Updated on Feb. 26 at 5:45 p.m. with quotes from Elon professor Ketevan Kupatadze.
Elon University suspended its abroad program in Florence, Italy after an outbreak of the COVID-19 — known as the coronavirus — in the Lombardy region. There are 21 students and one faculty member who will be returning to the United States.
According to Owen Covington, director of Elon University News Bureau, the university will fund the student's trips back to the states. The "majority" of these students will leave Florence on the morning of February 27.
"We wanted to take into account the level of risk from a public health standpoint. The rapid spread in Italy and Europe, as well as the potential impact it has on travel if the spread continues," he said. "The decision was made because of the risk associated with additional travel restrictions around the country and throughout Europe.”
Students will continue their courses with their Florence professors remotely. Elon professor for the Florence program, Ketevan Kupatadze, hopes to act a liaison between professors at the Accademia Europea di Firenze and students back in the United States.
After spending about a month in Florence, students were notified of the program suspension on the night of February 25.
"This was still very much the beginning of their journey and they were looking forward to the other three months that were going that they were going to spend here," said Kupatadze. "Some students mentioned that they chose Elon because they would have an opportunity to spend semester in Italy or abroad. To have to cut their semester short and return back without really completing the experience is really heartbreaking for them."
This cancellation comes after other universities have suspended their program or limited student travel in the country, as there are now 374 confirmed cases of the virus and 12 deaths.
Fairfield University is also closing its program and will require all its students to leave Italy.
Syracuse University canceled all student life activities and field trips outside of its Florence Center, according to the Daily Orange.
The University said it will work with students to reimburse the trip. The program was suspended for the spring semester, but as of now, will resume in the fall.