Coronavirus pandemic forces Americans studying abroad to return home

Dara Elpren was having the experience of a lifetime studying in Italy this spring semester. But six weeks in, it was all cut short.

"All of us were confused, figuring out whether or not we need to cancel all the trips that we planned for all of our weekends," Dara said. "We were trying to take it day-by-day, but in the end, we just went back to our apartments and cried."

The college junior, who just came back to New York on Thursday, spoke to FOX 5 NY via Skype from her parents' home in Plainview, Long Island. Her abroad program was based in Florence.

"I was so excited to have this experience because I have always heard that it's a time for self-growth and a time to experience the world and different cultures," she said. "And I feel like I've been ripped of that experience."

Dara was among thousands of American students studying in Europe whose plans turned upside down because of the coronavirus outbreak. She is now self-quarantining at home for two weeks but said she was shocked that when she came through customs at JFK Airport that she wasn't given any instruction on what to do.

Dr. Louis Morledge of Lenox Hill confirmed that Dara is doing the right thing, even though she feels healthy.

"Really staying at home, looking for other signs that may develop during the time that you're home. Do you develop fever? Do you have cough, shortness of breath? Are you excessively fatigued?" Morledge said. "Those will be things to contact your healthcare professional or any physician about."

The CDC has an updated list on its website of specific countries with outbreaks. The website also has advice for any travelers who may be coming home from those countries.


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