A group of students from the 2018 Lehigh in Shanghai program pose after a tea tasting event. The program provided many Lehigh students with a unique international experience, but now the five students that had already been accepted into the program will not be able to explore China through Lehigh. (Courtesy of Lucy Zhou)

Coronavirus outbreak prompts Lehigh to suspend China summer programs


The Lehigh summer study abroad programs in China were suspended on Feb. 2 due to the coronavirus outbreak.  

The decision to cancel these programs came after the U.S. State Department issued a high-level warning to avoid all travel to China. 

“I’m upset because it was a great program, and I wish other kids could also experience it, but I feel like it’s for the best,” said Claire Foley, ‘21.

According to the program brochure on the study abroad website, the Lehigh in Shanghai summer program specifically focuses on topics such as Chinese culture and business protocol within a Chinese company. Students are also given the chance to take six credits, three of which consist of an internship experience.

A view of The Bund, a waterfront area in Shanghai. This was one of the sights that the Lehigh students abroad in the Lehigh in Shanghai summer program got to experience. (Lucy Zhou/B&W Staff)

Typically, 25 to 30 students take part in the Lehigh in Shanghai study abroad session.

Before the announcement, five students applied and were accepted to the program, while 14 additional students were  in the process of applying, said Katie Radande, director of the Study Abroad Office.

“Some students have already applied, and some students have been accepted, but we’ve communicated with all of them and offered to help them find other programming,” Radande said.

Six students were planning to take part in the Iacocca International Internship Program in Shanghai, Radande said. Their internships are going to be relocated.  

Students affected by this cancellation have been provided with a list of alternative study abroad options and are encouraged to meet with their study abroad advisors to figure out a different course of action, Radande said.

Radande said no one has expressed their disappointment in the suspension to her. She said she believes it’s because her office took a positive approach to the situation. 

Alex Mow, ‘21, participated in the Lehigh in Shanghai program last summer, working at Shanghai University and participating in international marketing. 

“If the cancellation is for the betterment of the community, then I’m all for cancelling the trip… but at the same time, it’s definitely a bummer, because it was an awesome experience,” Mow said. “They hook you up with an internship that’s tailored to your major, so it was a great work experience.”

Regardless of whether the coronavirus outbreak clears up before June, Radande said it is unlikely that the suspension of these summer programs will be reversed due to the amount of planning required to place students in internships.

Radande said the Study Abroad Office is planning on bringing the program back for summer 2021 if travel to China is cleared.

To approach the issue of student safety, Lehigh has an on-campus International Travel Advisory Committee that supervises all undergraduate travel and a response team that supports programs and students while studying abroad.

Lehigh also consults with important groups regarding international travel in higher education such as the Forum on Education Abroad, NAFSA: Association of International Educators, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Overseas Security Advisory Council.

“I think everyone’s hoping for this to clear up… this is only a one-year pause as this coronavirus gets handled,” Radande said.

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