Florence abroad program to end early as coronavirus hits Italy

Feb. 25, 2020, 8:58 p.m.

Stanford students currently studying abroad in Florence will have to return home before the start of next week, the Bing Overseas Studies Program (BOSP) announced to program students Tuesday, as Italy’s coronavirus outbreak became the worst outside Asia. 

A decision on the spring program has not yet been made, the announcement said, but Stanford will “continue to actively monitor the developing system” and make a decision by March 20. Students enrolled in the spring program are currently set to arrive on March 26. 

There have been 322 identified cases of coronavirus in Italy reported through Tuesday, according to The New York Times. Most stem from Lombardy, a region in northern Italy roughly 200 miles from Florence. 

There are no identified cases of coronavirus at any Stanford campus, the announcement stated. The decision, University spokesperson E.J. Miranda said, “was made largely to avoid [students] having to face possible travel restrictions within Italy or departing the country.”

Stanford’s in-person instruction in Florence, originally set to end on March 13, will end on Wednesday, and BOSP is providing students with $500 to cover airline fees so they can leave no later than Sunday. Students will begin “remote continuation” of coursework on Monday, with program staff working with faculty to create “instruction plans,” according to the email.

For an international flight booked within five days, however, $500 may not be enough for some students.

“It definitely seems like they didn’t take the time to look at airplane prices, ” said Manuel Porras ’21, a student in the program.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” he added, noting his flight was just over $500. While he did not have plans to travel elsewhere during the remaining weeks of the program, Porras noted that some students did, potentially incurring further costs.

One student left before the announcement, according to Porras, after program administrators gave students were the option to finish their studies remotely.

In Stanford’s program in Paris, students who recently returned from Venice or other affected areas of Italy were told to wear a mask and monitor their symptoms in an email sent to students. ISEP Paris, an institution where Stanford students abroad take classes, are not permitting students who recently returned from Italy to enter for 14 days. Three Stanford students are affected by this policy, according to one who wished to remain anonymous. BOSP local faculty have instructed students in Paris not to travel to affected areas. France has 12 reported cases of infections as of Tuesday, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

It’s unclear how Paris, or other study abroad programs will be affected by the outbreak. In Japan, where Stanford students study in Kyoto, 157 cases have been reported, according to the WHO. Spain, where Stanford hosts a program in Madrid, has reported two cases, and the United Kingdom, where Stanford sends students to Oxford, has reported 13, according to the WHO.

Jim Jacobs, associate vice provost and executive director of Vaden Health Center, sent an email to Stanford students cautioning against travel to Italy, as well as Japan, Hong Kong and Macau over spring break. 

“Stanford continues to assess risk based on the number of cases, community spread, public health infrastructure, as well as other factors,” Jacobs wrote. 

Contact Julia Ingram at jmingram ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Julia Ingram ’21 was The Daily's Volume 256 editor-in-chief. She is a New York City native majoring in English literature and working toward a career in news reporting. Contact her at jingram ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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