SARS prompts program changes

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    By Julia Burgon

    In Provo, would-be participants in English teaching programs in China are experiencing disappointment with the recent news of the program”s cancellation.

    Directors of the International Languages Program in Provo made the final decision Friday to cancel their fall trip.

    “We”re actually still open to the idea of sending people (to China) if the situation changes, but we had to make the call to let people know so they could make plans,” said Steve Brayton, a program director for the International Languages Program.

    The decision to cancel the program came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a statement Wednesday, May 7, recommending U.S. citizens consider deferring non-essential travel to China because of concerns about SARS.

    The International Languages Program spent last week notifying participants of alternative options.

    Participants were given the opportunity to defer to the winter program; volunteer in a different country, such as the Ukraine, Russia or their new Japan program; or cancel their trip completely.

    “I”m really disappointed because I made my plans based around doing this in the fall,” said Emily Kunkel, a junior at BYU who decided to defer her trip until January.

    Some participants have expressed a desire to volunteer in another country, Brayton said.

    “Although our first preference, based on need, is to have them defer until January,” he said.

    Of the 65 volunteers enrolled in the fall 2003 China program, about 20 percent are BYU students, said Jared Hansen, executive director of the International Languages Program.

    “We love our volunteers and would love to have them serve in another way if this opportunity closes,” Brayton said. “They”re hopeful to be able to serve, and it”s disappointing to them and to us if they can”t because the need for volunteers is so great.”

    The risk of contracting SARS, especially in locations where the International Languages Programs has volunteers, is still fairly low, Hansen said. A lot of the precautions being taken by the Chinese government were considered in the decision to cancel the program.

    According to Brayton, about 20 percent of participants had withdrawn from the program early.

    “Many of them are disappointed, but relieved in a way because either they or their families have been concerned from watching the news about potential risks of SARS,” Brayton said.

    Other programs around the country, like the International Languages Program, have decided to postpone sending teachers and volunteers to China.

    The University of Utah International Language Center will wait until next summer to send their students to China, said Aaron Rose, study abroad adviser for the International Center.

    Other groups, including the Colorado China Council and Western Washington University, have cancelled trips scheduled for June and July because of the escalating concern of its participants, said Alice Renouf, director of the Colorado China Council.

    “Our year-long program will go ahead in August, unless things radically change in China,” she said. “We are really hopeful for our August program.”

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