Kasteel Well students trudged bleary-eyed through the rain at 4:00 a.m Central European Time on Friday to board a bus to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, beginning a 14-hour travel day that would return them to Boston six weeks early.
The college announced Monday that all castle students would return to Boston for the remainder of the semester due to an “abundance of caution” following the rapid spread of COVID-19, commonly known as coronavirus, across Europe. As of March 6, there are 128 confirmed cases of the virus in the Netherlands, according to the Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, RIVM.
The sleep-deprived group, nicknamed the “corona kids” by some on-campus students, were greeted by President M. Lee Pelton in the Lion’s Den.
“I came here to welcome [castle students] back to campus and to let them know how sad and disappointing it must be for them to return to campus after being at Kasteel Well,” Pelton said in an interview with The Beacon. “And also, to explain the reasoning for bringing students back, as we did so on behalf of their safety and health. We did not wish students to find themselves in a situation where they couldn’t return to campus.”
Castle students expressed concerns about rising paranoia among community members, some of whom believe the castle students might have coronavirus. Pelton said members of the community can best manage these anxieties by sticking to the facts about how coronavirus is spread.
“We are going to do our best to counteract the fear and anxiety from some parents in particular who were worried about Kasteel Well students returning to residence halls,” he said.
Aside from Pelton’s visit, castle students received linens along with snacks and dinner at the orientation. All students received thermometers to check their body temperature in case they begin experiencing flu-like symptoms. Director of Health and Wellness Jane Powers encouraged students to make an appointment at the Center for Health and Wellness if they start feeling unwell.
After orientation, all of the Kasteel Well students moved into their new housing assignments. The students were informed during orientation that their finalized class schedule will be released on March 10, and midterm exams are expected to resume on March 12 and 13.
Sophomore Kasteel Well student Victoria Sci said returning to Boston is a bittersweet moment for her.
“I’m excited to see my family and my friends, but at the same time I wasn’t ready to be back yet,” Sci said in an interview with The Beacon. “We had so much more planned for being in Europe so this is quite a disappointment.”
President Pelton said the decision to return castle students to Boston required a lot of difficult consideration on his part.
“I know how important the Kasteel Well experience is to students, I know the wonderful friendships and bonding that takes place there. It’s a magical place,” President Pelton said. “To require students leave this magical place to come back to campus in the middle of the term was a really very difficult decision to make.”
Prior to the rapid spread of coronavirus, the mandatory Milan excursion originally planned to take place on March 6 through 9. Sophomore Kasteel Well student Emma Goldman said she wishes she was currently in Milan, but understands the circumstances are unavoidable.
“I really wish we were in Milan right now, but sometimes life happens, or in our case, coronavirus happens,” Goldman said in an interview with The Beacon. “You can’t always know what’s coming in the future, and that’s just life.”