Overseas Singaporean students scrambling to return home
Universities assisting students after Education Ministry cancels overseas placements
Singaporean students on exchange programmes around the world, from the US to the UK and Sweden, found themselves scrambling to cancel plans following the Education Ministry's decision to suspend all overseas placements amid the coronavirus crisis.
Universities have contacted their students to book flights to return to Singapore as soon as possible, as in the case of the National University of Singapore (NUS).
Others, like Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Management University (SMU), gave them a stipulated deadline to return.
In a circular sent by NTU, students were told to submit their return flight details to the school and avoid transiting or travelling through affected countries for which the Singapore Government has issued stay-home notice (SHN) requirements, including Asean countries, the UK and Germany.
NTU also said it will see how it can assist students on any additional essential expenses incurred as a result of having to cut short their overseas programme.
Mr Tay Yong Hui, 23, an NTU mechanical engineering student on exchange in the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US, said he received the recall notice on Sunday to return home by Friday and had to cancel his spring break plans for this week.
He said he will lose as much as US$500 (S$700) on travel plans to Florida and New York City.
Like many, Mr Tay is worried over the need to complete his exchange programme. "The university here told us we could take our exams online. But we will likely have to match the 13-hour time difference to attend classes and tests," he said.
SMU economics student Isaac Chia, 24, said students were told to return to Singapore by April 5. Mr Chia, who is at a university in Gothenburg, Sweden, for his exchange, said his plans to travel to neighbouring countries have been dashed, adding he will lose a few hundred dollars on his booked trips.
He said: "It can't be helped. It is much better to be in Singapore because we have good healthcare and it would be hard to help students overseas should anything happen."
Singaporeans studying full time abroad have also been impacted by the MOE advisory.
Miss Sandi Tun, 23, attended her last class at the University of London last week. As her flatmates were all headed back to Singapore, Miss Tun decided to do so as well.
"Suddenly, I am going to pack up my life and leave," she said.
An SMU spokesman said the school was working with affected students on alternate learning arrangements.
"In addition, we will help affected students in their penultimate semester to graduate as planned."
In an update last night, NTU announced that returning students must take a mandatory 14-day leave of absence, including those returning from non-SHN-listed countries.