On March 12, William Jewell College announced that from March 22 to April 5, all classes would be taken online in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. This time period encompasses the two weeks after the scheduled end of spring break.
Ten juniors were studying abroad for the spring semester – eight students at the University of Oxford, one in Spain and one in Prague. The two students studying in Prague and Spain returned from their programs after President Trump initiated a travel ban from all European countries and the CDC elevated both Spain and the Czech Republic to level three travel threats.
Sydney Bass, junior English and Spanish major, was studying at the University of Grenada in the Central Leguas Modernas (CLM) Sol. Before Spain became a level three threat, Jewell did not recall her. Bass independently made the decision to return home amid the crisis and had purchased a ticket home before Spain was declared a level three threat.
Jewell commended her decision to preparedly return home. According to Bass, CLM still has not suspended their programming – but remaining students have been effectively quarantined.
To fulfill her credit requirements, Bass initially reached out to Jewell Spanish professors to complete an independent study. However, CLM has now taken courses online, so Bass will likely be completing her coursework with the program. Bass described the process of returning home amid the crisis and figuring out credits as “confusing and stressful.”
The United Kingdom was not initially included in the travel ban, and Oxbridge students had not been recalled as of March 14 at 2:05 p.m. CST. At 1:04 p.m CST on March 13, Oxbridge students received an email from Sara Round, director of global studies, confirming the decision not to suspend the program at the time being. Several colleges with students studying abroad at the University of Oxford had already withdrawn their students from the program.
“After weighing the information we are receiving from our Oxford programs and the University of Oxford as well as information published by the NHS and UK government, Jewell has decided not to suspend the programs in Oxford at this time,” the email from Round said.
Round specified that the decision not to suspend programming would be reevaluated if the CDC raises the health alerts on the UK or there is elevation of the State Department’s travel advisories regarding the UK.; if Oxford elevates its response to COVID-19, such as moving to online tutorials or canceling lectures; or, if new directives from the UK government would affect students abroad.
As the global situation is rapidly changing and potentially frightening to students abroad, Oxbridge students have been given the option whether or not to return for Oxford’s third term – which is set to begin April 27.
“While Jewell is not suspending the Oxford programs, we recognize that everyone’s tolerance for risk and uncertainty differs. If you are not comfortable remaining in Oxford for the Trinity term and would like to return to the U.S., Jewell will support your decision,” Round’s email said.
If students choose to suspend their studies in the third term, they are to notify Round. The notification confirmed that it is likely most Oxbridge students would already have completed enough credits in the 2019-2020 school year to stay on track for graduation. Students wishing to return home are directed to contact their academic advisors to discuss whether additional coursework is necessary to fulfill degree requirements.
Oxford has a break between terms from March 14 to April 27, and the different colleges within Oxford University provide different support for their visiting students throughout the break. This year, Jewell students attended Hertford College, Lady Margaret Hall, Mansfield College, Regent’s Park College and St. Catherine’s College.
As of Saturday, March 14 at 12 p.m. CST, President Trump expanded the travel ban to include the UK and Ireland. There have been no updates from either Jewell or the University of Oxford as to how visiting students will be treated given the change; however, Round has contacted the Oxbridge students about their plans.
As of Thursday, March 19, the CDC issued a global level 4 travel advisory – asking all U.S. citizens to avoid international travel. The embassies have also restricted their functions. On Monday, March 23, Prime Minister Boris Johnson instituted a nation-wide shutdown to be in place for three weeks.
The University of Oxford has indicated courses will likely be online in the next term, but the school has not officially ruled on whether students will be able to return to campus. Jewell study abroad offices have periodically checked in with the Oxbridge students in order to be aware of their locations and wellbeing.