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Students abroad talk about coronavirus and looming U.S. election

<p>Students abroad are expereincing COVID-19 and a U.S. election while in a different country. </p>

Students abroad are expereincing COVID-19 and a U.S. election while in a different country.

Despite Miami University’s ever-changing fall semester plans, students still went on to study abroad in three different countries. 

Four students traveled to Korea, one student went to Scotland and 30 students traveled to Luxembourg, said Ryan Dye, director of education abroad. In typical semesters, over 100 students travel to Luxembourg, according to Miami’s study abroad website.

Claudia Zaunz, a junior journalism and English literature major, is studying abroad at the University of Glasgow in Scotland and arrived there in early September. 

Zaunz said Scotland's coronavirus regulations are different from the United States’ (U.S.) in many ways. Zaunz is not allowed to have any guests at her apartment, restaurants close by 6 p.m. and contact tracing is conducted at all public places. 

“I'm always staying in my bubble, because the regulation is that you're not allowed to meet up with more than two households,” Zaunz said. “It's just generally harder to meet people that you don't live with because you're not meeting on campus.”

Zaunz said she assumed she wasn’t going to be able to study abroad this semester but said she was happy to be there now. 

Coronavirus cases in Scotland are rising, and Zaunz said restrictions are getting tighter. The biggest difference between Miami and Glasgow for Zaunz is the opinions on mask-wearing. 

“At Miami, it seems like people are complaining about the fact that you have to wear a mask everywhere,” Zaunz said. “You have to wear a mask everywhere here, which most of the people do.”

Elspeth Cunningham, a senior early childhood education major, is student teaching in Differdange, Luxembourg.

Cunningham said she has had just as many opportunities while studying abroad as she normally would and said Luxembourg is taking the coronavirus much more seriously than the U.S. 

“Any time someone finds out that I am American, it’s like they tense up a bit,” Cunningham said. “I don’t think I have met anyone over here yet that doesn’t think that the U.S. has handled this horribly.”

Cunningham said she loves teaching in Luxembourg. Upon her arrival, the Luxembourg campus provided her with 50 disposable masks and consistently contacts the students about changing travel restrictions. 

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“Protocols are pretty much the same here as in the U.S., but they’re actually enforced here,” Cunningham said. “People will call you out on the street if you’re not wearing your mask correctly, and they won’t let you into public transportation without one.”

Regarding the election coming up in the U.S. in November, Cunningham said she was able to mail in her ballot in Pennsylvania early before she left for Luxembourg. 

“News about the election is still very prominent over here, and everyone talks about it a lot, but it’s a lot less stressful being in this country right now,” Cunningham said. “I don’t feel like I’m going to get into any arguments with anyone over here like I do in the states.”

Zaunz said she strategically chose this semester to study abroad because she didn’t want to be in the U.S. during the election. 

Zaunz is an international student at Miami from Luxembourg and said it’s scary to have no influence on the election. 

“It feels like the election divides people all the time, and I didn’t want to discuss politics all the time,” Zaunz said. “It just doesn’t seem like a great time to be in America as a European right now. I wanted to distance myself and not get invested into fighting about something that I can’t change anyway.”

Zaunz will fly home to Luxembourg in December and fly to Miami at the end of January for spring semester. 

Cunningham said her program ends Nov. 20, and she plans to travel before she returns to the U.S. Dec. 8. 

“It’s a little stressful to always have to make sure we are following all of the rules and guidelines, because if we get stuck somewhere now, we’re kind of screwed,” Cunningham said. “Nevertheless, it has still been a great experience so far.”

Zaunz said she still feels very connected to Miami, though she isn’t sure what campus life is like right now. 

“I am definitely looking forward to seeing my friends because many of them are graduating,” Zaunz said. “The whole traveling to America part is what’s always super stressful, even without [the coronavirus].”