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Coronavirus affects Chinese Flagship students’ summer travel plans



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The outside of the Chinese Flagship Program’s office is pictured Feb. 26 in the Global and International Studies Building. Flagship students are required to do a summer intensive language program, and program director Yea-Fen Chen said she encourages students to apply for the Taiwan program instead of the Beijing program due to the coronavirus outbreak. Karen Cheng

Chinese Flagship Program students hoping to travel abroad this summer face uncertainty regarding their travel plans due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In January, the Chinese Flagship second-semester capstone program was postponed, and six students abroad in Nanjing had to return to the United States. by Feb. 5. Students can go back in the fall, but the six students declined that option.

“This is really beyond the student’s control, so they won’t be penalized,” director Yea-Fen Chen said.

Chinese Flagship students are required to complete an internship abroad in China in the second semester of their final year of the program, according to the flagship website. However, Chen said the six students don’t have to complete the internship portion due to the outbreak. Since they're not in classes, Chen said those students are preparing for the required Chinese language proficiency test that flagship students take after they complete the program.

Chinese Flagship students are also required to complete a summer intensive program, which covers one year of language instruction. Students have been able to do this program at IU, in Taiwan or in Beijing, but because the program doesn’t know whether students will be able to go to China this summer, Chen said she is encouraging students to apply to the summer program in Taiwan. If students can’t go to Beijing nor Taiwan, there will be an expanded program at IU or students will be able to complete a program on another college campus in the U.S., but Chen said learning abroad is ideal.

“In a study abroad environment, you can learn so much, especially being with actual native speakers and the culture,” Chen said.

Taiwan is an island off the southeast coast of mainland China. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is not advising people to make travel plan changes to the country, but travelers should avoid sick people and wash their hands often.

IU sophomore Elliot Gross is in his second year of the flagship and is studying third-year Chinese. He said he plans to go to Taiwan this summer but his plans are dependent on the spread of the virus.

“I kind of got lucky,” Gross said. “I am one of few that decided on Taiwan early.”

Many flagship students who planned to go to Beijing are now trying to apply to the Taiwan summer abroad program. Gross said many people are worried about the growing waitlist for the Taiwan program.

“Some of them scrambled and applied to Taiwan,” Gross said. “The waitlist was already too full.”

He said if his program is canceled he may have to stay a fifth year at IU. If the program continues as planned, Gross said it is going to be more expensive to make travel arrangements such as flights.

The uncertainty surrounding the Beijing summer program has caused students to create backup summer plans. The Duke University summer language program to Beijing that IU flagship students can attend has already canceled its program in China, according to the Duke University Global Education Office’s website.

IU sophomore and Chinese Flagship student William Strum was also forced to cancel his summer plans to China. Strum said he has a pre-existing health condition that would make it too large a risk to travel to mainland China or Taiwan this summer.

“If I get sick, I’ll die,” Strum said. “I can’t take that risk right now.”

He said he decided to study Chinese novels and textbooks from the Wells Library to make up for the lost experience, but he’s not sure if it’ll be enough.

“I’m not sure if I can stay at the level I need to,” Strum said. “Regression is the biggest fear of any flagship student.”

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