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UWM study abroad student returns to U.S. after coronavirus outbreak spread

Posted at 10:18 PM, Feb 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-28 23:18:26-05

MILWAUKEE — One of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee students is back in the Midwest after the spread of the coronavirus ended his study abroad program in South Korea. UWM announced it was ending the program on Monday. Jimmy Onela is one of the students affected. He said the news was heartbreaking.

"I kind of started crying when I heard," said Onela, 20.

Onela said when he was first heard of the coronavirus outbreak spreading in South Korea he did not take it seriously.

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Photo Jimmy Onela took of a hotel from he was staying in at in South Korea.

"I wasn't too phased by it. But then signs were coming up where you were required to wear masks in certain areas," said Onela. "If I went into a mall like I would literally have to walk through a camera to see if I have a fever or something. Even at some subway stops when you get out and exit there was like a tent for corona screenings."

Onela said when UWM first announced the end to the program he considered staying in Seoul at Korea University and finishing the semester. But the rising number of patients and checkpoints all over the city made him reconsider.

"It was kind of a wake-up call," said Onela.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control said Friday there are now 2,022 people infected in the country. Earlier in the day, 256 new cases were reported. It made Onela grateful that UWM told him he should leave when they did.

"I'm glad that I am here. I'm glad I'm safe. I am glad I didn't gamble my life away," said Onela.

Onela landed at Chicago O'Hare Airport Friday afternoon. He is staying in Chicago to spend time with some family before returning to UWM and finishing the semester.

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