Coronavirus scares halt travel for Kasteel Well students


The Berkeley Beacon Archives

Emerson’s Kasteel Well campus in Well, Netherlands.

By Lara Hill, Kasteel Well Editor

WELL, NETHERLANDS—Kasteel Well officials canceled the four-day mandatory academic excursion to Milan, Italy Monday and banned student travel outside the Netherlands until March 15 due to recent cases of COVID-19, commonly known as Coronavirus, across Europe.

According to an email sent to Kasteel Well students and parents Monday, the trip, planned for March 6-9, was canceled on the advice of the Italian government as a safety precaution. The email was sent following a mandatory meeting on Monday for all castle students regarding the cancellation of the Milan excursion.

“As we diligently monitor news reports and receive direct information from Italian officials, we have taken the precautionary measure of canceling our spring 2020 Milan, Italy academic excursion,” Kasteel Well’s Office of Student Affairs wrote in the email.

The number of COVID-19 cases rose in Italy to 142 diagnoses and two deaths, according to the World Health Organization. Germany has 16 diagnoses, the United Kingdom has nine, and France has 12 with one death as of Feb. 24.

Students who already booked trips outside the Netherlands during spring break are required to cancel their travels, according to the OSA announcement. 

Sophomore Kasteel Well student Samantha Hodgdon is canceling a trip to visit her family because of this news. 

I had planned on traveling to Venice to visit my mom,” Hodgdon said in an interview with The Beacon. “We had everything booked. I was just about to book stuff for after spring break but now I’m going to have to hold off.”

The email told students they could no longer travel outside the Netherlands until March 15, but in the mandatory meeting earlier that same day, Morgan said students are not restricted in their travel plans this upcoming weekend. OSA declined to provide further comment to The Beacon.

According to the email, there could be more travel restrictions to come throughout the rest of the semester.

As we move forward with the semester we will update our student population with critical travel information that may include further travel restrictions. We understand this is not what you want to hear as you have planned a semester abroad to explore your surroundings that are the Netherlands, and Europe as a whole. But our first priority is always the health, safety and well being of our students, faculty and staff here at Kasteel Well,” OSA wrote in the email.

To replace the Milan excursion, OSA officials said at the meeting they are attempting to plan several day trips within the Netherlands and nearby countries such as Belgium and Germany. Senior Advisor for Student Affairs Tikesha Morgan told students during the meeting that it is necessary to make up for the canceled excursion through additional trips because the excursions fall within required academic hours. 

The dates and locations of these academic excursions will be announced during the week of March 2, according to the email. 

During Monday’s meeting, students raised concerns about where the money for the mandatory Milan excursion would go. Morgan said during the meeting they do not know if the college will receive refunds for the flight and hostel costs, so they cannot guarantee full reimbursement from the college. 

The excursion to Milan falls in the $2,100 European Travel Package within tuition billing, which covers the costs of the mandatory Amsterdam and Milan excursions and the costs of flying to and from the United States.

Sophomore Kasteel Well student Anthony Feola said he hopes to receive partial compensation for the canceled Milan excursion. 

“I think we should see at least some of the money back,” Feola said in an interview with The Beacon. “I know we aren’t going to get all of it back. That money went towards the flight, the museums, the tours, and the hostels. It’s more than just the flight.”

Sophomore Kasteel Well student Caitlin Johnson said she is frustrated with OSA and the Emerson administration for the lack of clarity in regards to future traveling and reimbursements. 

“I think restricting us to just the Netherlands [for spring break] is really unfair,” Johnson said in an interview with The Beacon. “[OSA] not having a direct response to our questions about reimbursement felt really shitty. I just wish we had clear answers because we are all freaking out right now about the prospect that we might not be able to travel at all. Now we are being placed in this situation where we are rapidly trying to figure out if we can get our money back.”

Feola said that the travel restrictions will have a large impact on his overall experience studying abroad in Europe.

“I’m just upset that we might have to stay in Amsterdam for the rest of our time here at the castle,” Feola said. “A lot of students come here to travel outside of Amsterdam. I was planning on going to London to see some shows and I wanted to go to Spain for my birthday. I don’t want to just stay in the Netherlands.”

Feola said a group of students spent Monday night writing a frustrated email to various administrative staff at the Boston campus and he said he hopes to get some answers. 

“I want [the school] to hear us, first of all,” Feola said. “I also want to know what they’re going to do to compensate us. We haven’t received any answers. We have spent a lot of money to be here. There’s also going to be a tuition increase, let’s not forget.”