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Coronavirus disrupting study-abroad programs for some Illinois students

Programs in Italy and South Korea are among those affected, with the U.S. State Department now advising people to reconsider traveling to those countries.

Tourists wearing a protective mask walk in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in Rome on Tuesday.
Tourists wearing a protective mask walk in St. Peter’s sSquare at the Vatican in Rome on Tuesday. Though Italy has urged tourists spooked by the coronavirus not to stay away, but Illinois universities with students studying in Italy have either required or recommended that they return home.
Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images

Several Illinois universities are ending study-abroad programs and bringing students home amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Programs in Italy and South Korea are among those affected, as the U.S. State Department now is advising people to reconsider traveling to those countries.

That same advisory, issued Feb. 29, says that travelers definitely should avoid the northern Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto.

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Loyola University and Northwestern University have told their students studying in Italy to leave, as the country faces a growing outbreak of coronavirus.

Loyola, which has a campus in Rome, told its 240 students in Italy to return home by Wednesday. In a letter, Michael F. Andrews, director of the school’s Rome Center, wrote: “While we realize that there will be a disruption in our students’ academic semester, we are making plans to create a positive alternative learning experience.”

The university is unsure how future programs will be affected.

“I don’t believe any of the programs that haven’t started yet are being affected, but the situation is evolving,” said Anna Rozenich, a Loyola spokeswoman.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign told its 137 students studying in Italy this semester they must leave the country at the “earliest opportunity,” and those who return to campus must “self-isolate” before doing so. U of I also told its 15 students in South Korea to leave that country,.

U of I students has 852 stuents abroad, according to Robin Kaler, a university spokeswoman.

Kaler said the university is offering to help pay for students’ travel; that includes students countries not yet severely affected by the coronavirus. Kaler said the goal is to give students studying abroad the option to return to campus in time to register for some spring semester courses.

“This is a fluid situation,” Kaler said. “If things change in a few weeks it will be too late for any student to pick up any second eight-week course.”

If the virus continues to spread and travel restrictions expand, Kaler said she expects students in other countries will be told to return home, too.

The University of Illinois Chicago’s study abroad program in South Korea was canceled last week before its three students bound for the country had left. Of the university’s 47 students abroad, two were in Italy this semester; one returned Monday and the other is continuing in another country, according to Sherri McGinnis Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for UIC.

The University of Chicago has moved its spring quarter program “Hong Kong: Colonizations” from that city to London, said spokeswoman Colleen Mastony. The school has no programs in Italy or South Korea this quarter or next, she said.

Northwestern posted a statement onlined that the two students studying abroad in Italy have already returned home.

Illinois State University has issued a “strong recommendation” to its 15 students in Italy to leave the country, said spokesman Eric Jome.