By TODD GOTTULA
KEARNEY – The University of Nebraska at Kearney has canceled an upcoming study abroad program as the coronavirus continues to spread across the world.
UNK notified students Wednesday that it is canceling its spring study abroad program at Palacky University in the Czech Republic. The decision impacts 11 students and one faculty member who were scheduled to participate beginning March 16.
The decision to cancel study abroad spring trips was made by UNK following a directive from University of Nebraska leadership.
“This decision is not made lightly, but student health and safety is our primary concern,” said Tim Burkink, assistant vice chancellor for international affairs.
In accordance with University of Nebraska system policy, travel to certain countries under advisories or warnings by the Centers for Disease Control or the U.S. Department of State has been restricted over the past month.
All UNK-sponsored student international travel that was to depart during the spring semester has been canceled. UNK is in contact with affected students and program leaders.
Students already abroad in countries not under a Level 3 travel warning by the CDC may continue their programs. However, students studying abroad in countries with a Level 3 warning are being asked to return to the U.S. as soon as practically possible and follow CDC guidance and instructions from health authorities until that is possible. UNK will assist any student who wishes to return early.
UNK currently has no students studying abroad in Level 3 countries. Thirteen UNK students are studying in Ireland, one in Denmark, one in Finland and one in London.
Regarding summer 2020 study abroad programs, NU’s international officers are continuing to closely monitor the spread of the coronavirus and will make a recommendation to senior leadership by March 15.
Burkink noted that UNK will work with students to manage the disruption and unexpected change of the Czech Republic decision. Students will be issued a full refund for all payments that have been made to UNK associated with the study abroad program.
UNK also is encouraging students affected to work with airlines or travel agents used to book the trip to determine what their options are for cancellation or credit for future travel.
The decision also could impact some students’ progress toward graduation, as those scheduled for the study abroad trip would have earned 12 hours of general elective credits.
“The university will work with students to keep them on track,” Burkink said.
Symptoms of the coronavirus can include fever, cough and breathing trouble. Most develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.