that kind of suitcase,” Williams said.
Williams said one of the worst parts about this situation was students could not get refunded for their plane tickets, which cost them approximately $1,100. Students were able to receive credit through the airline for the cancellation, but by canceling, they received a $300 change fee which was taken away from that credit.
Students were informed Friday, March 6, of the cancellation in a meeting with Southeast Provost Mike Godard.
She said there was a previous meeting Wednesday, March 4, where students were fearful of the trip being canceled but was told that it was not.
“We were ensured not to be worried and that only [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] Level 3 travel advisory countries were the concern,” Williams said. “But two days later, they cancel the trip with neither of these countries being on the [travel advisory] at all.”
In an email sent to participating students after the meeting March 6, Godard explained the reasoning behind the decision.
“This decision took into careful consideration many factors that centered around your safety and security as students and the potential disruption related to travel restrictions now moving into the coming weeks as a result of coronavirus,” Godard wrote.
Williams said Godard made a good point when he explained that in the event of students getting quarantined in the United Kingdom or France, there wouldn’t be enough supplies of housing and food for students that would be stuck.
The group was told they could still take the trip without University sponsorship but was advised not to because of potential quarantines and contraction of illnesses.