Two weeks ago, when UC Santa Barbara third-year Mary Pimentel heard that her boyfriend’s study abroad program in Italy was being shut down, it was the first time she seriously considered that her own program in France could be canceled due to coronavirus. 

But it wasn’t until last night, when President Donald Trump announced a 30-day travel ban from Europe and she “was woken up at 3 a.m. by my friends and family from home freaking out,” that she knew her program was probably next.

“I cried a lot, and I’m probably gonna keep crying ‘til I go home,” Pimentel, an English and French double major, said. “Being in the in-between stage was really exhausting, and it didn’t feel the same anymore. It didn’t feel like the same experience because I wasn’t really enjoying the city anymore, I wasn’t really enjoying my time abroad.”

“I was just on edge, waiting to be told to go home.”

Now that the programs have officially been canceled, UCEAP has been working with both the host universities abroad and the students’ home UC campuses to coordinate course credit, financial aid and all the other lingering questions that remain for these students. Nexus file photo

Pimentel’s program is one of 37 that the UC Education Abroad Program (UCEAP) announced it was suspending due to the coronavirus. The program suspended seven study abroad programs in Europe earlier on March 12 and plans to officially suspend 30 more programs on March 16 as the U.S. Department of State and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued warnings against international travel.

As of March 16, programs in the Czech Republic, Costa Rica, Ghana, Jordan, Ireland, England and Scotland had also been suspended. On March 17 and 18, UCEAP announced its program in Chile and its programs in Brazil and Japan were also suspended. 

On March 19, UCEAP said all summer study abroad programs had been suspended as well.

UC policy mandates that study abroad programs be suspended if there are Level 3 Travel Advisories, or “Avoid Nonessential Travel” for a country. As of Thursday, nine countries in Europe have now been given a Level 3 Travel Advisory. 

Before last night, only three study abroad programs — China, South Korea and Italy — had been suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

UCEAP spokesperson Myla Edmond said that as of March 13, 980 students had been impacted by these program suspensions.

The spring quarter programs that have been suspended as of today are: 

  • Global Cities Urban Realities
  • Free University Berlin, Germany
  • Humboldt University Berlin, Germany
  • Technical University Berlin, Germany
  • Psychology and Neuroscience, Netherlands
  • Public Health and Pre-Med, Netherlands
  • European Transformations, Spain + Italy

The spring semester programs that will be suspended beginning March 16 are: 

  • Central European Studies, Czech Republic
  • Aarhus University, Denmark
  • University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Field Research and Internship, Paris, France
  • Field Research and Internship, Strasbourg, France
  • French in Bordeaux, France
  • Sciences Po Paris, France
  • Sciences Po Reims, France
  • Social Justice and Activism, France
  • University of Bordeaux, France
  • University of Lyon, France
  • Global Cities Urban Realities, France + UK-England
  • European Studies, Germany
  • Free University Berlin, Germany
  • Humboldt University Berlin, Germany
  • Technical University Berlin, Germany
  • Grand Budapest, Hungary
  • Art, Food and Society, Italy
  • Bocconi University, Italy
  • Italian in Florence, Italy
  • Made in Italy, Italy
  • Psychology and Cognitive Sciences, Padova, Italy
  • University of Bologna, Italy
  • Business and Economics, Maastricht, Netherlands
  • Leiden University College, Netherlands
  • University College Maastricht, Netherlands
  • University College Utrecht, Netherlands
  • Utrecht University, Netherlands
  • University of Oslo, Norway
  • Lund University, Sweden

UCEAP wrote on its website that all summer 2020 study abroad programs would continue as scheduled except:

  • Biodiversity, National University of Singapore, Singapore
  • China summer 2020 programs
  • Hong Kong summer 2020 programs (for reasons not related to COVID-19)
  • Public Health, Thailand

Pimentel noted that the time difference made it difficult for her family, who often heard about news like Trump’s travel suspension while she was asleep. 

“They hear about everything before I do, and they’re freaking out for me, and I’m trying to calm them down from another continent,” she said. 

For some students and their families, the stress of not knowing when — not if, when — the program would be canceled was too much to bear. 

“One of my friends, her dad was freaking out and she’s going home tomorrow morning,” she said. “He called her yesterday and was like ‘I can’t handle this anymore, I don’t even know if your program’s gonna get cancelled but I’m buying you a ticket to come home.’”

Now that the programs have officially been canceled, UCEAP has been working with both the host universities abroad and the students’ home UC campuses to coordinate course credit, financial aid and all the other lingering questions that remain for these students. 

Pimentel said she was told by her study abroad advisor that UCEAP was attempting to convert the study abroad courses to online courses, so students could finish their semesters. 

“But that sounds so impossible to me,” she said, while acknowledging that it would be her best option.

Once she received the official cancelation email from UCEAP, Pimentel said she would probably book her flight home for late next week. 

“I can’t imagine having to crash courses if we can’t even be on campus until the end of April,” she said. “I don’t know how I would go about getting myself into classes. I also don’t know how I would handle housing.”

For now, Pimentel is focusing on enjoying her last few days abroad. 

“I don’t know, I just don’t want to come home. It’s two months early, and it’s really disappointing and really sad, but I just keep trying to remind myself that it could be worse,” she said.

Updated: [3/19/20 3:45 p.m.]

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