SARS in China Alters Study-Abroad, Travel Plans

June 1, 2003

Amid concerns over Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Duke officials have decided to cancel their summer study-abroad program in Beijing and are developing an alternate program for students. And the university has strongly urged all members of the Duke community to avoid non-essential travel to countries affected by SARS, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

The decision by the Asian/Pacific Studies Institute and the Office of Study Abroad to hold the Chinese-language immersion program on campus affects more than fifty students who had been accepted into the program and were set to leave for China in mid-June.

The summer program at Capital Normal University in Beijing features intensive Chinese language instruction. Beijing is among the areas hardest hit by the mysterious, contagious disease. The World Health Organization had warned against travel to China's capital city, as well as to Hong Kong and Shanxi and Guangdong provinces.

" This is just so unfortunate," says Mavis Mayer, coordinator of the Duke Study in China Program for the Asian/Pacific Studies Institute. "We had even more students accepted than last year. The program has become very popular in recent years."

After investigating alternative options, administrators decided to host the program on Duke's campus from June 23 to July 6, and then at the Duke Marine Lab, in Beaufort, North Carolina, through August 15. Margaret Riley, director of Duke's study-abroad office, says administrators were committed to finding a solution that would "provide students with the language immersion experience they had hoped to get, even though it won't be in mainland China."

Eighteen students have been accepted for a fall study-abroad program in Hangzhou, in southeast China. Duke officials were to make a decision in late June about whether to hold that program as planned.