War, SARS…Are Locusts Next?

War, SARS, and Overseas Programs

Rumors of war, actual fighting, and a pernicious virus called SARS have had a direct impact on overseas study programs nationwide. We asked Larry Meyers, director of overseas and off-campus programs, for information about Lewis & Clark’s response to these world tensions.

How many Lewis & Clark students were studying abroad this spring?

About 130, our usual number.

In your view, which has had the greater impact on our overseas programs: the war with Iraq or SARS?

SARS, without question.

Did we consider canceling programs when war was declared?

We don’t cancel or close programs in the event of an armed conflict unless there is a clear danger to the students at a particular site. This has always been our policy.

Lewis & Clark has been sending students to study at sites around the world since 1962. Our students have studied abroad during several wars and conflicts including Vietnam, the Persian Gulf War, and the invasion of Afghanistan. In this case, we didn’t have any reason to believe our students were at greater risk overseas than here. We didn’t receive threats against any of our students anywhere around the globe. 

Did students encounter a lot of anti-American sentiment while abroad?

Certainly many saw protests in cities where they were staying, but no, our students have always received a warm welcome from their host families and staff at the study sites.

Have any overseas programs been canceled because of SARS?

Yes. We had three students in China during spring semester: two in Beijing and one in Harbin. We canceled the program and brought them home in mid-April.

Reluctantly, we also canceled our summer program to Guilin. We always hold the health and safety of our students as our top priorities, and we felt that exposure to SARS, though unlikely, was still enough of a concern to warrant action.

How have fall enrollments been affected?

Our fall programs are full—in fact, we’ve had to turn away students from some of them. Ironically, all of this attention on world events increases students’ interest in international study. Overseas study programs at Lewis & Clark—and at colleges across the country—are more popular than ever before.