By Erik Galicia
As coronavirus infections surged in Spain and the United States weighed a possible European travel ban, the Riverside Community College District began scrambling to ensure that all Study Abroad Program students in Barcelona were brought home safely.
According to Nassef Girgis, the RCCD Study Abroad director, the group was brought home March 17, just 15 days after arriving in Barcelona.
One student was carrying a Mexican passport, which would keep her from re-entering the United States under Trump’s travel restrictions.
“We made sure she came back immediately,” Girgis said.
The district’s goal was to bring the rest of the group back together, according to Girgis.
“It was quite an adventure but we were able to find a flight from Barcelona to London and from London to LAX,” he said.
Girgis reported that all students returning from Spain were screened at the airport and placed on a two week self-quarantine upon arrival. He said that all students seemed to be in good health.
According to Girgis, the Summer Study Abroad trip to Germany and Austria has been cancelled. The trip to Italy in the Fall has been put on hold until further notice.
The Study Abroad Program requires commitments to airlines and hosts in receiving countries to be made well ahead of time. Girgis said that although great interest has been shown in this year’s previously planned trips, the program cannot recruit students at this time due to the uncertainty that the coronavirus pandemic is causing.
“We will continue to monitor the situation and possibly make a decision in April,” Girgis said about the upcoming trip to Italy.