Duhawks return home amid global pandemic
By Brigid Flaherty
On Wednesday, Mar. 11, President Trump called for a travel ban for foreigners from many EU countries which would go into effect about fifty hours after his announcement. This news would leave some Duhawks reeling: for those planning to travel abroad it meant hours on hold with airlines, while for those Duhawks already studying abroad, rearranging travel plans became a race against the clock.
“One of the most difficult decisions, with much deliberation and consultation, was bringing home our Duhawks abroad, due to the global health crisis caused by COVID-19,” said Abbie Behrens, Study Abroad Programs Manager at Loras College. “We are working diligently with students and program partners to ensure students’ safe return to the United States.”
As it became clear that Duhawks had to return to the United States in just ten days, many struggled to find a seat on crowded flights or pay for tickets as prices were skyrocketing. Some had to appeal to family members for help in purchasing a ticket for their passage home. Other American citizens and green-card holders in Europe faced the same struggle, many paying thousands of dollars to return to the United States in a timely manner.
For some students, the decision from Behrens came as a bittersweet end to their time abroad.
“Initially, I personally was not too concerned, but once it was announced as a pandemic and the travel bans started to go into effect, I realized it was time to come home,” said junior Kelsey Lansing, who is currently in the Ireland program.
The government of Ireland had begun taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by canceling all St. Patrick’s Day parades and large festival gatherings, but they moved quickly this past weekend in closing schools, universities, and cultural centers as well as insisting people stay in. The Gardaí and the Defense Forces have been called in to reassure panicked shoppers and patrol the streets, as shelves in many stores were quickly emptied as people prepared to stay home.
From Mar. 11 to Mar. 14, the number of coronavirus cases in Ireland more than tripled from 40 to 129. The stress and constant news feed on COVID-19 affected students across the world. Senior Amelia Foley, a student in the Spain program in Santiago de Compostela, commented on how scary it was to see so many people in the stores and the empty shelves. Cafés, bars, and clubs were also empty or even closed.
However, the streets of the city that the Duhawks call home in Spain were filled with clapping. Residents leaned out their windows clapping and whistling for the doctors who were going in to work long hours to combat the virus. Spain has now become the epicenter in Europe; Madrid’s hospital beds were full this weekend and professionals began to seek hotel rooms in the capital city to house patients. Though intended for only two weeks, the Spanish government, like American government, has declared a national emergency and planned to begin a level lockdown of their country like Spain, Italy, Ireland, France, and other nations. Australia could also see a level of lockdown soon as some schools and universities close.
“It’s probably for the best, and we’ll get through it,” said one of the Australia abroad students.
Australia is implementing a policy of self-isolation for foreign arrivals. Russia has a similar policy, as well as consequences if people do not follow the self-isolation rules. Studying in Moscow, one young man specified the penalty for foreigners disrespecting self-isolation was deportation while for residents of Russia it was a heavy fine. If it was confirmed they passed on the virus to someone who died from it, they could face prison time.
Though the penalties seem harsh, when paired with Russia’s swift closing of southern borders have kept the confirmed COVID-19 cases that required treatment to a mere 4. Like other countries, Chile began to cancel some university classes this past weekend.
“Currently, I know I’m happier than I should be. The coronavirus has been a huge source of stress through our time here… I’m still heartbroken that I didn’t get to do everything I wanted too,” said junior Rose Gottschalk as she departs from Ireland.
Other governments around the world continue to combat the influx of coronavirus cases and prevent the spread within their countries and across borders. The Duhawks are indeed returning to the United States, but not before they face the long lines at the airport for screening, and even self-isolation.