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Medford student forced home from study abroad program

Medford student forced home from study abroad program Medford student forced home from study abroad program

A Medford graduate had to cut her trip in Europe short due to COVID-19 quickly encroaching its way through the continent.

Shawna Konieczny currently attends Emmerson College in Boston, but she’s a graduate of Medford High School. As part of her college curriculum, Konieczny was a member of a study abroad program that planned to travel throughout Europe, including Italy and the Netherlands.

Because of the rapid rise of thousands of COVID-19 cases across Europe, the university decided it was too risky for the students to continue their tour.

“We were able to get out of Europe before it spread too fast, we weren’t required to be quarantined,” Konieczny said. “Although they did recommend we monitor our temperature and our symptoms to make sure we didn’t catch anything.”

The Netherlands had only 400 cases approximately three weeks ago when the students were there, now cases number in the thousands with deaths tallying up everyday.

“It was scary for sure because the virus is spreading so rapidly,” she said. “We were supposed to do an academic excursion in Italy, we would actually be finishing up around now.”

The scheduled trip to Italy was canceled, which Konieczny said was the worst part, just being unable to visit the countries she wanted to all because of the virus.

“Most of us were just disappointed because we’re studying abroad and our semester got cancelled early,” she said, noting that when they got back to America, people were already beginning to freak out over the virus. “We got sent back to Boston, and the minute we got back to Boston everything here started shutting down, people started leaving and going home.”

The residents of their host town saw the university’s response as an overreaction, while those at the university were on high alert and wary of having their peers come back.

“The locals where we were in the Netherlands, in a small town, they were all very shocked that we were being sent home because it wasn’t the biggest concern at the moment. When we came back to Boston, all the students and all the parents of the students were really concerned that we got sent here, because they just assumed that because we were coming from Europe that we would all have the virus even though none of us do,” Konieczny said. “But now the whole school is dealing with it.”

Colleges across the nation have been extending their spring breaks, switching to online classes, and in some instances straight out suspending school, along with out of state travel, in response to the pandemic.

“A lot of the schools around us are shutting down and sending their kids home,” She said. “Emerson has switched their classes to online, but has made it optional if you want to leave or not. Some people are staying, some people are leaving.”

“It’s just been a very busy time,” said Konieczny. “Very stressful.”

2018 Medford graduate Shawna Konieczny was forced to come back to the United States from a study abroad program. (right) A cathedral and sculpture in Vienna that she visited.