Abroad program classes in Barcelona, Madrid suspended for two weeks

Students returning to the U.S. must fill out the university self-report form and stay away from campus for at least 14 days.

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Emily Gonçalves

The Global Education Office, found next to Sarratt Box Office, has chosen to suspend all fall study abroad programs.

Several study abroad programs in Barcelona and Madrid, Spain have been suspended for the next two weeks. 

Both of the CIEE Barcelona programs have been canceled for the next two weeks, per an email to students from CIEE late Monday. Madrid’s health minister announced Monday that all schools in Madrid must close for 15 days beginning Wednesday due to the spread of COVID-19. 

In line with this directive, St. Louis University (SLU) announced that classes in the SLU Madrid program, which some Vanderbilt students are enrolled in, are suspended for 15 days. However, SLU is giving students the option to return to the United States and finish classes online, according to their website. The Vanderbilt Global Education Office (GEO) instructed students who decide to come back to the U.S. to alert GEO of their date of return. 

After Madrid authorities announced that schools must close, GEO sent an email to SLU students letting students know that they are aware of the situation. In the email, GEO stated that the office is in contact with its partners and will update students when decisions are made. 

Another Madrid program, IES Abroad, also canceled in-person classes and will have online classes beginning Tuesday, March 10 through March 30, according to an email sent to program students Monday night.

CIEE canceled classes in its Barcelona program for two weeks in response to the confirmed COVID-19 case of Vanderbilt junior Max Schulman, who was visiting friends studying abroad in Barcelona last week. Students in the CIEE Barcelona program are not allowed to go to classes at host institutions that are not closing, such as the University of Barcelona, per a follow-up email from CIEE. CIEE students in Barcelona also received an email March 9 from GEO saying that the office is monitoring the situation.

According to an an email from the program, CIEE is giving the students the option to stay in Barcelona to complete online classes through the end of the semester or to complete online classes remotely and return home. Students must decide by the end of the day March 18.

As of now, despite cancellation of in-person classes on campus, Vanderbilt will not be requiring students to return from abroad, according to an email sent from the GEO office to abroad students Tuesday.

“We are writing to follow up on Interim Chancellor and Provost Wente’s email from yesterday. We want to assure you that Vanderbilt’s approach to study abroad has not changed. Vanderbilt’s restrictions on university-sponsored international travel are a response to an on-campus situation. We and our overseas partners are similarly evaluating situations on the ground at study abroad sites, and responses to localized situations abroad will be handled on-site by our partners, in close collaboration with our office,” the email said. 

Junior Maddie Gapusan, enrolled in the CIEE Barcelona program, says she doesn’t want to be sent home.

“I know that a lot of schools are freaking out and sending kids home,”’ she said. “At the end of the day, I would rather have coronavirus and stay in Barcelona than go home.”

She said she had concerns about possibly not being able to finish her Spanish major before graduation if she is forced to leave her program. She also is concerned about the financial burden that includes airfare, tuition and housing.

Junior Daniel Nicastro also said he is mostly worried about cutting his study abroad experience short, and it seems like most of his peers aren’t worried about the virus itself.

“The only risk and this is a real risk is if one of us got it, what if we accidentally give it to some older person who it’s a real problem for? That’s the scary part,” Nicastro said.

Vanderbilt is requiring all students returning from study abroad programs to fill out a self-reporting form immediately and remain away from campus for at least 14 days, according to a March 9 email from the GEO office to students studying at SLU Madrid. If students choose to return to campus after the 14-day period, they can use resources like wif-fi and the Recreation Center, but the university will not provide them on-campus housing.

The email reiterated that students who do not comply with this policy will be subject to disciplinary procedures through Student Accountability.

“All Spring 2020 Study Abroad students are expected to complete the course requirements of the academic program they are currently enrolled in this semester. If you choose to return to the United States, you can remain at home to complete all your academic requirements and continue progress toward graduation. If after the 14-day period, you wish to return to Vanderbilt to access campus resources, please contact GEO (geo@vanderbilt.edu),” the email to SLU Madrid students said.

The March 10 email from GEO said that students that return from abroad programs that have not been suspended, students need to work with their programs to determine if there are alternate learning options. Awarding of academic credit will be determined on a case-by-case basis and is not guaranteed, the email said.

All updates regarding Vanderbilt’s study abroad policy in response to COVID-19 can be found on the university’s COVID-19 site.

Updated 2:16 p.m. March 11 with additional information from CIEE.

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Eva Durchholz contributed reporting.