KU students in Italy being sent home due to coronavirus

Students told to leave by March 6
ari roozrokh.jpg
Posted at 4:16 PM, Mar 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-02 19:41:15-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — He was having the time of his life.

But now University of Kansas student Ari Roozrokh, a management and business analytics double major, along with all the other KU students in the study abroad program in Italy, are coming home due to the coronavirus threat.

“To get an email saying that we’re going to get sent home is the most devastating thing for the amount of work we put into it. But at the end of the day, safety comes first,” Roozrokh said in a Skype interview from his room in Florence, Italy.

Three days ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued its highest threat level for Italy: a recommendation to avoid all non-essential travel.

As a result, KU Administrators decided to bring all their students studying in Italy home.

“It’s been literally the best time of my life. I’ve had like a week when I first got here to get adjusted, a week to understand my classes, I’m starting to enjoy the lifestyle. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it’s cut short,” Roozrokh said.

On Saturday, Roozrockh, other students and their families received an email from KU Study Abroad Program Director Angela Perryman.

It says in part, “It is with a heavy heart that I write to each of you to let you know of KU’s decision to suspend all study abroad programs in Italy for the Spring 2020 term.”

Perryman’s email specifically cites the CDC’s recommendation against non-essential travel in Italy due to the coronavirus.

The email asks all students participating in the study abroad program in Italy to make plans to leave by Friday, March 6.

“It’s just sad, it’s honestly just sad. I guess it’s just how it’s going to be. The whole process is heartbreaking, honestly, to say the least,” Roozrokh said.

During his time in Italy, Roozrokh visited both Milan and Venice.

He said his Venice trip was cut short due to the coronavirus threat.

Roozrokh said when he was in Milan two and a half weeks ago, there were 14 confirmed coronavirus cases.

This week, he said 1,000 cases have been reported.

Currently, Roozrokh said only eight cases have been confirmed in the Florence-Tuscany region of Italy, where’s he’s spent most of his time.

"It’s concerning, but I think I’m fine, knock on wood. But I’m trying to get hand sanitizer on and wash my hands all the time,” he said.

Currently, the U.S. government hasn’t put a mandatory quarantine in place for travelers arriving from Italy.

However, Perryman in an email said students should expect a health screening exam on arrival in the U.S.

Additionally, KU isn’t taking any chances with the students returning to Lawrence too quickly.

In an email response to affected people in the Italy program, Perryman said because there’s been no reported cases in Kansas, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has requested everyone returning from Italy be screened by a health practitioner and be placed in self-isolation for 14 days.

That quarantine includes avoiding community contact to the extent possible and students taking their temperatures twice daily as they monitor for coronavirus symptoms, specifically, fever, cough and shortness of breath.

“It is what it is, can’t do anything about it. Thought you had more time, but now you say your goodbyes,” Roozrokh said.

As for the issue of classes, KU is trying to provide as many classes as possible online.

The school is also exploring on-campus housing possibilities for returning students once their quarantine period is over.

There’s been no word yet on potential reimbursements for travel, visas, lodging or classes which can’t be duplicated.

“It’s definitely a big hassle, school-wise, for everything in general. I don’t know what’s going to happen next. They have no information about refunds, no information about housing refunds. Everything is up in the air,” Roozrokh said.

Roozrokh said he’s packed his bags.

The plan is to leave for Rome on Tuesday, spend a night at a hotel there and then take a flight back to the U.S. on Wednesday.

“We don’t have any say in anything. We just got to get sent home. It’s hard to put into words because it’s so sad. We planned for this semester for three and a half months,” Roozrokh said.