Coronavirus is part of our daily life. Everybody knows about it and everybody has heard indications about how to prevent it and how to avoid its spread.
Every country in Europe is living the problem in a different way. Italy was the first one to face the problem and is the country that adopted among the hardest measures to contain the situation.
But, we are the generation of Erasmus+. We travel all year long (not only during the holidays as our parents), we study abroad and are volunteers in other counties.
During a global pandemic, living in one other country, far from the family, in another culture it is more complicated than usual.
How does it work with exchange programs in this period?
In Italy there is a strict lockdown: schools and universities have been closed, restaurants, bars and pubs as well. Going out with no reason is illegal and people can get a fine for that. The situation is not the same in other countries, so in every place there is something different about how the projects are being managed.
If the project can be interrupted or continued is still object of discussion. Generally, every case is a different case and needs the approval of National Agency.
The point is that the reason why students or volunteers could take the decision to interrupt the project does not depend on themselves or on universities or NGOs, but it is because of force majeure:
“Force majeure: any unforeseeable, exceptional situation or event beyond the control of the parties that prevents either of them from fulfilling any of their obligations under the Agreement, which is not attributable to error or negligence on their part or on the part of the subcontractors affiliated entities or third parties in receipt of financial support and which proves to be inevitable despite their exercising due diligence. The following cannot be invoked as force majeure: labour disputes, strikes, financial difficulties or any default of a service, defect in equipment or materials or delays in making them available, unless they stem directly from a relevant case of force majeure” (1).
Actually, some decided to go back home, because the most important part of an exchange project is living the new county and its culture, but, obviously, being quarantined makes everything tricky.
Many students and volunteers decided to stay in the counties and continue with the project, as they can.
Volunteers working in schools are going back working in some countries in the next days (Germany and Austria). Some of them are worried that it is too soon to go back to school, some are happy to return to their previous job.
Many Erasmus students who stayed in the hosting county are taking advantage of this time to study and there is a general concern about how some countries are managing the situation: like the case of Sweden and the story of the Italian student who is worried about the measures Sweden is taking, not enough according his opinion (2).
Fortunately, there is always someone ready to help.
There are organizations giving virtual support to the students and volunteers like Erasmus Student Network and European Students’ Union.
In particular, there are two hearing points for exchange students where they can ask questions about the emergency Coronavirus
For Italians abroad: click here
For exchange students in Italy: click here
Thank you to all the volunteers who answered my questions. I will dedicate my next article to their answers more in detail.