‘Shocking’; Gonzaga-in-Florence student gives an update from abroad following program cancellation

SPOKANE, Wash. — Gonzaga University students will be saying “ciao” to their study abroad program in Italy a few months earlier than expected. The university is pulling the plug because of the novel coronavirus. Some students are coming back as early as tomorrow, while others are still looking for flights.

These students are spread all across Europe, and right now, they’re on spring break.

How they’ll finish the semester is still to be determined. But the university wants them back as soon as possible – they’ve even offered to ship their items back from Florence to the U.S. to save time.

Gonzaga University has more than 100 students in Europe right now for its ‘Gonzaga-in-Florence’ program. But with uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus, they decided it’s best not to take any chances. Now, 161 students are trying to find a flight home.

Wednesday, the university told students to come home because of concerns around the coronavirus outbreak worldwide.

RELATED: Gonzaga University suspends classes at Florence campus amid coronavirus outbreak

“We would hate for any of our Gonzaga-in-Florence students to be unfortunately quarantined in Florence, or even worse, quarantined by the united states government,” said Richard Menard, director at Gonzaga’s Center for Global Engagement.

The decision comes with mixed feelings, and the Center for Global Engagement at Gonzaga has heard them all. For some students, this comes as a bummer. They have to leave their European trip of a lifetime.

“This is the crown jewel of study abroad programs,” Menard said.

It’s spring break right now, and almost all of the students are exploring around parts of Europe.

“Shocking, honestly, I was not expecting campus to close. I heard earlier in the day other programs had gotten shut down. And I did not think the situation had escalated to a point where Gonzaga cancelled. But some other kids thought that if other schools were cancelling, other schools would most likely cancel,” said Peter Carrell, a Gonzaga-in-Florence student in Madrid for spring break. “I hadn’t read the email yet, and then one of my buddies texted me. He said, ‘Oh have you seen this yet? This really stinks.’ And then I read the email, and I was like – ‘Oh yikes.'”

He said he knows the university looking for out them. But still, this was a trip he didn’t want cut short.

“They love Florence, they love the ability to be able to have some time to explore, and learn not only about Italy and Florence, but about Europe itself,” Menard said.

However, the university is satisfied that they’re taking the safe route.

“Really encouraging them, please do come home. If you stay, there’s no guarantees on what could potentially happen. If you get quarantined, not necessarily in Italy, but you get quarantined in another country, that’s not something we want to happen to you,” Menard said.

Most parents and families agreed.

“We recognize that the health and safety of our students is priority number one. And they recognize that, the families recognize that, and so they have been very appreciative,” Menard said.

By March 6, Gonzaga said it will have an academic plan for returning students with options to finish their semester, most likely through online classes.