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UTEP suspends overseas student trips due to coronavirus concerns

EL PASO, Texas -- Due to rising concerns over the coronavirus, decision-makers at UTEP have officially suspended three faculty-led trips overseas that had been set to take place during the spring and summer.

According to the school's dean of students, one of the trips was going to take a group over to South Korea while the other two had students set to spend time in Italy.

E-mails were sent out on Monday notifying those students about the decision.

The news was met with disappointment but also understanding.

"It is a certainly a blow because I was looking forward to seeing Florence but overall I’d just say that they are trying to protect us from the virus," said student Noelia Gonzalez.

Dr. Catie McCorry Andalis said this was the "prudent decision" for UTEP to make, especially after the U.S. State Department raised the alert level regarding Italy up to 3.

It has turned into an even worse situation for American students already in Italy, as schools across the country had to scramble to pull them out.

“My friend called me crying," said UTEP student Lizbeth Avila. "She goes to Saint John's and she is studying abroad in Rome. She called me crying saying that they are deporting her and sending her back home but she can’t even go back to New York where her school is. She has to come back to El Paso where she is originally from.”

And with multiple cases of coronavirus popping up across Mexico and possibly in nearby Juarez, fear is also creeping onto the UTEP campus.

“I am definitely scared," said Faiola Montanez. "We are so close. I do go to Juarez for family. So yes, I am scared.”

For some students who already paid for plane tickets with their own money, those are costs that can't be recouped.

However, students will also have opportunities to either change their travel destinations or get those application fees returned.

UTEP also said that they do have many other students across the world currently on study abroad trips.

None of those students have been pulled from their programs yet, but that could change as officials are monitoring the situation closely.

El Paso / Health / News / Video

Michael Gordon

Michael Gordon is an ABC-7 reporter who co-anchors Good Morning El Paso weekends.

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