Erasmus students unsure on what to do next amid spread of COVID-19

Megan Jones

DCU Erasmus students face confusion on what to do next amid concerns over the spread of COVID-19. 

A total of 238 students in DCU went on an Erasmus exchange this semester, but with the lockdown of multiple European countries in an attempt to halt the spread of the coronavirus, students have to make a difficult decision on whether they should return home.

Some students felt there wasn’t enough communication in recent days on what students studying abroad should do.

Hannah McDonnell, a Contemporary Cultures and Society student, is currently on Erasmus in Prague, Czech Republic.

“We’ve gotten so many emails each saying something different… but my parents are just paranoid so I’m coming home,” the third-year student said.

In an email sent on March 11 to those studying abroad, students were not advised to travel home.

We are currently not advising students to travel home unless you had already planned to do so for the vacation period, but rather to limit your activities for this period and stay indoors as much as possible if you feel there is a risk to health, until things settle down,” the email read.

“We currently do not know how long we will have to manage the virus, we need to take pragmatic and timely decisions with the well-being of the students in mind and also try to ensure that we can support you to be in a position to progress to final year in September 2020,” it continued.

In a more recent email sent by VP for Academic Affairs Eithne Guilfoyle on March 12, similar advice was given, stating that it is not necessary for students to travel home but if they do DCU is “putting arrangements in place to deal with progression issues which may arise”.

McDonnell, who is returning home on Saturday March 14, spoke of how the city of Prague is handling the virus outbreak:

“We went to a club last Tuesday and they were checking people’s temperatures,” she said.

Pubs and restaurants will also have to close at 8pm in the Czech Republic, which declared a state of emergency on Thursday 12th.

Media Studies with English student Tarryn McCoy, who is currently on Erasmus in Alicante, Spain, has felt more reassured on what to do. 

Spain currently has the 2nd highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Europe, and 5th highest globally.

“Over the last few days I’ve gotten in contact with my academic coordinator in DCU and the exchange office and they’ve been brilliant,” she said.

“I’m returning home on Saturday and I don’t know whether I’ll be able to come back to Spain or not we’re just monitoring the situation from afar… DCU has been brilliant though, and assured all students that I’m aware of that our return home will not affect our academic record and they are going to ensure that we pass the year at home with no issues,” the student continued. 

Holly Moylan, a Law and Business student from NUI Maynooth currently also on Erasmus in Prague, shared a similar experience to McDonnell:

“Our college closed on Tuesday but we actually never heard anything about what to do from our home university so we took it upon ourselves to leave before they stopped flights,” she said.

“Now the Czech Republic is in a state of emergency for 30 days with restricted flights in and out… we just have to wait and see if our college will reopen and hopefully we can go back in a few weeks but we’re pretty much in the dark with what’s going to happen,”.

Megan Jones

Image Credit: Elora Martinez