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MISTI declares China internship moratorium

Twenty-seven MIT students who planned to spend the summer doing internships in China and Singapore are scrambling to come up with alternatives as a result of the SARS outbreak in China.

The MIT International Science and Technology Intitiatives (MISTI) program declared a moratorium on travel to China in early April, following advisories from the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization to curtail travel to SARS-affected countries. Dr. Howard Heller, an infectious disease specialist in MIT Medical, met with the students to discuss the situation.

The 27 students have been referred for possible internships to the other MISTI programs in Japan, Germany, France and Italy, but international summer job placements are difficult to arrange and confirm at this late date. MISTI-China has also asked the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) for special funding consideration for these students.

"The students are naturally very disappointed about the SARS situation," said Sean Gilbert, program coordinator of the MISTI-China program, noting that they had taken Chinese language and culture courses to prepare for their internships. "Their families, of course, are relieved that we won't send their children to China or Singapore at this time."

In recent years, China has become a popular internship destination for MIT students. "For some students, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience China firsthand and attempt to develop a China-related career," Gilbert said.

MISTI officials and students scheduled for fall internships hope the SARS outbreak is under control in China by late summer, when those interns are scheduled to depart.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 30, 2003.

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