UB’s Italian study abroad programs continue during coronavirus outbreak

UB advises students to take precautions, avoid crowds, wash hands


UPDATE: Italy upgraded the coronavirus risk to a level-three ranking on Saturday, leading UB to encourage students studying abroad in Italy to “return to the United States.”

UB is recommending students studying abroad in Italy stay there amid the country’s coronavirus outbreak. 

There are currently 11 UB students studying abroad in Italy with UB’s Rome, Florence, Tuscania and “Three Cities” programs, as well as a foreign exchange program with University of Rome La Sapienza. UB recommends the students don’t return to the U.S. during a recent outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) with 1,694 confirmed cases and 34 deaths in Italy as of Sunday afternoon. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced New York’s first confirmed coronavirus case Sunday evening and, in a statement, wrote “the general risk remains low” in the state. Some regions in Italy are under quarantine and other universities with study abroad programs in Italy have either recommended or sent their students back to the U.S. 

SUNY says it will continue online classes at the SUNY Incheon campus in South Korea and will require those on campus to wear protective face masks but has not made a statement regarding the Italy program.

Mary Odrzywolski, director of UB’s Study Abroad Programs, says UB’s recommendation follows federal advisories.

“We are not recommending UB students to return home from Italy at this time. This is in line with the current U.S. Department of State travel advisories for Italy,” Odrzywolski said. “If students choose to do so, we will assist and coordinate with the host institution as needed.”

Other New York schools sent students home from the region, helped them book flights and organized quarantines for when they arrive back in the U.S. 

Syracuse University suspended its Florence study abroad program Feb. 25 and is helping 342 students return to the U.S. New York University cancelled classes at its Florence campus between Feb. 27 and March 2 and will begin holding classes online after the hiatus. SUNY Stony Brook University is requiring a “mandatory pre-approval” before students and faculty travel to Italy, South Korea, China and Iran. Students and faculty must request permission from the president’s office before going on university-related trips to these locations and before using university funds, according to Stony Brook’s student newspaper The Statesman

Coronavirus reports have spread across the globe, with 88,312 confirmed cases and 3,001 deaths worldwide, as of Sunday afternoon. In the U.S., there have been 73 confirmed cases and one death. Northern Italy has quarantined 11 towns and more than 50,000 people of its 27.8 million population in order to conduct virus tests on people, regardless of whether they show symptoms of the virus to prevent potential spread. 

UB recommends students follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s health precautions, including avoiding close contact with others and crowded areas, washing hands with soap or using hand sanitizer, avoiding touching eyes, nose, or mouth and covering noses and mouths while coughing or sneezing. 

Reilly Mullen is a news editor and can be reached at reilly.mullen@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @ReillyMMullen.


Reilly Mullen is the managing editor for The Spectrum. She double majors in English and political science. She enjoys arguing with frat boys and buying cool shoes.