Novel Coronavirus outbreak sends AU students abroad in China back home

SIS program at Peking University will be finished at AU for the semester

Novel Coronavirus outbreak sends AU students abroad in China back home

The AU Abroad office in 2017. 

The Office of Campus Life announced on Jan. 28 that students studying abroad in China must return home due to the coronavirus outbreak, which was declared as a public health emergency by the World Health Organization on Jan. 30.

The University offers multiple undergraduate and graduate abroad programs in both the fall and spring at different universities throughout China. There were nine students studying in Beijing for the spring semester. One student, Olivia Emery, an SIS junior who was studying at Peking University in Beijing, said she was not able to attend classes because of the outbreak.

“As of right now, I’ve been stuck in my off-campus apartment and the surrounding area for three days,” Emery said in a phone interview with the Eagle. “Friday, the last time I went to campus, my temperature was taken to allow me access onto campus.”

The virus, which killed over 425 people in China, first presented itself on Dec. 31, 2019. As of Jan. 27, the U.S. State Department and Center for Disease Control declared a Level 3 travel advisory that recommends against all non-essential travel to China. 

There are currently 11 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S., with two in Chicago, six in California and one each in Arizona, Washington state, and Massachusetts. As of Feb. 1, the virus has also been confirmed in Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam with over 25,000 confirmed infections in China.

Students who traveled outside Beijing for the Lunar New Year break were asked to take a two-week self quarantine before they would be allowed back on campus. Emery said she was no longer allowed to attend her internship and was told she would have to take her classes online at Peking University when school was back in session.

Emery also stated that four of her classmates had already gone back to the U.S. and a few more were leaving later in the week amidst the fear of catching the virus. When asked if she would follow suit, Emery said she was hoping to stay. 

“I’m an SIS major, and AU offers very limited regional courses for East Asia so I’m afraid I won’t graduate on time without studying abroad,” she said.

Emery was then updated in an email from the Office of Campus Life saying that AU had made the decision to bring all students abroad in China back home effective immediately. In an email addressed to the whole student body from the OCL they announced their decision and added, “The Office of Campus Life and AU Abroad have been working with the students to support their return and make academic arrangements for the remainder of the semester.”

AU spokesperson Kelly Alexander told the Eagle in an email that arrangements have been made for all nine students to depart, and they will be finishing their spring semester on campus starting on Monday. There are currently no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the DMV area. 

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