Navigating COVID-19 Abroad
COVID-19 has created unprecedented circumstances for all of us. Despite the uncertainties we face, studying abroad remains a valuable part of any student's educational experience.
During this time when much is still unknown, there are steps that you can take to maintain momentum in planning your study abroad experience.
We do not know what the future will hold. But we know it will come. And when it does you’ll want your study abroad plans to still be on track.
We are #OneVCU. And we are here to help. Click here to stay up to date with COVID related study abroad decisions.
Beginning August 15, 2021, study abroad programs to U.S. Department of State Level 1 and 2 countries are permitted. Requests from students interested in participating in study abroad programs in U.S. Department of State Level 3 countries for whom education abroad is deemed essential to fulfilling academic degree requirements and/or whose participation is sponsored by nationally-competitive awards will be considered by petition to the International Travel Advisory Council. A final decision will be made by the provost and senior vice president for academic affairs or the senior vice president for health sciences and CEO of VCU Health System. Students should work with GEO to petition and register their travel if approved. University-sponsored travel to U.S. Department of State Level 4 countries is not permitted.
Virginia Commonwealth University requires all students traveling outside the U.S. for university-sponsored* travel to enroll in VCU's international health and emergency assistance insurance plan with Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI). This insurance plan covers health care costs incurred during university-sponsored international travel and provides emergency assistance, including medical or security evacuations and repatriation of remains. *University-sponsored travel includes: studying and interning abroad, research or service-learning abroad, and other travel connected to VCU related activities or that are funded by VCU.
Curious to know more about CISI benefits regarding COVID-19 like coverage for testing, support, illness, risk, evacuation, and more? Read answers to frequently asked CISI COVID-19 questions.
Yes, per CDC guidelines, individuals who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 should refrain from all university-sponsored international travel, including, but not limited to, study abroad and international exchange programs.
Various arrival and departure travel health requirements including testing, quarantining, proof of vaccination, and more;
Host institution coursework modalities and academic contingencies (i.e. plans to move from in-person to remote learning if/when necessary to do so);
Local and/or institutional restrictions and public health rules on distancing, masking, testing, and more;
Travel restrictions within host country and to other countries
Different financial commitment and reimbursement policies
VCU's Global Education Office and International Travel Advisory Committee (ITAC) monitor resources such as U.S. Department of State travel advisories and CDC travel health notices and will contact study abroad participants using their VCU email addresses if and when there are changes in travel risk for destinations abroad that will impact the ability to offer or continue programs in those countries;
Please refer to the FAQs on the ITAC page for more information on changes in U.S. Department of State travel advisories and university sponsored travel restrictions
Students are strongly encouraged to self-enroll in the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) and to regularly monitor messages from their destination's US embassies before and during international travel. For more safe travel information, please visit the Health & Safety section of our website.
Review your program’s refund/cancellation policies very closely so that you are aware of dates, deadlines, your responsibilities, and protocols for program cancellation;
Carefully monitor your destination’s travel advisory levels with the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
Consider investing in Cancel For Any Reason or Interrupt For Any Reason (CFAR/IFAR) insurance coverage. We encourage you to research options through CISI’s partnership with Travel Insured International. This is not a VCU requirement or sponsored policy but is available to you if you’re interested in additional coverage for an (sometimes significant) additional cost;
Discuss creating a financial plan with your Education Abroad Adviser.
As soon as you know you want to study abroad, we recommend that you begin the passport application or renewal process. Ideally this will be about six months prior to departure to allow time for your application to be processed and for you to apply for a visa if needed. Learn more about passport and visa processes at this website. As of summer/fall 2021, the U.S. Department of State indicates that the average processing time for new passport applications is currently 18 weeks (12 weeks for expedited service).
You should regularly (at least once a week) monitor the U.S. Department of State travel advisory level of the country in which you hope to study abroad. If the country drops to a Level 3, be prepared to complete both the application for your program and once accepted to your program, the GEO petition for study abroad.
It is not advisable to commit to a study abroad program in a level 4 destination, but if you decide to do so, you should wait until as close to the deadline as possible, and carefully consider whether to pay any non-refundable fees or deposits if your host country remains at a level 4. If there is no cost to apply to your program, then you should be aware of the date(s) by which you would need to commit, withdraw, or be held financially liable for program costs. Carefully weigh the financial liability you are willing to incur amidst the uncertainty of travel to a Level 4 country.
VCU short-term programs, including VCU faculty-led programs and International Summer Institutes, may be offered in level 4 countries in the hope that the travel advisory level may decrease by the time the program is confirmed. If the destination has not decreased to a 3 or below by the program's decision date, then the program will be cancelled, and any application fees or deposits will be refunded at that time.
Contact the program sponsor to inquire about their tripwires for cancelling the program, as well as their contingency plans.
Consider if you are able to defer study abroad to a later term once the travel advisory level has decreased. Not only would the study abroad application and preparation process likely be easier but your experience abroad would likely also have more opportunities and be less restricted by lockdowns, border closures, and other effects of studying in a high-risk destination. Be sure to discuss your curriculum plan with your academic adviser and see where you might have the flexibility to adjust your academic schedule.
Given the uncertainty in global travel, it is important for you to have a contingency plan. Be sure to register for VCU classes during your normal registration period, and plan to drop them by the end of VCU's add/drop period if you are able to study abroad.
If you decide to participate in a program in a level 4 destination without VCU’s support, you will not be eligible to utilize any financial aid or scholarships, you will not maintain enrollment at VCU, and courses taken abroad may not be approved for transfer. VCU has taken the stance of restricting travel in the interest of the health and safety of both VCU travelers and local host communities. If you choose to travel to a Level 4 country, fewer resources may be available to you as a U.S. citizen should an emergency situation arise.
Please keep your study abroad and academic advisers aware of your plans to study abroad, as well as any changes to those plans.
Complete Rams Abroad 101
Take your first step to studying abroad. Completing the Rams Abroad 101 video series is your first step in the study abroad process. Here, you will find tips for getting started, choosing a program, finding funding, and more.
Connect virtually with an adviser
We’re still here to help. After you have completed Rams Abroad 101, connect with a study abroad adviser, to further discuss your options. Check out this encouraging video from our study abroad advisers.
|Where would you like to go?|
|Australia, New Zealand and Oceania||Europe (except UK, Ireland & France)|
|France and French-speaking locations||Latin America & Caribbean|
|Middle East||Multi-country programs|
|UK and Ireland||Russia|
|Schedule a virtual advising appointment|
Explore funding options
The cost of studying abroad varies depending on the program. Work with your Education Abroad adviser to find a program that fits your financial needs and budget. There are many affordable study abroad programs and your federal financial aid, institutional scholarships and more can be applied to help you fund your experience abroad.
Right now, you can start exploring funding options, like scholarships and grants that are available for study abroad. Make note of deadlines and start developing any necessary essays. Here are some resources to get you started.
Think about timing
- It is never too early to be thinking about studying abroad for future terms. View or download the full accessible version of How to Become a Ram Abroad infographic. The time frames presented are suggestions. Students can speak with an adviser to get started anytime.
- Due to the dynamic and uncertain nature of the ongoing global pandemic, VCU does not have a definite time frame for when study abroad will resume. Decisions are being made on a semesterly basis. At this time, study abroad has been cancelled through May 2021. Decisions on the status of summer 2021 will be made by mid-March and decisions on fall 2021 will be made by mid-June.
- Stay up to date on VCU's travel guidance at One Together.
Get started now
When planning your study abroad, you will need to gather some information. Now is the perfect time to start exploring your options!
- Research countries and programs
- Talk with your academic adviser about the best time in your academic schedule to go abroad and what courses would be good to take
- Talk to returnees about their experience abroad. Ask an Education Abroad adviser to put you in touch with a returnee by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Think outside the box
Virtual internships and classes can provide you with a unique and cost effective opportunity to explore global programs from the comfort of your home. While there is no substitute for an in-country experience, virtual programs offer a way to explore another culture, get specific internship experience, take classes not offered at VCU and gain invaluable intercultural, professional and academic skills. You can add a virtual internship or course to what you're already planning to take at VCU.