Singapore undergrads in limbo over South Korean university stints
Students affected by suspension of exchange programmes worry about potential delay in graduation
Some Singapore undergrads may face the prospect of graduating six months late after their exchange programmes with universities in South Korea were abruptly suspended over the escalating coronavirus crisis.
The notice came on Sunday, the same day the country raised its virus alert to red, the highest level.
After being told to return home, some students in South Korea voiced their concerns on social media about a potential delay to their graduation.
They were expecting to begin the four-month exchange programme in various universities early next month.
Many South Korean universities had already delayed the start date by two weeks because of the outbreak.
As affected students are unable to clear the academic credits used on exchange, it is understood they must work with their universities to find credit-bearing internships or modules within the semester to try to graduate on time.
Some would have to cram their modules into the following semesters, or even add one more semester to their studies, delaying their graduation.
The New Paper understands 77 students from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) were assigned to South Korean universities this semester.
One of them, second-year public policy and global affairs student Lia Tan was in Seoul when she was notified on Sunday night that her exchange programme in Yonsei University had been cancelled.
As was the case with other NTU and National University of Singapore (NUS) students contacted by TNP, she was told to return to Singapore as soon as possible.
Miss Tan, 22, who was travelling with her family ahead of her studies, told TNP: "I was so angry when I received the news. I thought about the money I had spent, then about the time this would cost me."
She said she had already spent about $2,400 on travel, accommodation and insurance.
Miss Tan, who was due to graduate in 2022, said she must now reconsider her internship and module options for the coming semesters.
Four NTU communications students received the alert just as they were about to board their flight on Sunday night. They went home after retrieving their luggage.
PREPARED FOR THE WORST
One of them, Mr Dylan Ting, 23, told TNP he was prepared for the worst as Sogang University in Seoul had already postponed the start of school by two weeks.
Another NTU student, Mr Ng Zhen Yuan, 26, in Japan on a stopover holiday, has had to cancel his planned journey to Seoul tomorrow for his exchange programme at Sungkyunkwan University.
He said: "When the cases shot up, I was mentally prepared for the worst, but it is still so unreal after looking forward to this for so long."
He said an exchange students coordinator advised him over the phone his best option was to take leave of absence for the remainder of the semester.
Regarding his delayed graduation, Mr Ng said the situation does not affect him as much because he had planned to finish his academic units one semester earlier before graduating.
Still, he said: "One e-mail and my whole exchange experience was gone. But what NTU is doing is to keep us safe."
Singapore Management University, NUS and NTU told TNP in separate statements that they had suspended all semester exchanges to South Korea until further notice and are making alternative arrangements for affected students.
NTU and NUS said its schools were assisting affected students with options, including credit-bearing internships or modules they can take during the May to August holidays.
An NTU spokesman said it is looking into insurance claims and will advise students on their claims.