All university-sponsored international travel suspended for 30 days


Olivia Nuckles, sophomore in journalism and mass communication, and Natalia Rios, sophomore in political science, international studies and public relations, in Urbino, Italy. They had just finished their Italian language class.

Sage Smith

Editor’s Note: In the original publication of this article, it was stated that Natalia Rios was in quarantine. The article has been updated to correctly state that Rios is in a university-encouraged self-isolation. The Iowa State Daily regrets this error.

Iowa State decided Thursday to suspend all university-sponsored international travel for 30 days, effective immediately, according to a message from President Wendy Wintersteen.

All students, faculty and staff currently out of the country on university-sponsored programs will be recalled if the country is listed as a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) level three warning. The countries currently at a level three warning are China, South Korea and Italy.

Natalia Rios is a sophomore in political science, international studies and public relations. She arrived in Urbino, Italy, for her study abroad program on Jan. 23 and returned to the United States on Tuesday after the university recalled all students studying abroad in Italy. She is currently in a university-encouraged self-isolation for 14 days in an on-campus apartment at no cost to Rios.

The apartment is fully furnished and Rios said she had groceries to last for three or four days. Hot meals are left outside for her and she can walk out of the apartment to get the food once those who delivered it are gone. She also has to take her temperature twice a day and watch for any possible symptoms.

“I’m feeling super healthy,” Rios said. “I was really germaphobe at the airport. I wore gloves and masks and everything. As soon as I got here I showered. […] I don’t have any of the symptoms and I have to report my temperature twice a day. I’m fine, I’m good.”

Rios said she couldn’t return to her home in Puerto Rico so she asked to stay on campus as the university offered on-campus housing. The university doesn’t want her to be in public like campus buildings and classes and if she goes out, she has to report who she was with and where she was, but they encourage her to not leave during the 14 days.

The students studying abroad in Italy have been told they will receive the full 15 credits for the semester, the university is just working on the logistics of the academic continuation plan.

Rios said they were kind of expecting the study abroad program to get cancelled as another university that had students in Italy had already cancelled it for them.

“So we were kind of expecting it, it was just a matter of time for our program to get cancelled,” Rios said. “We were the last program to be cancelled. There were two other universities in Urbino.”

Rios said she thinks Iowa State has been “super helpful” with the process compared to other universities.

The university paid for the hotel where students stayed in Rome as they had to leave Urbino while waiting for their flights back to the U.S. The university has said they will reimburse each student up to $1,200 for flight costs.

Rios said they don’t know when they will be reimbursed but they were asked for the receipts and will be refunded eventually.

As for the cost of the semester, including the dorms they were staying in and purchased meal plans, Rios said they don’t have information on if the university plans to reimburse that part of the finances.

Some people have voiced their concern about students returning to the U.S. after being in a country with cases of COVID-19.

“I definitely get that concern and I think it’s really valid,” Rios said. “Because if I was [in the U.S.] I would be really concerned like ‘are we going to get the virus too because they’re coming from Italy’ but at the same time the university has to think about us in Italy.”

For the decision to suspend all spring break university-sponsored travel, Wintersteen referred to the University Policy Library in the message as it has available information about what “university-sponsored international travel” is considered to be.

The University Policy Library has a list of criteria that if travel meets any one of the points it will be considered “ISU-sponsored.” The full list can be found on their website and notes if the travel doesn’t meet any of the criteria and is self-funded, it is not university sponsored therefore not subject to the policy.

For personal travel, Wintersteen encouraged people to look at the latest alerts on the CDC and Department of State’s websites and to “reconsider travel to impacted regions and consider potential travel disruptions.”

The decision to suspend all university-sponsored international travel was made as another response to the spread of COVID-19 as directed by the Board of Regents based on the guidance of the CDC and Iowa Department of Public Health.

Updates with information and frequently asked questions are posted on the safety page in regard to the COVID-19 concerns.

Wintersteen encouraged the campus community in her message to take steps to protect themselves and be aware of their health and safety to prevent the spread of illness. Those in need of additional support can reach out to campus resources.