UPDATED: Coronavirus Outbreak Bars Students From Studying in China



Students who were studying in China when the coronavirus broke out were forced to return back to New York, only to be barred from registering for classes


All undergraduate study abroad programs in China have been suspended until further notice due to the coronavirus. The outbreak of coronavirus that began in Wuhan, China, was declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization on Jan 30. 

According to Joseph Rienti, director of international and study abroad programs, four Fordham students planned on studying abroad in Shanghai and three started their program in Beijing. There are confirmed cases in 28 countries and nearly 500 people have died from the virus. Three patients are being tested for possible coronavirus in New York City. 

Students enrolled in the Shanghai study abroad program are currently barred from class registration in New York, but Rienti, said that they are working with deans to resolve the issue. 

According to Rienti, the decision to suspend all study abroad programs in China was made after consultation with the Center for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. State Department.

“I was planning to travel to China in order to continue my Mandarin studies and the Study Abroad Program is treating the situation as though sending me to another country is a viable option,” said Julia Sparago, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’21. “My study abroad would be a waste of time and my enrollment is currently barred, so I’m left with limited options, none of which are optimistic.”

In an email sent to students enrolled in the program, Rienti said that placement in London, Granada and Pretoria programs is unavailable at this time, and with classes that began weeks ago in New York, they are unable to enroll them in classes on campus. 

“The way I see it, accommodating three or four students because of something that is uncontrollable is not beyond the capabilities of Fordham,” Sparago said. “To send an email that refuses to make exceptions and essentially deserted us in a strenuous situation shows a deep lack of care and commitment to students.”

“We have contacted partners worldwide to identify programs in other countries which might still be able to accommodate students,” Rienti said. “Given the timing of this situation, there are visa restrictions in most countries for study abroad; it has been quite difficult.”

Ben Guo, Gabelli School of Business Lincoln Center ’21, returned from studying abroad at the Beijing Center at the University of International Business and Economics on Jan. 29. This was before the implementation of a travel ban restricting entry into the U.S. from China and airlines began suspending routes to the country. 

“In the early stages of the coronavirus, when there were about 300 reported cases,  there wasn’t a sense of urgency,” Guo said. “When cases started doubling, major cities started locking down their entrances and prohibiting mass gatherings, like celebration of the Chinese New Year.”

According to Guo, it wasn’t until General Secretary Xi Jinping officially announced the coronavirus to the public that he felt tension. Guo said when he went to the grocery store, citizens were starting to stockpile food. 

As students like Guo return from China, college campuses are filled with anxiety about how to stay healthy while living in dormitories. Effects of such worries have led to reports of xenophobia around the country. In New York, safety precautions, like masks, are in shortage.

According to Brian Dunn, assistant dean for honors opportunities and dual degree programs, the Global Business Honors Program’s spring break trip to Beijing has also been postponed due to concerns about putting students’ health at risk. The trip did count for credit, but Dunn promised a third international trip for the honors program “if the threat posed by the virus is nullified quickly we may entertain a trip this May. If not, we will postpone it until senior year.”

University Health Services emailed the Fordham community confirming there are no known or suspected cases of coronavirus at Fordham.

To stay healthy, Bernard Camins, M.D., with a specialty in infectious diseases at Mount Sinai, recommended getting vaccinated against the flu if not already and checking NYC’s Department of Health website for tips.

According to Director of Health Services Maureen Keown, the symptoms of coronavirus may include a fever, cough, shortness of breath, runny nose, headache and sore throat. In severe cases, the virus can cause pneumonia. 

Keown said that increased sensitivity about the virus should not stop people from going about their daily life. “It’s normal for people to be concerned especially when there is a health situation and we do not know a lot about it,” she said. “Being concerned is good because people will take extra precautions to prevent illness. The important thing is to not panic.”



Rienti confirmed that as of Feb. 6, all students who wanted to return to campus after their study abroad programs in China were suspended have been enrolled in classes. Those students who opted to study abroad elsewhere have been assisted by Fordham staff and overseas partners to enroll in other programs.

At the time of publication of the original article, students expressed concern over being left with limited registration options after the Shanghai program’s suspension; Rienti said: “Fordham’s deans’ offices worked very hard and quickly to assist impacted students through a difficult situation.”