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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Students return to U.S. from study abroad programs


Bronagh Douglas ’21 planned to travel the world through the Semester at Sea (SAS) program for her spring 2020 semester, but the program was cut short because of the coronavirus. While SAS typically stops in countries such as China, Ghana and Morocco, these stops were cut from the program due to concerns about the virus.

“A final decision was made to end the program altogether when we got to South Africa,” Douglas wrote in an email to The Hawk. “I am currently in Sea Isle City with my mother in quarantine.”

The Center for International Programs (CIP) recommended that all students participating in a semester abroad program make plans to return home on March 12, according to Tom Kesaris, director of the CIP.

“Of the 47 students who began a spring semester abroad this year, 45 have returned home or are in the process of returning home,” Kesaris wrote in response to questions from The Hawk. “All returning students were asked to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in the U.S., prior to returning to campus.”

According to Kesaris, the academic classes for students returning from abroad vary from program to program.

“We are working with our partners abroad and individual students to put plans in place to continue their schoolwork,” Kesaris said.

Claire Martin ’21, who studied abroad in Rome at John Cabot University, returned home on March 1 due to the coronavirus outbreak in Italy. Through the change to online classes, she has faced additional problems with her university in Rome.

“The classes are very difficult, having language barriers already, but not being able to talk in person makes it even more of a problem,” Martin said. “Time zone differences [have] been a problem because we are unable to have live classes to interact with our professors and other students.”

The transition was especially difficult for Martin because she was only given one day to pack up her things and return to the U.S.

“I had just gotten used to everything and was truly loving my life in Italy,” Martin said. “Right when I got used to the culture and everything, it was all taken away from me.”

Martin said John Cabot University refunded students for their meal plans, but not for housing. 

“We are hoping SJU can help us out and make sure we possibly get something back for that,” Martin said. “We haven’t heard anything about the tuition.”

Kesaris said the university will not be refunding tuition for students in study abroad programs, and the reimbursement of non-tuition related fees is up to the abroad universities.

“Most students returning from a semester abroad are able to continue their coursework remotely, so tuition will not be refunded,” Kesaris said. “Non-tuition fees for a semester abroad are paid by students directly to their programs, so refund policies are determined by the host institution.”

Douglas said everyone on the SAS ship had been “dealing with the realities” of the coronavirus since January before the U.S. took the threat seriously.

“We watched it destroy Italy and spread all over Europe,” Douglas said. “We never knew what the next announcement would be. Eventually, I was relieved when the voyage was canceled. It was time to go home. There was nothing else we could have done.”


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