Study abroad programs in Rome, Japan resume

Semester starts as Italy tops 15,000 new cases per day, and Tokyo is in a state of emergency.

Students will study at Temple University Rome during the spring semester, which will be operating under COVID-19 guidelines. Above, Temple Rome, housed inside of Villa Caproni, stands along the Tiber River in Rome, Italy, on Feb. 27, 2020. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple University’s Education Abroad and Overseas Campuses office is offering its study abroad programs in Rome, Italy, and Tokyo, Japan, for the Spring 2021 semester, for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The Oviedo, Spain, study abroad program was canceled.

The continuation of the Rome study abroad program comes as Italy recorded more than 15,000 new COVID-19 cases a day last week, the New York Times reported

On Jan. 7, Tokyo declared a state of emergency, which will last until Feb. 7, after COVID-19 cases in the area reached a record 2,447 daily cases, the Associated Press reported

“It’s just been like a really crazy rollercoaster of emotions to be honest, but I am glad that they’re still running the program as of now,” said Kajal Bharany, a junior legal studies major who is studying at Temple Rome.

The number of students enrolled decreased from around 280 to 77 students in the Rome study abroad program and from 120 to 50 students in the Tokyo study abroad program from Spring 2020 to Spring 2021, The Temple News reported. 

The office assessed the possibilities and risks of conducting study abroad programs in the spring since early 2020, said Jacleen Mowery, director of international risk management.

The Rome and Japan study abroad programs are enforcing COVID-19 testing and quarantine protocols similar to those implemented on Temple’s Main Campus, including the four pillars of public health, quarantine and isolation guidance, and outlines for cleaning classrooms and buildings, Mowery wrote in an email to The Temple News.

International campuses shared their plans with Main Campus and awaited approval from Risk Management and the Education Abroad and Overseas Campuses office regarding the implementation of COVID-19 protocols, like the four health pillars, Mowery wrote.

Mark Denys, the director of Student Health Services who is overseeing the protocols implemented by Temple Rome and Temple Japan, serves as an advisory consultant for the group that recommended the continuation of a study abroad program, Mowery said.

The Education Abroad and Overseas Campuses office also ensures that academic learning will continue in the event that a study abroad program is canceled, said Sara Sequin, the associate director of Education Abroad and Overseas Campuses office.

“I think anyone who is studying abroad knows that there is a big risk factor in studying abroad, because you have to catch a flight and then you have to go through the airports, so it is a very tough decision,” Bharany said.

Students will be required to quarantine for two weeks upon arriving in Rome. The first week will be a virtual orientation and the second week will be virtual asynchronous classes, after which in-person classes will commence, Bharany said. 

Japan ceased nonresident arrivals on Dec. 28, 2020, after signs of the new COVID-19 variant within the country’s borders, AXIOS reported. 

The Temple Japan program is still running, but the Japan campus has decided to cancel activities, including sports night, until Feb. 7, push registration back for activities until Feb. 4 and cancel overnight trips due to the current state of emergency in Japan, the TUJ Activities Instagram page announced. 

The Education Abroad and Overseas Campuses Office will also temporarily halt a few of its programs altogether, like the Temple University in Spain program and exchange programs with various international universities, Sequin said. 

The cancellation of the Spain program was due to Temple’s inability to provide an “immersive learning experience” while creating a safe and healthy environment on Spain’s campus, Sequin wrote in an email to The Temple News. 

A list of other canceled study abroad programs can be found on the External and Exchange Spring 2021 Program Updates page on the Education Abroad website. 

Emilia Zankina, dean of Temple’s Rome campus, said at a virtual Education Abroad office event called “Pivoting Creatively in a COVID-19 World,” that the biggest point of concern and conversation is maintaining safety within the study abroad program.

Although the Rome study abroad program was canceled in the fall and the campus’ situation has not greatly improved, Rome is now able to host students in the spring due to increasing knowledge about how to manage COVID-19, Zankina said. 

“If one that has been so refreshing is, I think we can all become experts in crisis management and contingency planning and those are skills that would come handy,” Zankina added. 

The Education Abroad and Overseas Campuses office publishes updates about the university’s study abroad programs on its website.

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