Washburn Student's Study Abroad Trip to Mexico Cut Short by Virus Outbreak

TOPEKA, Kan. - A Washburn University student is home from Mexico following an emergency flight out of the country to get away from the virus.

Traci Nigg flew out of Guanajato, Mexico Wednesday, which is where she lived with a Mexican family as part of a study abroad program through Washburn University. She took courses and participated in a soccer league.

Nigg had just a few weeks left when the H1N1 virus, then called Swine Flu, broke out across Mexico. "We just saw all these people wearing masks... and there were signs saying 'Sold Out of Anti-Bacterial and Masks'. Our (house) mom was like, 'just don't buy food off the street,' or, 'don't eat fruit,'" Nigg said.

Meantime, in Kansas, Nigg's advisor, Tina Williams, followed the story. She said it was only when she watched a Spanish language news program that she realized the severity of the situation in Mexico. It was then that she made contact with Nigg. "I knew we needed to get in touch with our student and make sure she was safe and let her decided if she wanted to return," Williams said.

Because she was the only Washburn student in the program at the time, Nigg decided to see how other students were reacting and follow their lead. Most decided they'd better fly out of Mexico while airports were still allowing travel from the country. She said when she got a flight out of Guanajato, the Mexico City airport had already cancelled all flights.

Nigg returned home late Wednesday, April 29th. She said she noticed that while her other flights to and from Mexico for the program were not full, this time her plane was packed and there were many people milling about the airports.

Nigg flew into Houston and said when passengers went through customs they were asked if they had Swine Flu symptoms. They were handed a sheet with information about the flu virus.

Traci said coming back to America, she's surprised at how people here are reacting versus those in Mexico.

"While I was in Mexico we received text messages on Mexican phones saying there were four areas of concern - London, Mexico City, New York and Kansas," Nigg said. "So I thought people here would be reacting more, but they're not. They're just going about things as normal."

Washburn University has suspended its study abroad programs in Mexico until it determines things in the country are safe for students to go to the country. The University of Kansas cancelled a trip that was scheduled to begin May 15.


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