Fearing both quarantine and racism due to the coronavirus, many Penn students are canceling their spring break plans to travel abroad.
Increasing reports of coronavirus across the globe prompted students traveling to countries like Spain, France, and England to cancel their trips for fear they would face quarantine or other restrictions when attempting to return to the United States. Asian Penn students also faced the added fear of racist or xenophobic attacks – due to the novel coronavirus' origins in China – they may encounter while abroad.
With thousands of cases confirmed in Europe and Asia, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised travelers against all nonessential visits to China, Italy, Iran, and South Korea.
College sophomore Jason Shu and five of his friends decided to cancel their trip to Paris and London, fearing a racially hostile atmosphere in Europe and travel restrictions on the way home.
“Earlier last month, I saw a headline from a French newspaper that said something about a ‘yellow peril’ which was directed at Asian tourists or Asian people in Europe in general," Shu said. "Pretty much everyone in our group is Asian American."
Wharton sophomore Chloe Ching and College sophomore and former Daily Pennsylvanian staffer Anushree Aneja were both in a group of six students who canceled their trip to Madrid after the number of reported cases skyrocketed in Europe. Aneja said that because a few women in the group are East Asian, they fear racist incidents in Europe along with the possibility of quarantine and being forced to miss school.
Like most other affected students, Aneja was disappointed she had to cancel her trip. But she recognizes that for many around the globe, the coronavirus yields more life-threatening circumstances.
“It’s really concerning to see how many people are being affected by this, because for us we just have to cancel our vacation plans, but that’s not a big deal compared to what people living in these countries actually have to go through who can’t go outside, or their schools and workplaces are getting shut down,” Aneja said.
College first-year Sherie Pan and four of her friends also canceled their trip to Spain and Portugal after their parents expressed concerns about going to crowded places like airports and planes while the contagious virus continues to spread.
After purchasing plane tickets, museum tour tickets, and train tickets from Milan to Florence, College junior Sarah Goldfarb canceled her trip to Italy due to fear of quarantine.
"Two of my other friends also canceled their trip to Europe, so people are nervous about being quarantined there," Goldfarb said. “The fear is getting trapped abroad. I’m also scared of contracting it, but the fear is just getting stuck.”
Despite the potential dangers and the threat of quarantine, some students still plan to travel abroad over spring break.
Even though two of her friends have dropped out of a group trip to Barcelona, Engineering sophomore Aprupa Alahari will still travel to Spain. Though she is wary of the risk, she does not expect to be quarantined, and also does not want to lose the money she spent on the trip.
“I’ve been looking forward to this vacation for a few months now, and I don’t think the risk of actually getting the virus is high enough that we should cancel the trip," Alahari said.
Even though 27 coronavirus cases have been reported in the country, College first-year Kristina Znam is still traveling to Switzerland with her family. Although she is aware of the elevated risks of traveling abroad like many of her peers, Znam is not as concerned as her parents.
“I’m not worried, but my parents [are] freaking out a little bit. They bought masks for us to wear on the plane and hand sanitizer and medical wipes to wipe down our seats, and they’re actually looking to avoid eating any of the food on the plane,” she said
After investing time and money into the trip, Znam and her family decided to travel, but remain cautious.
"We are going with family that we haven’t seen in a while, so we’re deciding to go anyway," Znam said. "We’ve judged that the risk of getting the virus is small enough that we should still be able to go."