Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 4 April 2020

Coronavirus: Outbreak disrupts pupils' plans to study abroad

Some universities have cancelled summer courses and open days

Meera Bhat, 16, a pupil at American School of Dubai, and Emma Parisot, 17, who is studying at Gems World Academy, hope to attend universities in the United States. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Meera Bhat, 16, a pupil at American School of Dubai, and Emma Parisot, 17, who is studying at Gems World Academy, hope to attend universities in the United States. Chris Whiteoak / The National

High school pupils in the UAE hoping to study abroad this summer have had their plans disrupted by the coronavirus.

Hundreds of teenagers living in the Emirates had expected to travel to the United States and elsewhere to complete one to eight-week programmes.

Now, however, owing to the ongoing outbreak, many universities have cancelled the courses.

Undergraduates aiming to start university courses abroad in September have also been affected by many campus open days being derailed.

Emma Parisot, 17, a pupil at Gems World Academy, said she had hoped to complete a six-week summer course in engineering at Cornell University, in upstate New York, in June.

“The programme is still going ahead but we have received emails asking us to watch out for changes,” she said.

I have been trying to apply to several research programmes and it has been incredibly hard to do that because of the coronavirus.

Meera Bhat

“I was also going to visit 17 universities in two weeks, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brown University and University of Michigan, but all of these have cancelled campus tours.

“I really want to do the summer programme so if they still offer it, I would be happy to go ahead.”

Each year, hundreds of pupils from the UAE travel to universities across the globe to complete summer courses.

At the same time, prospective undergraduates who have been offered several university places often take the opportunity to visit campuses to help them decide where to study.

Universities such as Harvard generally host more than 1,000 students for weekend-long visits during April.

Students can live in dorms and attend classes. The policy is considered vital to universities’ efforts to convince students to enrol by the National College Decision Day, May 1.

Meera Bhat, 16, a grade 11 pupil at American School of Dubai, said she hoped to complete a research programme in the US this summer.

“I have been trying to apply to several research programmes and it has been incredibly hard to do that because of the coronavirus,” she said.

“I am emailing professors and asking about interning under someone doing research, and having success in that.”

Syrian siblings Batool and Jude Kanawati said their plans to study in Europe had also been quashed by the spread of Covid-19.

Batool, 17, a pupil at Dubai National School for Girls, hoped to pursue a medical degree in Italy or the Netherlands.

“I wanted to study in Europe with my sister and was very excited,” she said. “I was shocked [by the number of infections in Italy] and have decided to focus on my health.

“If I am not able to study abroad, I will look for courses online.”

Meanwhile, Jude, 26, said she had been looking forward to starting a master’s programme in history and museums in Europe this year.

“Now it’s difficult to go outside of the UAE and I am scared to go to Europe,” she said.

“I’m considering doing a diploma or masters online but I really hope the situation improves in the next few months.”

Luca Frost, a year 13 pupil at Nord Anglia International School Dubai, said he was determined to pursue his degree in international relations at King’s College London.

“I feel like there is a lot of sensationalism and people are worried about the coronavirus,” he said.

“But it does not discourage me from the decision to go to university in the UK. It’s not that serious for me as I am young and relatively healthy, but my parents are more concerned.

“They are not discouraging me but are worried about how it may affect me.”

Updated: March 18, 2020 04:40 PM

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