BYU taking COVID-19 precautions for study abroad programs

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BYU has taken precautions, such as delaying and canceling some international study abroad programs, due to the recent COVID-19 outbreak.

There are 34 university-approved study abroad programs in 14 different countries offered at BYU. Four programs have brought students home and have currently suspended sending students out. (Taryn Corey)

Following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, BYU Risk Management and BYU TravelSmart International program, BYU is taking all necessary precautions to protect their students on and off campus. Precautions include bringing students home from study abroad programs in current affected areas and actively watching for updates for other study abroad programs.

According to the CDC website, “COVID-19 is a new disease, caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans.” The virus is passed person-to-person close in contact with one another or through respiratory droplets in the air.

BYU International Study Programs Director Lynn Elliott is aware of the outbreak and is doing everything in his power to keep BYU students safe.

“We can’t guarantee you’ll be safe on any study abroad program because every study abroad has risks,” Elliott said. “If the risks are within an acceptable range — what we’re used to living with — we’ll continue sending students. We cancel them when the risk seems higher than we’re willing to accept.”

BYU Risk Management is also watching all international travel closely. Right now, China, South Korea, Italy and Mongolia are the only areas where international travel is suspended for all students and faculty.

The first programs affected by coronavirus were programs in China, South Korea and a few in Italy. Several students in China and South Korea for study abroad programs have been brought home since the outbreak of the virus.

Students in study abroad programs can continue their programs and will stay updated as more information about the virus becomes available.

BYU student Sarah Sederholm is part of a study abroad program scheduled for this summer that plans to visit Italy and Austria. Sederholm said at the beginning of this year there wasn’t much information available for students and professors, but in March the study abroad program informed students the stop in Italy would be canceled for the time being due to the coronavirus.

The professor in charge of Sederholm’s study abroad has been to Europe previously and is creating a new trip on the fly for the students.

Public health student Jenna Shaw is set to leave for Serbia with her husband and has no plans to cancel their trip. At this time, there is no travel restriction to Serbia, but some students have booked connecting flights through Italy.

“The biggest thing we’re wanting to do is look at the facts from reliable sources like the CDC,” Shaw said, adding that she and her husband are very aware mainstream media can exaggerate diseases, so they have personally dug deeper into the topic of coronavirus.

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