Butler University cancels all study abroad programs through summer 2020

Study abroad programs for spring and summer 2020 have been canceled. Photo courtesy of Butler University Study Abroad’s Facebook page. 

KATIE FREEMAN | STAFF REPORTER | kmfreema@butler.edu

Butler University has made the decision to cancel all study abroad trips for the remainder of the spring semester and summer 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic — whether it was a Butler program, exchange program or a third-party provider program.

All students currently studying abroad were sent an email by the Center for Global Education on March 12 instructing them to return home by March 19 and to complete a 14-day self-quarantine upon arrival in the U.S. 

Some study abroad students faced difficulties returning home to the U.S. amid program closures and travel restrictions.

Erin Neis, a junior psychology and political science double major, planned on staying in Florence, Italy but flew home to the U.S. after her program abroad was canceled on March 10. Neis was in Galway, Ireland when her parents called her with the news about President Donald Trump’s travel ban, and told her they had purchased a flight back to Florence to go home. Neis’ flight home from Florence was then canceled eight hours before its departure, and the airport was closed for several days before she was able to get another flight home.

“Me leaving was very contingent on whether or not my program was closing,” Neis said. “After it did, I had no other choice but to get home.”

Other students studying abroad were disappointed with the lack of communication from Butler as the pandemic continued to worsen.

Rachael Jacobs, a junior religion and peace and conflict studies double major, was abroad as an exchange student at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. Jacobs said she did not receive any emails from Butler until two weeks after other students in study abroad programs did.

“They had not been communicating with us, like, at all the entire semester,” Jacobs said. “The only time that they ever emailed us about our situation was when we emailed them first.”

Jacobs emailed Butler when she became concerned with the lack of communication from the university. After Jacobs’ friends from Butler who were studying in other countries began to message her about emails that they had received from Butler, Jacobs received a reply from Butler stating that she should follow any procedures her host university recommended.

When the European travel ban was announced on March 11, Jacobs spent the entire day trying to reach the study abroad office for instruction on what to do.

“All of us were calling Butler, like the Center for Global Education, nonstop, like every single person in that office,” Jacobs said. “Nobody was answering their phone all day and it was just an extremely frustrating experience.”

Late that same night, Jacobs and all other study abroad students received an email from the Center for Global Education that they should return home.

The last study abroad program to be canceled for the spring semester was the Global Adventures in the Liberal Arts, a faculty-led study abroad program based in Australia and New Zealand.

Emmalee Rhomberg, a sophomore elementary education major, was told in an email sent on March 12 that while all other study abroad programs had been canceled, the GALA program would continue its itinerary. On March 13, during her spring break, Rhomberg received a follow-up email stating that her program was ending and they would fly home from Australia to the U.S. on March 18.

“I guess I was kind of in shock like, ‘Wait, what? This is over. This is weird.’” Rhomberg said. “Then I got really sad and started crying like the second or third day, like, ‘Uh oh, here it goes,’ and then it all hit me that I was actually going home and it was over.”

Students who returned home from Italy noted some differences in the response to the coronavirus outbreak abroad compared to in the U.S. Ruthie Miller, a junior arts administration major, was studying abroad in Milan, Italy, the epicenter of the Italian coronavirus outbreak, and was advised by her program to travel to Rome to self-quarantine.

“Even when I was in quarantine in Rome, I was able to get groceries delivered,” Miller said. “Everything was well stocked, and like, my study abroad program was also bringing us some supplies and grocery staples and stuff. They didn’t seem like there was really much of a shortage. And that might have changed in the past week, but it seems like no one in Italy was really like stocking up or panic buying.”

Neis noticed increased public health safety measures in Florence, Italy.

“Generally, the Italian people are more aware of the situation in terms of following guidelines and protocols,” Neis said. “As an example, not traveling unless it’s necessary. Even at the grocery store in Italy, they have marked lines that mark one meter away so when you’re waiting in line to get checked out you have to wait for one meter away and then they have all the lines marked on the ground.”

All students who were studying abroad have now returned home to the U.S. and will be completing the remainder of their classes online. 

Jill McKinney, director of global engagement, said in an email sent on March 12 to all students who are now taking online classes with their abroad universities after returning home that Butler will accept all online credit. She also asked that students allow Butler several weeks to calculate what refunds would be given.

Students who planned on participating in a summer 2020 study abroad program were also notified on March 12 that all summer programs had been canceled. Students were instructed to notify their study abroad program provider that they would be canceling their participation. Currently, the study abroad office has not canceled any study abroad programs for the fall 2020 semester.

The Butler Collegian will continue to follow this story as more information becomes available. 

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