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Coronavirus halts study abroad programs while demand spikes for online English teachers

Both Sac State and UC Davis study abroad programs are canceling classes in South Korea and China until further notice.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — For businesses and programs with an international reach, the coronavirus has affected operations in some unexpected ways.

The University of California Education Abroad Program, has canceled all spring programs in China, according to UC Davis spokesperson Julia Ann Easley. The cancellation affects three UC Davis students who were waiting to start their program.

Easley said UC Davis has a study abroad program in China that's scheduled to begin in late June. 

"The university will evaluate the situation before enrollment closes in April, so that if the program is canceled, students have time to enroll in other programs," said Easley in an email to ABC10.

There are a total of 14 UC Davis students enrolled in UC Education Abroad Programs in Italy and Seoul, South Korea, where classes have been postponed until March 15, Easley said. None of the students in these countries are located in places near currently reported coronavirus outbreaks.

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"UC Davis and the University of California System continue to monitor all aspects of the coronavirus outbreak. We provide updated guidelines and information issued by the State Department to faculty, staff and student travelers," she said.

California State University, Sacramento took it one step further with its students in South Korea, suspending all programs in the country. University officials said they are working to get students back to the U.S. immediately.

The coronavirus outbreak is also affecting Teach Away, an international teacher recruitment agency.

"Our local staff tell us schools in China have delayed the opening time to March, and some universities even delayed to April," said David Frey, CEO of Teach Away. "They are using online platforms such as built-ins, Classin, Zoom and pre-recorded videos to teach students for the first six weeks of the semester."

Frey said Chinese New Year is typically a slow time for recruitment, but in January the company saw a 46% increase in applications for online teaching jobs compared to the previous three months.

He said some of their online partners like VIP Kids, iTutorGroup and DadaABC are actually offering free online tutoring to students affected in China.

"Americans are recognizing that they can teach from home as they wait to see what’s going on with the coronavirus abroad," he said.

Frey said international schools in China are recruiting people who can teach abroad for the beginning of the school year, which starts in September. 

"They expect the outbreak to be contained by then," he said. 

If he had to guess, Frey said recruitment may be a bit slow.

"We're always paying attention and following things very closely. We’re not quite sure where this is going to end up, but we encourage all of our teachers to take precautions," he said.

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