Six Bridge Year students are struggling to return from abroad, currently stuck in Urubamba, Peru.
The Bridge Year Program — a program where incoming students engage in nine months of tuition-free, University-sponsored service at international locations — was initially suspended on March 12 with a “proposed departure date for students of March 20,” according to the University website.
Students from Bridge Year sites in Senegal, India, and Taiwan have arrived at their home locations. At 2:17 p.m. on Thursday, students in Indonesia “[had] departed from Yogyakarta and [were] en route to their home locations” according to Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss.
However, six students from the Bridge Year Peru site have been unable to leave the country.
After Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra issued a 15-day nationwide state of emergency and border closure last Sunday, “more than 400 Americans” are currently stuck in Peru.
“Staff from the Office of International Programs and the University’s Global Safety and Security Unit are working diligently with partners in the United States and in Peru, including U.S. embassy and consular staff, to make progress on the safe departure of the students who are part of the Novogratz Bridge Year Program in Peru,” Hotchkiss noted.
This is not this Bridge Year group’s first major disruption. The students originally planned to spend their time in Bolivia but were relocated from Tiquipaya in November following a controversial, contested election result and “significant civil unrest” nearby. The day after former Bolivian president Evo Morales resigned and fled to escape what he branded a coup d’état, the students were relocated to Cusco, Peru. In December, according to Hotchkiss, two of the original eight group members returned to their home residences for unrelated reasons.
The COVID-19 pandemic put yet another damper on the remaining six students’ travel plans, and the group’s present situation is incredibly uncertain. Though the travel ban is temporary, there is no telling how long it may be extended to, and it may require dramatic action on the part of either the University or the U.S. government to bring these students home.
A U.S. State Department official told The Washington Post that the Department is “considering all options to assist U.S. citizens in these countries” and “continuously assessing travel conditions in all areas affected by COVID-19.”
According to reporting from The Hill, U.S. citizens stuck in Tunisia, Kuwait, Morocco, and Honduras have also appealed to the government for assistance. In reference to U.S. citizens in Peru, President Donald Trump said Thursday that the government was “looking to get them out probably through the military.”
In the meantime the Bridge Year students still in Peru are “safe and well,” according to Hotchkiss.
The students are “residing together in their program house in Urubamba,” he noted.
Editor’s Note: This story originally read that “many Bridge Year students” were struggling to return from abroad including “several” in Peru, implying that Bridge Year students outside of Peru were also struggling to return. This implication is inaccurate, as all students from the other four sites were able to return by the time this article was originally published. The ‘Prince’ regrets the error.