NYU students currently studying abroad were offered the chance to return home and take classes remotely amid impending threats of the coronavirus at many NYU sites, according to an email sent out Tuesday, March 3.
The coronavirus epidemic has already led to the closing of two NYU abroad sites — NYU Shanghai and NYU Florence — and students at other sites have been waiting with bated breath to see if their program will be shut down as well, according to students.
In the email, NYU Global Programs offered online classes to be conducted via distance-learning resources, including Zoom — a video conference platform — to students in Accra, Berlin, Buenos Aires, London, Madrid, Paris, Prague, Sydney and Tel Aviv.
“We have developed new guidelines that aim to provide you with as much flexibility as possible in order to make the decisions that feel best to you and your families,” the email read. “Of course, given this is a rapidly evolving situation, we must all remain open to further adjustments should events require us to make them.”
Steinhardt junior Lauren Roche, studying in Paris, said the email eased students’ fears about being forced to leave their abroad sites.
“I think the email was really relieving in the fact that I was scared we were going to be kicked out like Florence,” Roche said. “But in the same breath it felt like it wasn’t concrete they were like, ‘Yeah, you can stay here or you can go home, but if it gets worse you’re going home.’”
CAS junior JP Schuster, who is studying in London, said he would not consider taking online classes.
“As a student you pay an exorbitant amount of money for lectures that are in-person,” Schuster told WSN in a WhatsApp message. “Online classes have no face to face interaction with your professor and lack peer interaction. The only way I’d take my courses online is if NYU forced me to.”
The email explained that online courses would take up to two weeks to be implemented and that the financial burden of returning home from the site would fall on the student. It urged students who wanted to return home but faced cost restrictions to reach out to the global programs office.
While the email states NYU is confident classes can continue safely, it also warned the NYU community to remain open to further announcements, which some students in Paris have chosen to focus on, according to Roche.
“For a school that prides itself saying students are the top priority, some of the teachers I feel didn’t treat it with caution or care,” Roche said. “This is an anxiety-producing situation. I just feel it could have been discussed a little better with the students.”
As of now, two locations — NYU Paris and NYU Madrid — are hosting Town Halls with site officials to answer student questions on Wednesday, March 4.
Steinhardt junior Leanne MacPherson, studying in Prague, said she is not considering leaving her abroad site and is not concerned about contracting the coronavirus.
“For me, I’m not planning on leaving, I don’t really feel like there’s any need to especially because at this point there are more cases in the United States than there are in the Czech Republic,” MacPherson said. “So it’s not like I would feel particularly safer going home at this point.”
Study abroad is known as an opportunity to country-hop, but the email warns students of rapidly changing travel restrictions imposed as global leaders struggle to contain the virus. Liberal Studies sophomore Carlotta Guacci, who is studying in Madrid this semester, said most students are more concerned with derailed travel plans than health.
“There had been some people concerned about travel plans mostly,” Guacci said. “Because we are abroad, we want to get to see other sites. As far as health, I’ve only heard very few kids worried about their own personal health.”
If trips are cancelled, consequences could go beyond a missed opportunity. NYU Madrid has a spring break trip planned for Morocco — which Guacci put down a deposit for — but is now unsure of whether or not the trip will happen or if she will receive her money back.
“They mentioned that for some trips there wouldn’t be a reimbursement so I was planning on going to the Morocco trip and gave a deposit — so we’ll figure out whether that’s jeopardized, whether they’ll reimburse,” Guacci said.
NYU President Andrew Hamilton emailed the university community on Tuesday to address the coronavirus situation.
“I am proud of and grateful for everyone’s steadfastness at this moment,” Hamilton said in a university-wide email. “And rest assured, if the moment comes when there is reason to act, or to act more sweepingly, we shall do so thoughtfully but unhesitatingly.”
Email Emily Mason at [email protected]