By Mallory McBride
As coronavirus continues to spread, The Center for Global Engagement has reached out to students and faculty abroad, inviting them to return home. Although 43 cases and six deaths have been reported in the U.S., according to the CDC, there is a bigger issue abroad in China, Iran, Italy and South Korea.
While there have been no reported cases on campus, let alone in NJ, the College is also concerned about those who have upcoming spring break plans abroad, according to a Feb. 28 email from Interim Provost William Keep.
“The college is continually monitoring the situation, paying close attention to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the New Jersey Department of Health,” the email read. “The Center for Global Engagement is providing guidance to individual students studying abroad, and assisting those who choose to return early with a plan to complete their academic credit.”
Diana Solano, a junior journalism and professional writing and communication studies double major, is currently studying in Spain, but has made the decision to stay abroad for the remainder of her trip.
“I’m not leaving and I’ve been talking to my host parents about it and they said they don’t think they will send us home,” Solano said, “At this point it is optional, so I just hope they don’t make it mandatory.”
Students that have decided to leave their study abroad programs and return home have received an email from the Director of Global Engagement, the Director of Health Services and the Associate Provost, requesting that they fill out a form with information about return flights, academic continuation plans and isolation periods.
“TCNJ asks that you return to campus ONLY after you have remained symptom-free for 14 days after returning to the U.S. and have had a health care provider evaluate you as symptom free,” the email stated.
Another student, who has just returned from studying abroad in Trieste, Italy and wishes to remain anonymous said, “I think [TCNJ] responded well. I was in constant contact with my global student teaching coordinator. I do feel like there was an overreaction to the situation, most likely due to the U.S. media.”
With students coming back home, the College is trying to figure out how students will finish the spring semester.
“I will complete the semester,” said the anonymous student. “I was almost done with my time student teaching there anyway.” She added that, “people in Italy were very calm even when school had to be canceled…otherwise in my area, nothing was different. No one with masks, nothing closed up, etc.”
On campus, faculty members are starting to take precautionary measures by making contingency plans in the event that classes can no longer be held in person.
“The Provost has asked all Deans to request that faculty submit plans for completing their courses this semester in the event that we are no longer able to meet in-person as a community on campus,” read a March 1 email.
Of the many suggestions made in the email, department Deans asked that their faculty consider moving all course materials online. The College will also have to navigate other issues, like how team projects would proceed and how students would finish their internships in the event that workplaces closed.
For students who have plans to travel abroad in the near future, this news is just as devastating. According to the Feb. 28 email from the Interim Provost, students and faculty who travel abroad for personal reasons will need to fill out a form detailing their travel plans.
Emily Varga, a senior public health and sociology double major, made plans in August of last year to travel to Italy with ten of her friends for spring break. The group of students were planning on visiting Rome and Florence, but within the last week, have decided to cancel their trip due to growing concerns of the virus spreading.
“I never thought a pandemic would be what stopped me from going on my spring break trip to Italy,” Varga said, “I was upset about it, but now I am just thinking about all of the affected people who live there.”
While there is no telling what will happen next, the CDC suggests that the best way to stay healthy is to avoid close contact with people who are sick and to wash your hands often.