For study abroad students, the University’s decision to cancel their programs and send them back meant rushed goodbyes to friends, professors and the new life they forged far away from home.
When the Office of the Provost announced the transition to remote learning following an extended spring break, Emory study abroad programs were not far behind in receiving their own cancellation message. Students scattered throughout parts of Europe, Asia and other continents were forced to pack their belongings and book flights home as soon as possible, bringing their excursions abroad to a swift and heartbreaking end.
Tamar Sidi (21C) was studying abroad at the University of New South Wales in Sydney when she received an email from Emory Study Abroad on March 11 recommending that she return home and continue her classes remotely.
The very next day, Emory abruptly shifted their policy and mandated that all students abroad return home since international travel was becoming “increasingly inaccessible” due to President Donald Trump’s decision to restrict travel from Europe to the U.S. for 30 days. Although Sidi was not studying in Europe, the email stated that all students studying abroad must return home.
In the March 12 email, Emory agreed to reimburse students for flight change fees and work with individual students on a contingency plan if their program was not available online.
Sidi, believing she would be safer in Australia, pleaded with Emory to allow her to remain abroad, but her request was rejected.
“I tried really hard to stay, emphasizing that I was safer in my remote, private accommodation in Australia than I was going back to my apartment in Manhattan, but [Emory] wouldn’t budge,” Sidi said.
Sidi said she is worried about keeping up with her classes while home, given the significant time difference between New York and Sydney.
Though she will have difficulties adjusting to her abrupt return to the U.S., Sidi said she is grateful to have spent Fall semester and a small part of Spring semester in Australia, even though it was cut short.
“I’m lucky to have been [in Australia] for last semester as well, so I got to do a lot of what I wanted,” Sidi said.
Aashka Chauhan (18Ox, 21B), who was studying in Bangkok, Thailand at Thammasat University, said she believes Emory was very helpful in communicating information to students studying abroad.
“Once Emory — at least Goizueta [Business School] — made the decision that we all had to come home, I thought they were very receptive in the information that we were given,” Chauhan said.
Initially, Chauhan’s main concern was that she would not receive credit for her study abroad program and would have to take an extra semester or overload on credits. However, she stated thatEmory assured students that they would receive credits for the semester.
“[Emory said] they would create a plan for us to still receive our credits despite having to come home early,” Chauhan said. “I have to work with my Thai school and figure out how to do my classes remotely, especially with the time difference, but having Goizueta’s support … is really reassuring.”
Other students were looking forward to spending their summer abroad, only for their programs to be scrapped before they even began.
Excited to partake in the Psychology in the British Isles program this summer, Andrew Spencer (22C) would have spent three weeks in Dundee, Scotland, and two weeks in London conducting research in childhood development and taking classes at University College London, respectively. On March 3, he received an email from the Office of International and Summer Programs (OISP).
“We have not made the decision to cancel your summer study abroad program, but we will continue to monitor the situation closely,” the email read.
OISP stated that they would make a final decision regarding the potential cancellation of summer programs by March 20. On March 19, Spencer received an email stating that OISP would “indefinitely suspend all university-sponsored international travel,” which included summer study abroad programs.
“[The program] was supposed to be all Emory professors teaching the courses,” Spencer said. “While I’m definitely frustrated with the outcome, I understand why Emory made the decision they did,” Spencer said.
Spencer noted that, while the email lacked information on possible alternatives for the summer, he appreciates the University’s timeliness. He’s also relieved that Emory is refunding application fees and initial deposits.
“I also appreciate that they sent out an email roughly two weeks prior to the cancellation,” Spencer said. “This was useful because it gave me an opportunity to look into alternative plans.”
In lieu of going abroad, Spencer will likely take summer classes at Emory, “assuming life is back to normal” by then, he said. Spencer said he is grateful to have a strong backup, and though he is disappointed he will not have the chance to complete a semester in London, he said he is trying to look at the bright side.
“It’s an unprecedented time right now,” Spencer said. “I’m trying to keep things in perspective and just be grateful that I’m in good health and have a roof over my head — and not stress as much about the smaller things.”