COVID-19 and Study Abroad: What Institutions Are Doing

COVID-19 and Study Abroad
Reading Time: 2 minutes

As Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to affect the world and grind international travel to a virtual halt, U.S. students abroad—and students considering travel abroad programs—are feeling the effect. Now, with programs being cancelled and students being recalled back to the States, how are institutions reacting to the “new normal” of international gridlock, and what are their plans for the future?

Read on as we explore what’s been happening and how institutions are shifting their study abroad programs as a result of the current pandemic.

Initial Outbreak Response

“We’re watching the world shrink,” says Martha Merritt, dean of international education at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance in response to the global outbreak of Coronavirus—advising all higher education institutions to postpone or cancel upcoming exchange programs. Back in March, the CDC also asked institutions to consider urging students and instructors abroad to return to their home countries.

How are Institutions Coping with Change?

According to one report by the International Association of Universities, higher ed institutions across the country are focusing on several key shifts to address the impact of COVID-19 for students and faculty abroad:

Virtual Communication:

As you’ve no doubt experienced, higher education has rapidly shifted to remote learning since March. What you may not know, however, is that institutions are exploring the concept of remote-exchange programs to continue offering an international experience to students.

New Immigration Applications and Extensions:

As students continue to repatriate, the U.S. is allowing online submissions of applications and immigration documentation. Additionally, many institutions are extending their applications for summer and fall 2020 semesters—while providing alternatives to defer enrollment into 2021.

Canceling Current Programs:

With the pandemic leaving students, instructors and faculty unsure of fall 2020 openings, study abroad programs are being put on hold for the foreseeable future. Institutions across the country are cancelling their current study abroad programs, recalling students still overseas and cancelling any immediate programs in the future.

CDC Instructions for Higher Education Institutions

The CDC has published the Interim Guidance for Administrators of U.S. Institutions of Higher Education, which aims to provide administrators with clear guidance to help students, instructors and faculty address the changes introduced by COVID-19.

For foreign nationals who have visited one of these countries in the past 14 days, entrance back into the United States is now prohibited:

  • China
  • Iran
  • European Schengen Area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City)
  • United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland)
  • Republic of Ireland

“It’s one thing to be in a foreign country studying abroad—you know you’re coming home at some point. It’s just a completely different feeling when you realize you can’t get out of that country. You’re thousands of miles away from home, and there seems to be no hope for getting out anytime soon,” said Will Rayner, student at the University of South Alabama.

Resources to Help Institutions and Instructors Address Challenges for Students Abroad

Looking for Dedicated Assistance for Remote Learning?

Visit our COVID-19 support page, packed with resources, guides and tips to help students, instructors and institutions address the challenges of remote learning as quickly and effectively as possible.