UPDATED: 3/15 12:01 p.m.
On March 14, Brandeis University will send home all study abroad students from CDC level 3 European countries in the Schengen zone, including Spain and Denmark, while other students who are in programs in non-level 3 countries are strongly recommended to return to their permanent residence, according to an email sent to all Brandeis students abroad on March 12.
In the email, Brandeis claimed that health and safety should be most prioritized in the unstable circumstance. Students should continue to follow further instructions from the program.
For traveling, students will come back to their permanent address to study remotely off campus. In terms of financial implication, students also need to check with the program about the possibility of receiving a refund to decide whether or not to depart. The Office of Study Abroad will be in touch with programs that have not been suspended to help support the students.
One student, Nicolas (Nico) Leger ’21, had intended to spend the year in Seoul, South Korea at Yonsei University through the CIEE program, but after having spent his first semester in Seoul, he returned home before his spring semester began. Leger told The Hoot in a phone interview that he had intended to graduate from Brandeis in Spring 2021, but he will now graduate in the Fall 2021.
Leger is currently at home in Waltham, MA after receiving instruction from Brandeis to self-quarantine. He said that he is not experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 and is maintaining the self-quarantine. Leger said that when he flew back to the U.S., no one questioned him about his exposure to COVID-19 in the airport, and that if he hadn’t put himself in quarantine, he would have been able to walk around freely. He said that he doubts, however, that he has the virus and that he’s “not particularly concerned.”
“There were health measures [in South Korea] that I don’t see here,” said Leger. “It’s more just that things are being closed and there’s a state of emergency. It just seems that technically things are being closed but they aren’t taking health measures.”
Leger said that in Korea, he would get in trouble if he didn’t wear a face mask and that anytime he entered his dorm, a machine would take his temperature. He got a tattoo while in Korea, but he wasn’t allowed to take anyone with him while he got the tattoo and had to wear a mask throughout the process, according to Leger. He said that the tattoo shop was sanitized every hour and he felt very safe.
“My biggest stressor right now is: when will Corona stop being an issue?… I’m planning on going back to Korea in June hopefully, [to] spend the semester there and then study abroad,” said Leger.
According to Leger, his program was delayed two weeks in mid-February and later canceled at the end of February. A study abroad advisor provided two other different programs in London and Berlin as substitutes. However, he was mainly interested in studying abroad in Korea.
Leger said that he was stressed at first while figuring out his next step and being the only Brandeis student in the program. However, he affirms that Brandeis “has been overall pretty helpful.” He has communicated with his study abroad advisor more frequently than his program advisor, according to Leger.
Lindsay Dawes ’21, who was studying in Madrid, Spain through Boston University’s (BU) Madrid Internship Program, is flying back to the U.S. on Sunday. She is not quarantined but “strictly encouraged not to travel and to limit exposure in crowded public places,” according to Dawes.
“On Monday of this week, Spanish news reported that cases in Spain had tripled and Madrid announced a 15 day closure of all colleges and universities. My program scheduled a meeting for Tuesday to discuss what that meant for us,” wrote Dawes in a message to The Hoot. “On Tuesday, in the meeting, we were told our classes would move online but the program was staying active for now. Four hours later, we received an email from BU informing us that a student in our program who attended a different university than myself in Madrid had just tested positive for Coronavirus and our program was suspended, effective immediately. We were given until Sunday to return to the U.S. in order to receive reimbursement from BU for travel cost & the remainder of the program fees.”
Dawes said that she knows one student on her program who tested positive for COVID-19, but the student went to a different university and they had not come into contact with each other in weeks by the time he tested positive.
Dawes said that Brandeis didn’t help or harm her situation, or contribute much to the process. She will finish her semester remotely with online versions of her courses provided by BU, and she should still receive all intended credits for this semester.
“In regards to Coronavirus, virtually no one here in Madrid—or elsewhere in Spain to my knowledge—was scared, concerned, or panicking in the ways I understand people in the U.S. are until cases began to escalate. But even now, I don’t see panic or fear in most people here, only concern for at-risk populations and cautionary action and care for themselves.”
Brandeis said that they are continuing to monitor the situation and will update students in a March 5 email sent to students who were accepted to study abroad for the Fall 2020 semester or 2020-2021 academic year.
“If you have any questions or concerns about spending the fall semester or year abroad, please feel free to reach out to us and we are happy to speak further,” reads the email.
Brandeis is also complying with the state’s request to cancel international travel for student groups, according to an email sent to the community on March 5.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that students in the UK are required to return home immediately. The UK is not in the Schengen Area and therefore is not included in Brandeis’ requirement to return home immediately.