Students in Europe and abroad

Message sent March 12, 2020

The following message was sent to students abroad as “Important Gettysburg College update.” It contains instructions for returning home from Europe and guidance for those outside of Europe.

Dear Gettysburg College study abroad students,

As you are intimately aware, the College has been closely monitoring COVID-19, both domestically and internationally, to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of our students—and entire community—as this rapidly evolving and unprecedented situation unfolds.

After the Presidential Proclamation yesterday evening, the US Department of State issued a Level 3 Global Health advisory, stressing that individuals avoid any and all non-essential travel at this time. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) raised its Travel Warning to Level 3 for specific countries in Europe. These warnings occur in a context where the World Health Organization has now declared a global pandemic, and where we have seen an alarming and sudden spike in incidents in some countries where, just a few weeks ago, the numbers were comparatively modest. Today, International ISOS (ISOS), Gettysburg College’s medical and security assistance company, reported to us that they are unlikely to be able to arrange and cannot guarantee prompt medical care in locations where the "outbreak numbers" result in high levels of stress on medical facilities. These warnings, undoubtedly, underscore the severity of the world health crisis and place added emphasis on the College’s response as we seek to safeguard our students abroad in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

As a result of extensive conversations, Gettysburg College has outlined a pair of measured decisions related to our study abroad programs moving forward this spring semester.

Students within Europe must return home

Given the recent Level 3 travel warnings from the State Department and CDC, concerns about the progression of the outbreak in Europe, the potential of future travel and other restrictions, and the expressed healthcare delivery concerns from ISOS, Gettysburg College has made the difficult yet necessary decision to recall all students currently studying abroad on programs in Europe. This includes the following countries: Austria, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Norway, Spain and Switzerland. All students currently studying abroad in these countries are required to return home, and should begin to prepare for departure as soon as reasonably possible. The Center for Global Education is in the process of notifying your global program provider of this decision.

Since last night, we have learned that some programs have suspended operations and others have temporarily stopped classes or have moved classes online, so some students are already making plans to return home. In most cases, students will be permitted by their program to continue their academic work online. For any student who is at risk of losing academic credit because their program does not offer an online component, Gettysburg will work with those students individually to address these issues upon their return.

While we understand that this news may be disappointing to some of our students abroad, please know that Gettysburg College’s highest priority is—and always will be—the protection of its students, and this decision was made with this paramount objective in mind.

Next Steps:

  • Please respond to to let the Center for Global Education know you have received this message.
  • You are responsible for planning your travel back to the United States. Many programs will offer you support with this. Gettysburg College will offer up to $500 to help offset any costs of changing your flight.
  • Note that Gettysburg College’s campus is currently closed. You will need to plan to return to elsewhere in the United States.
  • Reach out to the Center for Global Education if you have any questions, or concerns about your immediate plans to return.

Students outside Europe should use their best judgement

With the spread of the Coronavirus outbreak now worldwide, and with our students both studying in and potentially returning to locations with various levels of prevalence, we are not in a position in Gettysburg to accurately evaluate what is best for each individual student studying outside of Europe. However, students studying outside of Europe whose programs have been canceled must return to their home within the parameters outlined by their program. For students outside of Europe whose programs continue to run, we urge students to consult with their program provider, their family, and other trusted advisors for the purposes of coming to a decision about whether to remain abroad or return home.

For students who prefer to return to their homes, we will fully support that decision. As stated above for our students returning from Europe, in most cases, students will be permitted by their program to continue their academic work online. For students for whom that is not possible, the College will work with our faculty to determine how we can best meet those needs. Simply put, we do not want concerns about losing academic progress to cause students to remain abroad if their preference is to return home.

The decision about our European programs was a difficult one to make, and we are sure an even harder one to hear. We believe in the important value of global study as part of the Gettysburg academic experience, and we shared in your excitement as you prepared to study abroad. Like you, we hoped that this ever-changing situation would resolve in a way in which everyone could continue with their program. Ultimately, as the situation unfolded we made the necessary decisions with our focus on your health and safety.

We know that many of you will have additional questions, or specific concerns. The Center for Global Education and others at Gettysburg College will help and support students in Europe as they leave their program and transition back into the United States. Students outside of Europe who have questions about remaining abroad or returning home should also reach out to the CGE Team. The entire Gettysburg College community is thinking about you at this difficult time and stands ready to help each student in the coming days.


Center for Global Education