Students Return from Study Abroad Due to COVID-19

by Christine Nappi and Jessica McKenzie, Features Editor and Assistant Features Editor

Manhattan College students participating in this semester’s study abroad programs are now returning to the United States due to the 2020 novel coronavirus pandemic. The programs were supposed to continue until the end of spring semester, but students have been advised to go home as soon as possible.

 President Trump enacted an international travel ban this past Saturday, March 14 for all U.S. citizens. Various other countries, including those where students are studying, launched similar protocols to ensure the safety of their citizens. 

“It’s just really crazy,” junior Rachel Roca said. “I’m very sad to be back.” 

Roca recently returned home from the Budapest Semester in Mathematics study abroad program in Hungary. After Hungary declared a state of emergency and closed all public universities, program directors advised all students to leave the country immediately.

“I found out I had to leave and then got on a plane less than 12 hours later so it was a very sudden process,” Roca said. “I didn’t get to say goodbye to friends I made there or the places I visited, so I think that made it difficult because it was so sudden.” 

Roca never imagined something like this would happen, and says the severity of it sunk in when she got home. Despite the global hysteria surrounding the idea of traveling during this time, Roca claims to have had a good experience when flying home. 

“American officials were asking a bunch of questions, mostly about what was in our bags and if anyone could’ve tampered with it, where did you travel in the past two weeks, how were you feeling and if you’d been in contact with anyone,” Roca said. “Other than that I personally didn’t have any issues.” 


Junior Rachel Roca was studying abroad in Hungary before having to travel home due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Now that Roca is home, she is unsure of how her program is going to continue and is worried about the status of her education. The program was initially going to conduct online classes while the students remained in Hungary, yet the state of emergency and Trump’s protocol made them do otherwise. 

Budapest Semester in Mathematics is an external study abroad program from the college. Roca is nervous about her credits because only one of her classes in this program is offered at MC, yet the college’s math department has worked with her to count other courses.  As of now, the program is aiming to host online classes for it’s students, yet Roca finds that this will be challenging because students in the program are scattered all over the world. 

“It’s going to be really difficult because everyone comes from different places and a lot of the programs are problem based, so I don’t know how collaboration is going to be able to work,” Roca said. “I’m pretty worried about it because if I can’t get credit for the semester, I will have to stay and I won’t be able to graduate on time.” 

Despite her concerns and heartbreak for leaving Hungary abruptly, Roca is thankful to have had this experience. 

“I had an amazing experience in Budapest and I’m just really sad it’s over [and] it’s still sinking in” Roca said. “It’s crazy not even having the words for it, I can’t even wrap my head around it.” 

Current junior French minor Nicole Nuñez arrived in Paris, France on January 5, 2020 prepared to take 15 credits worth of classes between then and June 4. 

In light of all restaurants, shops, schools, museums and universities closing throughout France, she is now participating in online classes. She will be travelling home on March 19.

“France is proactive [and] … acting earlier than other countries to try to reduce the spread of the virus,” Nunez said. “I feel safe in Paris.” 

One thing that has particularly shocked Nunez about the country’s reaction to the virus is how much quieter the streets of Paris have been now that they lack the usual tourist traffic.

Nunez is understandably disappointed and shocked that her study abroad experience has been cut short by this pandemic.

“I was meant to be in Paris for five full months and my study abroad has been cut down to half of that,” Nunez said. “I have been preparing my entire college career for my study abroad and the chance to fully immerse myself in the culture and language that I have been studying.”

 Molly Prior, junior communication major, had planned to spend spring semester abroad as well. She was studying abroad in Madrid, Spain. 

On Thursday, March 12, all 17 students in her program were forced to evacuate Madrid.

“I really don’t think anybody could have prepared or anticipated just how bad this outbreak is going to be,” Prior said. “I remember a few weeks ago when the first case arrived in Spain, and then the numbers just started creeping up. Then overnight, it seems as though thousands were diagnosed and died.”

Prior notes how her study abroad experience has drastically changed over the past week. All classes have moved online. Society in Spain has shifted in that citizens are not to leave their homes except in the case of an emergency.

“Everyone was really on edge over the past few weeks of how dangerous this really was and whether we would actually be sent home or not,” Prior said.

She had been preparing to study abroad for most of her time as an undergraduate.

The coronavirus has impacted many students in a multitude of ways, yet having to return home so quickly was unimaginable for those embarking on study abroad trips. Despite their emotions about being sent home, they are hoping for the best regarding the pandemic. 

“I am extremely devastated about having to have been sent home … I understand how bad the situation has gotten now and that we really did need to go home, even though it doesn’t make me any less sad,” Prior said. “I only hope that this situation can get better and improve.”