KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Students are making their way back to the states after the University of Tennessee suspended study abroad programs amid recent coronavirus concerns.

The university announced it had suspended all university-related international travel on Thursday. Last week, the university suspended its spring study abroad programs in Italy, affecting 33 students.

RELATED: UT suspends spring study abroad programs in Italy after CDC changes travel advisory

Kimberlee Beck and Kailey Churchill are juniors at UT, and tell us they were excited to be able to complete an international business program in Florence, Italy for 4 months. After only a month in the country, their trip was cut short.

“I was so excited because it’s been my dream to go study abroad since high school,” Kimberlee said.

Four weeks into their trip, they received an email from UT saying their program was suspended due to a level 3 travel warning in Italy, and they were instructed to return to the United States immediately.

The girls traveled back to the States, receiving screenings while they traveled through Europe. They never showed any signs of COVID-19 (coronavirus), but to be safe, they each self-quarantined when they returned.

“It’s hard to see the importance of it since we’re not sick, but we’re trying to be careful just for the community around us because we know that there is reason for concern.” Kailey said.


January 27: The students leave Knoxville for Florence, Italy.

January 28: Students arrive in Florence

February 28: Students receive an email saying that their study abroad program has been suspended and they must return home immediately.

March 2: Kimberlee arrives back in Knoxville and starts a 14-day self-quarantine

March 4: Kailey arrives back in Knoxville and begins a 14-day self-quarantine

Students still abroad

Sascha Richey is also a junior at UT, currently studying abroad in Paris, France. She is a part of a program that allows her to study in a new city every 6 weeks.

She had chosen Rome, Italy for her next 6-week block, and was all set to go at the end of this month. Due to coronavirus concerns, the trip was canceled.

“I’m also kind of just worried that it’s gonna spread and I will just get pulled from Paris anyway. So it’s kind of up in the air for me. I’ve had a lot of anxiety, I kind of don’t know when I’m gonna get sent home, if I’m gonna get sent home if I’m gonna make it until May, or if in a few days it’ll be the end for my program.” Sascha said.

Paris is currently not at a level 3 travel warning, which is why she was allowed to stay. She says she feels safe, but with all the other suspensions, is on high alert. She has yet to decide where she will continue her program, or if she will stay in France for the time being.

UT released a statement regarding the suspension of some study abroad programs:

Overall preparedness

The campus Emergency Operations Center is mobilized and senior leadership is meeting regularly. Multiple offices across campus are working together to ensure the health and safety of all students, faculty, and staff. Information is available at

Summary of travel-related actions

The university has suspended all outgoing university-related international travel. This includes travel related to teaching, research or grant activity, internships, conferences and presentations, performances, etc.

In addition, UT Knoxville has cancelled spring semester education abroad sessions in China, South Korea, and Italy, university-sponsored Spring Break international travel, and education abroad sessions in Italy and Japan that will depart before June 15. UT Knoxville has not had any reports of a case of COVID-19, but is closely monitoring and following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for international travel.

Owen Driskell, UT spokesperson