Coronavirus Outbreak Affects Enrollment in NYC



Students who had planned to study abroad in China started their classes at Fordham a month late due to the outbreak.


The outbreak of coronavirus from Wuhan, China, that led to the suspension of Fordham’s study abroad programs in China, left students’ spring semester plans in shambles. Although Joseph Rienti, director of international and study abroad programs, said that the Fordham’s deans’ offices worked “very hard and quickly to assist impacted students through the difficult situation,” students say the transition back to Fordham was complicated.  

A suspected case of the coronavirus disease — which the World Health Organization renamed COVID-19 — in New York City has tested negative, while two other case results are pending. As of Feb. 18, the disease has killed over 2,000 people and is impacting businesses; U.S. retailers are bracing for shortages and Apple closed its 42 stores in China.

Julia Sparago, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’21, was one of four students planning on studying abroad in Shanghai, China. According to Sparago, the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) had replied to the students involved in the Shanghai program offering other programs, one of which was in Tainan, Taiwan. 

“One of my friends and I in the program had wanted to go to the Taiwan program, however, Fordham Study Abroad told us they had not approved that program and therefore we were unable to attend,” Sparago said.

Sparago was offered placement in the London program but chose to return to New York: “I have been planning to study abroad in Asia since high school; I am a Mandarin Studies minor and I wanted to broaden my horizons,” Sparago said.

Instead, she is applying for a summer trip to Japan through CIEE. Her application fee was waived in light of the recent occurrences. “I am happy that CIEE is accommodating me and my situation; they’re doing the best that they can,” Sparago said.

Her first day back in classes at Rose Hill after reenrollment was Feb. 10, nearly one month after the beginning of the spring semester.

Though Fordham administration allowed displaced students to return to classes, Sparago said she found herself almost entirely on her own while attempting to enter classes. “I assumed that professors would be my smallest obstacle. We had all heard about the impacts of the virus, so I expected to receive sympathy for my situation,” Sparago said.

Sparago said that she was included in emails from professors that allegedly said things like “please do not let her enter my class,” or that she could join but the late start would impact her grade. “It felt as though I was being punished for a situation which, in reality, was out of my control.” 

According to Sparago, it took over a week to find four professors willing to take her with the help of Assistant Dean for FCRH juniors William Gould, who had to call professors in some cases to argue her case.

Since she returned to campus, Sparago said she hasn’t heard from the study abroad program. “The situation is very unfortunate. I wish that Fordham study abroad would reach out to us individually and include us in the decisions that they’re making on our behalf.”