With the rapid spread of novel coronavirus infections in Europe, many Ewha exchange students have decided to return to Korea. Out of the 186 students who were expected to be outbound exchange students to Europe in the 2020 spring semester, only 81 students decided to continue their studies.
Korea had been continually ranked second in the number of COVID-19 patients, following China which was placed first in the number of infections. However, the number of virus patients rose dramatically in Europe recently, replacing the rank of Korea.
There are more than 63,000 confirmed cases in Italy, 33,000 in Spain, 29,000 in Germany, and 20,000 in France as of March 23. As of the same date, there more than 5,400 deaths in Italy and 1,700 deaths in Spain. Italy, Spain, and France have imposed a lockdown on citizens and many European countries are closing their borders to avoid the influx of the virus.
Accordingly, the Office of International Affairs advised exchange students to return to Korea. The office first sent emails on March 2 asking whether students wanted to cancel or postpone their exchange student plans. Later on, they sent emails advising students to cancel their study plans and return to Korea.
For the exchange students bound for Germany, the office sent further notice on March 13. The email stated that the school advises students to cancel their study plans and return to Korea due to the rapid rise of COVID-19 infections in Germany along with safety issues regarding racial discrimination.
With such notice, a student who left for Germany and was to spend the 2020 spring semester there decided to return to Seoul and take classes at Ewha.
“I came back from Germany becasue my family firmly recommended me to do so,” the student from College of Liberal Arts said. “I did not plan on coming back before receiving the email from the office.”
She further explained that she did not feel the seriousness of the problem in Germany as they did not wear masks or impose any harsh restrictions. However, looking back, she did not regret coming back to Korea.
She postponed her exchange student plans to the next semester and plans to study at Ewha this semester.
For those who cancelled their exchange student plans and are to study at Ewha, the office gave students a chance to register for any two classes they wish to take. This measure was to accept student opinion that it was difficult to register for classes as the registration change period started on March 16.
Hong Yeo-jin, a junior majoring in sociology, also gave up her exchange student plans in England and will return to Ewha.
“I was planning to continue my studies in England even after I received an email from the office,” Hong said. “The biggest reason I cancelled my exchange student plans was due to the possibility of my exchange school shutting down.”
Hong explained that she heard about the possibility of a shutdown through her friends before the official announcement by her school. Already having experienced no classes during the Lent term due to strikes, she decided to return to Ewha when she heard the school might run all courses online.
“I was able to get into a class during the registration change period thanks to the office allowing us to register any two courses we wish to take,” Hong said. “The office also helped me lodge a complaint on refunds of dormitory fees. Though the issue is not yet settled, I was thankful for the assistance from the office.”