In the wake of protests in Hong Kong, UC Education Abroad Program, or UCEAP, suspended its study abroad program in Hong Kong on Tuesday out of safety concerns for students, as previously reported by the Daily Nexus.
The spring program was suspended at this time to give students more flexibility to change their plans for the upcoming semester, according to a Daily Nexus interview with UCEAP associate vice provost and executive director Vivian-Lee Nyitray. UCEAP is monitoring the situation in Hong Kong closely to ensure the safety of students currently studying abroad there.
“We felt that rather than have them go, potentially be in an unsafe situation and have to worry about evacuating them … it would be preferable to not have them go,” Nyitray said to the Daily Nexus. “This wasn’t a decision that was made either lightly or out of any kind of haste or panic.”
Campus sophomore and 2019 UCEAP Hong Kong alumna Rachel Kim said she thinks studying abroad provides a valuable experience for students through cultural exchange.
“It opens your eyes to different systems and different problems that people have,” Kim said. “It makes you realize what you value in your country’s systems and what you think should be kept in your system.”
Kim said had she not gone to Hong Kong, she would not be so interested or so involved in campus protests regarding Hong Kong.
She added that although she thought the suspension of the program was a big decision, it was necessary for UCEAP to ensure student safety.
“Honestly, I was shocked, but also not shocked considering how the universities in Hong Kong suspended their classes early. … For example, the Chinese University of Hong Kong ended (the semester) two weeks earlier (than expected),” Kim said. “It’s a combination of the whole situation with the safety on campus. … I think the administrators considered the safety of the students first.”
Kai Yui Samuel Chan, campus graduate student and founding member of the Hong Kong Affairs Association of Berkeley — who attended the Chinese University of Hong Kong as an undergraduate — said suspending the program would lead to a loss of cultural exchange and potential contacts in Hong Kong. Similarly to Kim, however, Chan said he does not oppose the decision to act prudently.
He added that campus should make a public statement about the suspension and pay attention to the needs of its international students.
“We would also appreciate if (the university) could cater to the needs of international and Hong Kong students studying on campuses right now,” Chan said. “They may have emotional needs, they may have visa needs … these are the kinds of issues we want (the UC system) to engage with.”