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COVID-19 has dramatically reshaped the landscape of study abroad in the months since March, when all study abroad students were forced to come home. International travel has mostly been on pause since that time, but we now have a better idea of what travel during a pandemic might look like in coming months.
Restarting Study Abroad
Many students and families are excited to start traveling abroad once again. So what key factors is CGIS considering when deciding whether to run study abroad programs during the pandemic?
Programming holds to CGIS’ standards of academic integrity and intercultural engagement
Travel can be done ethically without an outsized risk of COVID transmission to the host country population
Laws, regulations, and immigration requirements allow for travel
Programs are modified to protect student health and safety
Financial risk for the university and student travelers is limited as much as possible
Changes to programs, such as cancellations, by our partners abroad
If CGIS cancels any or all of our programs this year, it will be because, in our judgment, it is not possible to run those programs while maintaining the health and safety, academic, and intercultural engagement standards that CGIS requires.
As responsible global citizens, we also consider how our programs impact other communities around the world, which is especially important taking into account the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is our recommendation that if students do travel abroad this coming summer, they do so through CGIS, as our programs have been vetted for academic integrity, health and safety, and more. However, in the event that CGIS cancels programs and students decide to assume this risk and responsibility on their own, CGIS cannot prevent students from enrolling directly through our partners.
Changes to Study Abroad
Will studying abroad look different this year in comparison to years past? Undoubtedly yes. Here are some ways in which things might be different:
Excursions, especially out of country, may be cancelled or altered
Experiential courses may operate differently
Limits on personal travel in out of host city and host country
Fewer course options available
Classes could switch to hybrid/remote learning during term
Quarantines required on arrival
Short-term visits from family/friends very unlikely
Public transit could be altered or not running
Restaurants/bars/museums/etc. may be closed
Stricter local laws on social distancing than in the U.S.
Changed program housing
Insurance & PPE Costs
The University of Michigan uses GeoBlue Health Insurance for all international travel. GeoBlue insurance will cover treatment for COVID-19 and testing for symptomatic individuals or those who have had close contact with someone who had COVID-19. However, the following are not covered under UM’s insurance:
Precautionary COVID tests
Expense of quarantine housing
Evacuation due to pandemic worsening in country (medical evacuation is covered)
Students’ programs may or may not cover COVID-19 tests prior to departure, so students should anticipate the potential for paying out of pocket for COVID-19 testing prior to departure or upon arrival in their host country.
In addition to testing funds, students should plan to purchase these PPE items prior to departure, if not already on hand:
Multiple cloth masks (3 minimum recommended)
Where to Get Tested
If you are in the Ann Arbor area, check out the Washtenaw County Health Department for compiled testing information. For testing without symptoms, check out Walgreens, RiteAid, and CVS for appointments. Testing at these three businesses is often free with insurance or federal assistance.
For students who live outside of Michigan, it is recommended to check your county and state’s health departments for information on how and where to get tested.
Academic Continuity Plans
Due to the uncertain nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, students should consult with their academic advisor about alternative academic plans should their study abroad program fall through.