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  • Writer's pictureThe Beacon Today

American study abroad students anxious about Coronavirus outbreak

Updated: Apr 13, 2020

Person wearing backpack and face mask around Florence, Italy.

Paige Guyton, a study abroad student from the University of Illinois, didn’t anticipate studying abroad during a time of travel warnings and a virus outbreak in Florence, Italy -- the same city she plans to call home for three months.

As of Thursday evening, there are 528 cases of the virus in Florence, compared to 283 on Tuesday morning, according to CNBC and the New York Times.

Guyton says her attention is outside the classroom and consumed with the news of a neighboring university’s decision to send its students home to complete online classes until the end of March. Guyton fears her study abroad program will be cut short. Other programs like NYU Florence are already implementing the change of plans.

New York University decided to close its Florence outpost due to concerns about the coronavirus. Students must evacuate on-campus housing and complete courses online from the U.S. until the end of March, according to the New York Post.

“It’s made a very negative impact on my experience because everyone's worried all the time, anxious. I can’t sleep from it,” Guyton said. “It makes me scared.”

Guyton says she wants to be sent home to the U.S. if it gets worse but not if the virus isn’t life-threatening.

Two people pictured with face masks and gloves walking past tourist line in Florence city center.

“It scares me a lot, it makes me nervous to leave my apartment and go to public places,” Guyton said. “I can’t be a tourist in my own city because I’m scared of interacting with tourists.”

Guyton’s family in the U.S. is attempting to reassure her to follow any guidelines, but most of her anxiety stems from the possible inability to travel outside of Italy.

“I wasn’t worried at all when it was even in Rome,” Guyton said. “Now that it’s in Florence, it feels a lot more real.”

Victoria Hoff, a study abroad student from the University of Miami, says her family back in the U.S. is also concerned about travel advisories and complications.

“It’s so much less the virus,” Hoff said. “It’s getting stuck here and other countries closing their borders, and then all of a sudden we’re sitting in our apartment eating the same bag of pasta that we’ve been eating for two weeks. I think that's more of the fear people are feeling.”

Hoff stays up-to-date with the news circulating the coronavirus.

“The only people that are really getting affected negatively and dying are elderly people or people who had already compromised immune systems,” Hoff said.

Her travel plans to visit other countries this semester isn’t as possible as she had hoped. Instead, she made a change to her daily routine.

Pictured outside Duomo in Florence, Italy in a tourist group.

“I wore a face mask to walk to the school here today. I think that being overly cautious in a time like this isn't such a bad thing,” Hoff said. “It does cause a lot of external anxiety. For children to walk in the street to see adults with face masks, that’s probably terrifying.”

Hoff hears more news of the virus spreading to a new location, which makes her feel like the numbers are rising seemingly overnight.

“The fact that it’s in Florence now feels like it was more inevitable than anything,” Hoff said.

Hoff and Guyton are two of the many students concerned with the unexpected difficulties of studying abroad in a foreign country during the rise of a global health crisis.

“It’s just a very different experience than people were expecting,” Hoff said. “It’s supposed to be abroad, easy-breezy, doing what we want when we want rather than being scared.”

By Heather Chiles

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