London internship program students return

Cal Poly Pomona’s Office of Study Abroad (CPPOSA) suspended the CPP London internship program and instructed students to return home on March 17 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 400 students from various campuses, including 14 from CPP, were studying abroad with the Foundation International Education program, and of the ones who were instructed to return home, three began showing symptoms and tested positive for COVID-19, a strain of the novel coronavirus, after their arrival. Of the three students testing positive for COVID-19, none were from CPP. However, one of those students was from California, according to Nearly Hernandez, a second-year management in human resources student who was part of the program. 

Since the director of the International Center, Matthew Walters, sent an email on March 19 advising students to book a flight back home, six CPP students were still in London. Of the six, two returned the Friday after the email was sent, one returned on Saturday, one booked a flight for Wednesday, another has yet to book her flight and one student has chosen to stay in London.

Students who decide to stay abroad will lose the support and services from CPP, potentially their financial aid, tuition exchange, transfer of credits and their student visa, according to the email sent by Walters.

Students were instructed to travel back to California for their safety, but that could pose more dangers as they’ll be exposed to more people than if they were to continue their stay abroad.

While students are packing their bags and booking their flights, Jodee Ooi, a first-year apparel merchandise and management transfer student, chose to stay behind in London. She stated she is there for the internship more than the credit, so staying there is worth the risk as her resume will stand out in the long run when she begins to apply for jobs in her field.

“I think it’s more of a risk to travel right now than it is to even stay here. I feel safe here,” Ooi said. “Over time, just being a student at Cal Poly, and especially now, they obviously haven’t proven themselves to be concerned about their students.”

In order from left: Michelle Bustamante, Adriana Uyehera, Amalia Chappell, Nearly Hernandez and Kimmy McKayon during their last Friday in Europe together.
(Courtesy of Nearly Hernandez)

The decision to pull students back home was made based on the global level 4 health advisory by the Department of State issued March 19, which advised U.S. citizens to avoid international travel and to arrange immediate return to the U.S.

Through the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, students were given the option of going back home early, and most students fled home in fear of catching the virus. Hernandez was one of the few who attempted to prolong their stay to see if she would be able to finish her internship abroad.

Hernandez booked her flight back to California on March 25, but after hearing about the students who tested positive for coronavirus, she feels scared about traveling back home. 

“I started panicking because I was like damn, most likely they got it at the airport,” Hernandez said. “Now when I do go back home, I’m not going straight home anymore. I’m going to my sister’s house because I don’t want to be near my mom,” she said, due to her understanding that older people are more susceptible to the virus and she doesn’t want to pose a threat to her mom.

After spending a little over two months in a different country with the freedom to explore London’s’ attractions, CPP students will be asked to do a 14-day self-quarantine upon their arrival, according to the CPP coronavirus and study abroad website. 

Efforts to reach out to Walters, Study Abroad Program specialist Lauren Lee and the International Center staff were unsuccessful before The Poly Post’s publication deadline.

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