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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Coronavirus concerns cause UF to cancel Italy study abroad program

<p>Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)</p>

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

The continued spread of coronavirus has resulted in the cancellation of a UF study abroad program.

UF announced Thursday it will cancel The Vicenza Institute of Architecture program in Vicenza, Italy, said UF spokesperson Steve Orlando. The university is currently working to bring faculty and students home for the remainder of the Spring semester, he said. 

Students and faculty are expected to return to Gainesville by March 9, Orlando said. 

The program, located in northern Italy, currently hosts 41 UF students and two faculty members, Orlando said. He said the decision was reached out of “an abundance of caution.” 

There were 650 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Italy as of Thursday afternoon. In response, the U.S. State Department announced a Level 2 travel advisory, which asks U.S. citizens to “exercise increased caution.”

No coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Vicenza as of Wednesday.

UF’s chief epidemiologist, Nicole Iovine, is in support of the decision to cancel the program, Orlando said.  

Orlando received a petition from students in Vicenza requesting to remain abroad. The students will receive a refund based on the time lost in Vicenza, but Orlando wasn’t sure of what the exact amount would be when asked Thursday evening. 

“The safety and health of our students and faculty are of the utmost importance,” Orlando said. 

On Thursday evening, cases of the virus were present in 48 countries. China, Japan, South Korea and Italy currently have the most cases of infection.

According to the Vicenza program’s website, seven architecture classes are offered over a 12 week period. During this time, students travel to Italy and receive instruction from local educators and architects. 

On Feb. 17, UF study abroad programs to China were officially canceled. 

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All students with approved or pending applications for a UF summer study abroad program received an email from Jill Ranaivoson, assistant director of UF’s study abroad programs on Thursday, advising them to purchase trip cancellation insurance along with their airline tickets.

One of the UF students in the Vincenza program, Jazmin Malaczewski, told The Alligator in an email Thursday that news of the cancellation came suddenly. 

Malaczewski, a 21-year-old architecture senior, said she was surprised that UF made the decision without consulting students first. 

She said she’s “extremely distressed about having to come back mid-semester,” and that the refund offered by UF would not be enough to help students afford food and housing while finishing the semester in Gainesville.

“We have voiced that we wanted a choice whether or not to stay,” she wrote in an email to The Alligator, “and regardless, the University of Florida decided to cancel our program, that many of us have been looking forward to for 4 years.”

Contact Sarah Mandile and Samantha Chery at smandile@alligator.org and schery@alligator.org. Follow them on Twitter @sarahmandile and @SammyChery4276. 

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

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