Temple students prepare to study abroad during COVID-19 pandemic

Students will be asked to quarantine after they arrive, pack masks and other protective equipment and take limited in-person courses.

Temple University students continue to study abroad in Italy in Japan during the spring 2021 semester. Above, Temple's study abroad office is housed inside of the Tuttleman Learning Center on Nov. 12. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Mary Liu boarded a plane to Tokyo, Japan, on Dec. 31, 2020, to study abroad this spring. Instead of kicking off her program with a campus tour, she’s starting with a 14-day self-quarantine, as required by Temple University Japan during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the precautions, Liu’s still excited to have weekend shopping trips to downtown Tokyo and see historical architecture because she chose to attend Temple for its study abroad programs.

“I am still determined to go,” said Liu, a senior data science major. 

Temple students are arriving in their countries of study as they prepare for study abroad experiences significantly altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. After study abroad was cut short in the Spring 2020 semester and canceled in the Fall 2020 semester, students are adapting to COVID-19 protocols, like a 14-day quarantine requirement upon arrival and potential single-person living, but they remain excited about the prospect of learning in a new country.

Temple Rome and TUJ campuses are allowing a limited number of students to attend the Spring 2021 semester program, but the Temple Spain program is canceled, according to Education Abroad and Overseas Campuses. Some students are traveling elsewhere through external programs.

TUJ’s campus will have approximately 40 percent of undergraduate classes held in person and the other 60 percent will be held online, said Sara Sequin, associate director of Education Abroad and Overseas Campuses. 

Temple Rome will hold two weeks of online classes while students quarantine, followed by in person classes for the remainder of the Spring 2021 semester, Sequin wrote in an email to The Temple News.

Businesses, public transportation and other attractions in Tokyo are open to the public. As of Jan. 4, there was a seven-day average of about 979 positive cases in Tokyo, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

TUJ’s students, faculty and staff are required to check their temperature when entering campus buildings, wear a mask, stand at least six feet away from others and sanitize their hands, according to an announcement from TUJ on Sept. 10, 2020. 

The number of students enrolled in study abroad programs for the Spring 2021 semester decreased from the Spring 2020 semester, from around 280 to 77 students at Rome and 120 to 50 students in Tokyo as fewer students applied to the programs this semester, Sequin said.

“We usually have triple the number of students studying abroad, so there has been a dip,” Sequin added. 

Directors still are unsure if the Spring 2021 study abroad programs will be able to be completed in full. If the COVID-19 pandemic worsens, countries may go into lockdown by their government or Temple may cancel study abroad programs like in the Spring 2020 semester, she said. 

“This is not an ideal situation, but students need to follow government guidelines depending on the country they are traveling to,” Sequin said.

Students studying in Tokyo were required to arrive by Jan. 3, according to an announcement from TUJ on Dec. 28, 2020. Students traveling to Rome must arrive on or after Jan. 10, and if they fly on a designated “COVID-Tested” or “COVID-Free” flight and test negative at each checkpoint, can have a reduced seven-day quarantine after a negative COVID-19 test on the eighth day of quarantine, according to an announcement from Temple Rome on Dec. 22, 2020.  

Liu will be taking online classes while in Tokyo to minimize her interactions with other people, she said.

She will live in a single room in a residence hall on TUJ’s campus and will be required to take her temperature daily, Liu added.

“One thing that I am sad about is not being able to meet people,” Liu added. “I was looking forward to having a roommate.”

Natalie Linch, a junior English major, is studying abroad at Temple Rome this spring and is excited to sightsee and eat Italian cuisine, but is worried about being alone when she arrives, she said.

“I am nervous about quarantining alone for two weeks in a foreign country,” she added. “I’ve never been to Rome and I don’t know anyone there.”

Students must be tested for COVID-19 after they finish quarantining in their study abroad country and are required to follow certain travel restrictions, like not leaving their countries of study, according to an announcement from Temple Rome on Dec. 22, 2020.

Rome is currently enforcing a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., and although restaurants are open until 6 p.m. for in-person dining, museums, indoor gyms and theaters are closed. Masks are required in indoor and outdoor spaces. 

Once her self-quarantine is complete, Linch is excited to have small, socially distant in-person classes in Rome, she said. 

“I feel okay about having in-person classes, as long as everyone is safe,” Linch added. “I’m glad to have in-person classes because it’s really hard for me to focus and stay motivated with online classes.”

Liu wants to explore a new country despite COVID-19 traveling limitations. With all of her classes online, she thinks she’ll have flexibility in schedule to sightsee and spend more time taking photos of her experiences, she said. 

“I hope that I will be able to explore and take pictures,” she said.

Nicole Klotsas, a senior advertising major, is going to London, England, through Arcadia University for an online internship in London for the Academy Awards during the spring semester. She’ll also be taking hybrid learning classes at the University of the Arts London.

The Arcadia study abroad program is also requiring students to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival and is encouraging students to bring extra essentials like face masks, according to Arcadia Abroad.

“They told us that we should pack a thermometer and hand sanitizer,” Klotsas said. “They will have resources for you if you ever get sick.”

Sequin sent students traveling to Temple Rome or TUJ a detailed packing list, including thermometers and extra face masks. She also advised students to limit their traveling and to social distance.

Liu is planning on packing exercise tools including her yoga mat and other protective equipment like extra hand sanitizer to ensure she maintains her mental and physical health while studying abroad.

“I want to be prepared,” she said. “Exercise will help me deal with the pandemic in a healthier way.”

Klotsas is excited to travel somewhere new and hopes to be able to explore London while she is there, she added.

“It’ll be different, but I don’t feel like I am more at risk than over here,” Klotsas said. 

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