By Caylee Hanna and Jessika Fulton, Staff Reporters
Amarillo College has canceled all student travel in response to the COVID-19. The first trips to be eliminated were to Poland and Germany planned for spring break.
The Presidential Scholars program had planned to travel with West Texas A&M University honors students to Poland. Several of the Scholars said the disappointment they felt over the cancellation was overwhelming.
“I think it’s very unfortunate that all of the trips to places that aren’t even a threat are being canceled because of the perception mainly,” Hope Demery, a social work major, said. “I understand that that’s the decision that they felt was best for the students, but it is very unfortunate and an inconvenience. I feel like I’ve been broken up with by the country of Poland.”
World Health Organization has recently declared coronavirus as a pandemic. Demery said there have not been enough cases to acknowledge if the virus is as deadly as people are saying it is overseas.
“I feel that right now, the coronavirus overseas situation is unique because the governments are still trying to decide what they should do since we do not know the full scope of the virus or how to eradicate it,” Charlotte Wills, a nursing major, said. “I do feel like some of this has to do with mass hysteria, and that in a few months this could look entirely different than it does at this moment.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks coronavirus risk in countries based on three levels, according to their website. Level one is an alert, meaning usual safety precautions should be practiced. Level two is an alert, meaning enhanced safety precautions should be practiced. The third and final level is a warning, with a ban on all unnecessary travel.
A week before the Scholars were set to leave for the trip, the CDC reported Poland as a level one case.
“I’m sure some parts of Europe and Asia are obviously really bad, but Poland wasn’t, so that was the disappointing part,” Demery said. “I felt like it wasn’t bad enough yet in Poland for it to be canceled last minute and the constant back and forth on if we were going or not based on what WT said.”
Several days later, Poland was flagged as a level three country, according to the CDC.
As AC continued to monitor the situation, WT sent out a mass email to its students saying that international travel was highly discouraged. Shortly after that, the university prohibited overseas trips.
AC officials soon made the decision to cancel all travel outside the college’s service area, according to an email Russell Lowery-Hart, AC president, sent out later on to students.
According to Lesley Ingham, Presidential Scholars sponsor and honors program coordinator, the Scholars are possibly rescheduling their trip.
Wills said that she is grateful that the safety of the students was put first.
“While I am disappointed about the trip being canceled for the time being, I am also glad that our safety was prioritized,” Wills said.
AC travel club’s spring break trip to Germany was also canceled.
Courtney Milleson, sponsor for travel club, said the main reason they decided to postpone their trip was for the health of the Amarillo community.
“While we all felt safe with our travel plans, we didn’t want to expose our community to the risk of COVID-19. Additionally, having to quarantine for 14 days post-return didn’t sound beneficial to our student’s Academic and economic well-being,” she said.
Chloe Pumphrey, a biology major, said the worry of being quarantined in Germany was a deciding factor in the cancellation.
“We would be in a foreign country, away from our family and friends, and missing out on school and work,” Pumphrey said, “The deciding factor was that Dr. Lowery-Hart could not think of any colleges that were allowing their students to travel into other countries.”
With the cancellation only days from boarding the plane, students said they were left heartbroken but also slightly relieved.
“Although the cancellation made us sad, it is for the best not only for our own health, but for our friends and family which would be strained heavily if we were forced into quarantine upon return,” said Cody Nicely, travel club president and computer engineering major.
“With my anxiety, I wasn’t trying to get my hopes up too much, as there is always that little fear that things won’t go as planned. I really wanted to go on this trip for my Papa, my dad’s father, as my Nanny and Papa went to Germany in the early 70s,” Pumphrey said.
According to Ingham, the students headed to Germany were given a voucher for the amount they paid for the trip. The voucher could be used toward any trip that company, EF College Study Tours, offers, Ingham said.
“The plans right now are to evaluate our travel options. My group will be trying to tour either Germany or another location in the near future,” Milleson said.
“I completely agree with the college’s decision to cancel travel,” Nicely said, “I appreciate the info and support that Russell and the AC team have given us with the cancellation and with other policies put in place.”