Temple students rush to get home from canceled study abroad program in Italy

By KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Following elevated travel warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of State, Temple University has told some 277 students in their study abroad program in Rome to pack their bags and come home.

"We were all looking forward to a solid three or four months of being in a new place. And it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," she told NBC 10 over the weekend. "Since Italy has had so many cases, such an increase in cases, I think that it's definitely better safe than sorry, to go home now rather than have it be a bigger deal in a month, two months from now, and be struck somewhere."

Outside of Asia, Italy has confirmed the highest number of cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the Wuhan coronavirus.

"People have been wearing masks, mostly in the really touristy sections of the city, around all the attractions," said Grace Spurrier, another Temple student cutting her study abroad program short. "Over the last week, you have seen more people taking precautions. Hand sanitizer is defintely running low in the city at this point. It's a little hard to find in some of the stores."

With ever-tightening travel restrictions in place, no one on either side of the Atlantic wants these students to be stuck overseas.

"I think it's a good thing that Temple stepped in now, especially with the State Department warning. It's not even as much the cases in Italy as it is the chance that we wouldn't be able to make it back home to the U.S.," Spurrier said.

Returning students are advised to self-quarantine by monitoring their body temperature for as long as two weeks, avoiding large areas of people, and avoiding the main campus, in an effort to prevent putting others at risk of infection in case they were exposed to the coronavirus strain but aren't showing symptoms. 

"We are taking precautioniary measures as a family," Spurrier said. "I'm not going to see my grandparents for a solid two, three weeks."

The students can return to Temple's main campus in North Philadelphia if they choose. Temple said the university will offer online courses to the students and provide free housing to those who who need it. 

Temple's exodus follows Villanova University's decision on Wednesday to bring its students home from overseas study in Italy. Penn State is also working to bring its study abroad students back.

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