Penn State restricts University-affiliated student travel to South Korea

February 28, 2020

UPDATE (10:30 p.m., 02/28/2020): Penn State has placed Italy on the restricted list for University-affiliated student travel and is in the process of bringing students home. 


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State has placed South Korea on the restricted list for University-affiliated student travel in response to the evolving global outbreak of novel coronavirus. Faculty and staff travel to the country has also been restricted and would require approval from the provost or university risk officer. Penn State has canceled study abroad semester programs in South Korea for this spring and supported students on those programs in returning home. The Penn State Global Safety Office is continuing to monitor the situation in South Korea, but there is no planned University-affiliated travel to South Korea currently. 

Penn State also has canceled short-term faculty-led courses in both Italy and Japan over spring break due to increasing novel coronavirus cases in both countries where logistical disruptions would hinder the University’s ability to achieve the educational objectives of the programs.

Semester-long courses in Italy and Japan are continuing at this time, although Penn State Global Programs is asking its education abroad partners to be flexible with students and offer alternatives that would allow students to complete their coursework remotely, should they choose to return home. Additionally, in alignment with recommendations from global health agencies, Penn State is assisting students and faculty/staff with chronic health issues who are currently in Italy or Japan to return home, if they wish to do so. 

Previously, Penn State announced that all University-affiliated student travel to China is prohibited at this time, and faculty and staff are strongly discouraged from traveling to China. Like South Korea, any faculty or staff travel to China would require approval from the provost or the university risk officer.

The safety of all students, faculty and staff traveling internationally is Penn State’s highest priority, and the University has made these decisions with the health and well-being of student and employee travelers in mind. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a Level 3 “Avoid Nonessential Travel” warning for South Korea, and a Level 2 “Practice Enhanced Precautions” alert for both Italy and Japan.

Penn State Global Safety officials base their decision to restrict travel on many factors, including the latest recommendations, restrictions and advisories from the U.S. Department of State, the CDC, the World Health Organization, and the United HealthCare Global World Watch Intelligence Database, among other sources. As this is a complex and rapidly evolving situation, travel recommendations and restrictions may change quickly.   

Penn State has been in touch with all travelers currently abroad to share information on the coronavirus and what the University is doing to support them, and the University has been in direct contact with all travelers impacted by the latest cancellations and restrictions.

For the most up-to-date information, University guidance and resources about coronavirus, visit  

Last Updated February 28, 2020