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All Spring 2020 study abroad students sent home, Duke summer programs begin to cancel

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

While many students come back to Durham claiming that study abroad changed them, the only thing that changed this semester was the return date.

The Global Education Office has recalled all students currently studying through Duke and non-Duke domestic and international study away programs for Spring 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some Summer 2020 GEO programs have already been canceled, like programs in Rome, Paris and Chicago.

When deciding whether or not to cancel a program, the GEO consults with parties such as Duke program administrators, private-sector international security experts and the U.S. State Department.

Multiple summer study away programs canceled

Many summer Duke-in programs have already been called off for Summer 2020, and GEO continues to observe how the coronavirus may affect other programs still slated to occur.

Including the nine programs listed on GEO’s coronavirus page, the following summer programs have been canceled for this summer, according to their programs’ respective pages: Duke in Aix-en-Provence, Duke in Alicante, Duke in the Arab World, Duke in Berlin, Duke in Bologna, Duke in London (Drama), Duke in Chicago (Finance), Duke in Paris, Duke in Rome, Duke in Spain, Duke in Venice and Duke Middle East in Europe—which takes place in Berlin and Istanbul.

The 10-week business practicum of Duke Study in China has also been canceled, but the program’s 8-week intensive language track has been relocated from Beijing to Wilmington, N.C. Participating students will live in dorms on the University of North Carolina at Wilmington campus.

Four other Duke summer programs—Brazil, Chile, Cuba and Sri Lanka—are listed as “currently on hiatus” and not running for this summer. The Duke in Sri Lanka and Duke in Brazil pages list their programs as being offered in Summer 2021. 

First-year Harriet Caplin was enrolled in Duke in Paris and was informed of the cancellation of her program through a March 20 email. But all students admitted to the Summer 2020 program will receive guaranteed admission to the Summer 2021 program, according to an email obtained by The Chronicle.

Caplin believes this decision was much better than moving classes online, which she does not believe “would have provided an adequate learning experience for the French students.”

“As a first-year student, this delayed acceptance works great for me, but for older students the pressure of internships or research could make this scheduling change very difficult,” she wrote in an email to The Chronicle.

She added that, although she was “a bit surprised at how long they waited to make this announcement,” she acknowledged the difficulty of making that type of decision given but said the unpredictability of the spread of the coronavirus and related travel bans.

Despite her disappointment and stress in having to quickly replace her summer plans, Caplin believes Duke made the right decision in canceling the program. She commended the University for putting health and safety concerns at the forefront.

“As someone who is immunocompromised, the risk of international airfare and traveling within another country is much more important than maintaining the program’s current schedule,” she wrote.

Marine Lab goes online

Junior Kendall Jefferys was studying at the Duke Marine Lab for the Spring 2020 semester. She told The Chronicle that the Marine Lab followed the protocol of Duke’s main campus, and upon Duke announcing the extension of spring break and shift to online learning, the Marine Lab did the same.

Jefferys will be continuing courses online and will receive full academic credit for her studies this semester. According to Jefferys, the Marine Lab follows a block schedule in the spring where students take one class at a time for approximately 3.5 weeks each.

Some of her coursework, however, involves components that are “simply not replicable online,” Jefferys wrote in an email to The Chronicle. Her class for the third block would have traveled to Mexico for two weeks to learn about community-based conservation in coastal fishing communities.

Jefferys was also set to complete an independent study during her fourth block, where she would engage in research on marine protected areas in Indonesia. She believes that she will be able to continue that since the majority of her work is data analysis.

Unlike Duke students on-campus in Durham, Jefferys wrote that Marine Lab students were allowed to return to retrieve their belongings. From March 13 to March 23, students were allowed to return to the Marine Lab to collect their things and were “highly encouraged to move out,” according to an email sent by Stephanie Klein, assistant dean of residence life at the Marine Lab.

Jefferys was able to collect her belongings and made the journey home to Dallas by car. Although she is disappointed in her experience being cut short, she is grateful to have “a stable home environment to return to.”

“In the end, my time at the [Marine Lab] reminded me of the values of the communities around us,” Jefferys wrote. “And if distancing ourselves from our community is the only way to keep each other safe at the moment, then I’m ok with doing that.”

SIT/IHP recalled

Junior Morgan McKinney was spending the semester doing a study-away with the School for International Training’s International Honors Program (SIT/IHP), where students would travel to Washington, D.C., Vietnam, South Africa and Argentina and study global health and community in these different regions.

While in South Africa, McKinney received an email from SIT/IHP March 15 that they would be flying back home in groups March 17 and March 18. But McKinney and other Duke study away students received email notification March 12 of Duke recalling its students from their programs—giving McKinney extra days to prepare for her departure.

“While there are only 51 declared cases of COVID-19 in Cape Town, today the South African government announced response measures to contain the virus that include incoming travel bans and discourage non-essential domestic travel,” the SIT/IHP email obtained by The Chronicle reads. “Consequently, SIT has made the difficult decision to close our IHP Health & Community programs earlier than expected and shift the program online for the duration of the semester.”

Students will now continue their courses online and receive full credit for the semester, according to the email from SIT/IHP. McKinney told The Chronicle that they hoped to begin online studies the first week of April, and she will receive credit for her courses from both SIT and Duke.

Grading for Spring 2020 Duke-credited study away programs will be satisfactory/unsatisfactory by default. Like all Duke students, they can request to receive a letter grade for a course. 

“The worst part of going home though was having to part with the wonderful people I met in South Africa early, especially my homestay parents,” McKinney wrote. “They are some of the loveliest people I have ever met, and there really is no experience more beautifully integrative than being welcomed into another’s family.”

Despite her disappointment, McKinney is excited to continue her online studies of public health in South Africa and Argentina. She expressed her appreciation for SIT “for doing everything they can to keep the program running in a way that is still engaging and meaningful.”

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