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Miami ends study abroad programs early — one student’s long journey home

<p>Per MUDEC tradition, each visiting class designs a t-shirt to be hung in the local college bar, Boot. This year&#x27;s t-shirt design reflected the students&#x27; reaction to leaving Luxembourg early due to the international novel coronavirus pandemic.</p>

Per MUDEC tradition, each visiting class designs a t-shirt to be hung in the local college bar, Boot. This year's t-shirt design reflected the students' reaction to leaving Luxembourg early due to the international novel coronavirus pandemic.

It was around 3 a.m. in Luxembourg when Kayla Jones awoke to banging on her bedroom door. It was one of her housemates.

“What in the world?” Jones asked. “Do you know what time it is?”

Jones’ housemate looked her in the eye and said the words Jones least wanted to hear.

“We’re going home.”

After hearing about President Donald Trump's European travel restrictions at 3 a.m. Luxembourg time, Jones, a junior, spent the rest of her Thursday on a train, a plane and two busses in an attempt to make it back to the U.S. before the travel restrictions went into effect at 12 a.m. EST on Saturday March 14.

Following Trump's announcement, Miami University officially decided to end all spring study abroad trips two months early at 7:13 a.m. Luxembourg time.

As Jones and her housemates tried to book flights back to the U.S., they were repeatedly told all flights were full as the mass exodus of American college students began. Jones called her family in Ohio — it was around 1 a.m. back home — to inform them of her situation. Her dad took over the flight search, telling Jones to focus on getting to the airport.

Jones said that while she packed for her trip home, professors at the Miami University John E. Dolibois European Center (MUDEC), were still sending reminders about upcoming midterm exams and assignments — seemingly unaware of Miami’s decision to end all study abroad programs. 

Jones began her journey to the airport, still without a confirmed flight. She had tentatively  planned to fly from Luxembourg to Amsterdam. She would then spend 12 hours in the Amsterdam airport before flying to Paris. From Paris, she would finally fly home to Cincinnati.

After hauling her luggage from a bus, to a train, to another bus, Jones finally made it to the Luxembourg airport. As she made her way to check in, she received a WhatsApp message from her dad: her flights had been booked. 

Jones spoke to The Miami Student shortly after 11 p.m. in Amsterdam. She had eight more hours left until her flight to Paris. Jones said she refused to sleep during her layover.

“I don’t want to take the chance of missing my flight,” she said. 

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“Also, I want to avoid theft, rape, death, abduction,” she added with a laugh.

When Jones originally left for her semester at MUDEC, she booked round trip tickets for around $900, a deal she was very proud to have found. 

After Miami ended her program, Jones spent nearly $2,500 just for her flight home.

Miami’s Director of Education Abroad and Global Initiatives Ryan Dye said the university will reimburse students participating in university sponsored study abroad programs up to $1,000 for their travel expenses.

Dye also said the university is working on a case-by-case basis to place students into a full course load upon their return.

“Certainly, we would want to do all we can to ensure that students can complete their semesters,” Dye said. “In the case of Miami programs, Miami will do all we can to provide alternative arrangements.”

“These are extremely difficult decisions to make, and we refer to a variety of sources to make them,” Dye added. “We understand that this is an extremely difficult and challenging time for the students who are abroad and asked to return home.”

Correction: This story has been updated to say that Jones began her journey home after learning of President Trump's travel restrictions. The story previously said Jones was reacting to the news of MUDEC's closing.

@timcarlin_

carlimtm@miamioh.edu

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