University Cancels Second Hong Kong Study Abroad Over Coronavirus and Health Concerns

The University’s Yuen Campus in Hong Kong has been closed since January 29 in response to the outbreak.


UChicago News

The Hong Kong Campus was opened in November 2018.

By Yiwen Lu, Managing Editor

The College has relocated the spring 2020 Hong Kong: Colonizations study abroad program to London in light of the coronavirus outbreak in China and at the recommendation of Dean John Boyer in consultation with the program faculty and staff from the Yuen campus in Hong Kong. The program will take place in the same classroom as the existing autumn quarter British literature and culture program. 

According to University spokesperson Gerald McSwiggan, this decision is in line with the University guidance regarding international travel from Provost Ka Yee Lee’s recent message to the campus community about the coronavirus. Following the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. State Department, which has maintained its highest level of alert for ChinaLevel 4: Do Not Travel,  Lee said in the message that the University “continues to strongly discourage travel to mainland China and Hong Kong.” 

The Colonizations program in Hong Kong has been taught since spring quarter 2015. The program counts toward the civilization studies component of the Core, and allows participants to explore civilizational studies through a cross-cultural perspective as they take advantage of the resources in Hong Kong, a major financial center in Asia and former British colony. Participants also take a Mandarin course. 

The reorganized Colonizations sequence in London will still fulfill the civilizations Core requirement. Students who chose to remain in the London sequence were offered the opportunity to take an optional Mandarin course, taught by local language instructors and offered at beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels 

In London, students will “reside in shared, fully-furnished apartments with kitchens in central London,” according to an email sent to students. Originally, students would have been housed in the Robert Black College guest house on the campus of the University of Hong Kong. 

The cost for the program is unchanged, but students need to adjust their plane tickets if they already purchased flights to Hong Kong. Due to the recent outbreak, most airlines have issued full refunds to travelers who cancelled tickets, according to the email sent to participants. 

Details of the reorganized program are not yet available. Because this is the first time that the Colonizations sequence will be taught in London, the course design was restarted from scratch, according to Lauren Schneider, the program director. 

Participants were given until February 14, three days after the announcement, to decide whether they would attend the program in London or remain on campus. Those who decided not to study abroad were not charged a withdrawal fee and were able to participate in class pre-registration during seventh week. 

More than 20 students originally enrolled in the program were affected by the change. Schneider told The Maroon that most chose to remain in the program.  

In winter 2020, the University cancelled the Hong Kong economics study abroad program due to protests in the city. The program was relocated to the UChicago Center in Paris. 

The Yuen Campus in Hong Kong has been closed since January 29 in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Last week, the University decided to postpone the potential reopening  from February 24 to March 2. All programming has been postponed or relocated through that date. 

“The decision of when to re-open the Yuen Campus is considered on a weekly basis and is based on the latest available information, including the operating status of other Hong Kong institutions such as Hong Kong University, where classes are being held online through March 28. The paramount goal is maintaining the safety of faculty, students, staff, and visitors,” McSwiggan told The Maroon by email. 

McSwiggan added that future study abroad programs in Hong Kong are not currently affected. Hong Kong: The Global Urban, the next program to be hosted on the Yuen campus, is scheduled for September 2020.