CIS Abroad Response to COVID-19. Updates here.

Global Alerts & Updates

Our Risk Management Team uses this section for periodic updates of world events – natural disasters, political situations, disease outbreaks – that are currently affecting or could affect our programming locations and the participants that are or will be on site.


 

CIS Abroad Return to Travel Plan

September 15, 2020

The Center for International Studies (CIS Abroad) is proactively preparing for the lifting of University, state, national and international travel restrictions. Maintaining duty of care responsibilities to our students, families, and institutional partners when travel restarts is of utmost importance. For this reason, we are developing protocol for future student travel impacted by COVID-19.

Students continue to contact CIS Abroad about opportunities for Fall 2020, January and Spring 2021 and beyond. In general, individual and program-related student travel planning typically starts 6-18 months prior to departure, underscoring the need for CIS Abroad’s early action on establishing a COVID-19 specific risk assessment framework.

To accomplish these goals, CIS Abroad has adapted and updated its current risk assessment framework to include a new COVID-19-specific protocol overseen by our Risk Management Team (RMT). As currently constituted, the RMT reviews all health and safety protocols, student incidents, and any travel to high-risk destinations. We follow the FORUM on Education Abroad, US Department of State, Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, Global Health Index, and US Overseas Security Advisory Council guidelines to identify and review destination risk.

CIS Abroad has chosen to allow students to participate in select international programming for January and Spring 2021 considering these Guidelines for Restarting International Programming. We believe narrowing our portfolio at this stage will ensure our ability to provide quality, consistent, and useful information to interested students before making financial or academic commitments.

The critical importance of mitigating three areas of risk for students, families and universities –  financial, academic and health & safety – is the foundation for the design and delivery of our programming. 

1. We are mitigating financial risk.

CIS Abroad has worked with international partners to create refund and withdrawal policies that limit the financial impact on students and families should COVID-19 change a student’s plan to travel.

  • 100% refund of total program costs 22 days prior to the start (arrival) date of the program*
  • 80% refund of total program costs 21-15 days prior to the start (arrival) date of the program
  • 50% refund of total program costs 14-8 days prior to the start (arrival) date of the program
  • 20% refund of total program costs 7-1 days prior to the start (arrival) date of the program
  • Academic continuity is guaranteed, see below.

*Update 10.6.20: Excluding quarantine upon arrival costs in Japan, Thailand, and South Korea. See #3 below for more information.

To insure yourself from additional loss, such as the loss of airfare, or any other non-recoverable loss after your program begins, we recommend purchasing trip protection insurance, aka CFAR/IFAR insurance.

2. We are mitigating academic risk.

CIS Abroad has carefully selected programs where there is zero to minimal academic risk.

  • If a student cannot travel to the country due to host country COVID-19 restrictions, remote academics are guaranteed. These may be synchronous or asynchronous, i.e. live or recorded.*
  • If a student arrives in-country and must quarantine or miss classes due to sickness, remote academics are guaranteed. These may be synchronous or asynchronous, i.e, live or recorded.
  • If a city or country goes on lockdown due to sickness, remote academics are guaranteed. These may be synchronous or asynchronous, i.e. live or recorded.

*Update 10.8.20. As of this date, we have officially opened our Czech Republic and Japan semester programs for Spring 2021.  These programs cannot offer academic continuity if students don’t arrive on-site. So, we are unable to mitigate this risk. Please proceed with these programs only if that is acceptable to you.

3. We are mitigating health & safety risk.

CIS Abroad has developed a site-specific risk management plan for every location so that health and safety protocols are monitored, managed and communicated throughout the semester.

We have developed a COVID Care Package included in our program fee for all Spring 2021 programming to make traveling and living in a host country easier on students, especially those first few weeks on-site:

  • COVID compliant airport pick-up and transfer to housing.
  • 14-day Quarantine housing fees upon entry, if quarantine is required when entering the country
  • Information and assistance on meal delivery, if quarantine is required when entering the country
  • Welcome packet of masks, hand sanitizer, and cleaning supplies
  • Single rooms in host families (Costa Rica only), student residences, or apartments.*
  • Access to accommodation if isolation is necessary due to positive COVID test or exposure; this housing may incur additional charges.
  • Access to COVID testing; this testing may be an additional charge.
  • Medical and accident insurance that covers COVID-related illness.
  • La Vida Local cultural activities and reflection that emphasize safe, local exploration geared to the specific context of being abroad at this special time.

*except for our Asia-Pacific programs where COVID compliant doubles are included. 

Note: For our programs in Florence, Italy and Honolulu, Hawai’i, local officials have advised the necessity of a 2 week quarantine will be confirmed closer to departure. In the case a quarantine is not required, the cost of quarantine housing will be fully refunded in the amounts below:

  • Florence, Italy: $860 (for 2 weeks of a downtown apartment, meals not included)
  • Honolulu, Hawai’i: $1,500 (for 2 weeks of a hotel, meals not included)

For our programs in Kyoto and Tokyo, Japan; Bangkok, Thailand; and Seoul, South Korea, host governments have advised that a 2 week quarantine upon arrival will likely be required and will be confirmed closer to departure. CIS Abroad will have to pay for the quarantine in advance in order for students to begin the visa process. Thus the costs of the quarantine will likely not be refundable. 

  • Kyoto and Tokyo, Japan: $2,000 (for 2 weeks at a hotel in the Kansai area for Semester in Kyoto students, or the Tokyo area for Semester in Tokyo students, we expect that some, and possibly most meals will be included) 
  • Seoul, South Korea: $1,400 ( for 2 weeks of a hotel, 3 meals per day included)
  • Bangkok, Thailand: $1,900 (for 2 weeks at a 3+ star hotel with pool, 3 meals per day included)

We recognize not every student, family, or university will allow travel this Spring, despite the risk mitigation outlined above.  We are committed to providing our innovative virtual programs to meet your internationalization goals.

Most sincerely, and in partnership,

Kris Holloway & the CIS Abroad Risk Management Team

Guidelines for Restarting International Programming

September 1, 2020

Dear Partners, 

We are proud to be a part of this amazing community of International Educators, committed to principles of diversity, action, learning, inclusion, engagement, and travel.  We eagerly await the day when we are regularly sending students abroad again.  We have been busy planning and preparing for what it will take to be successful as we restart our onsite international programming, and I’m writing to share with you some of the work that we started in June, and have continued to do.  

CIS Abroad’s goal is to provide a safe environment for students, interns, faculty, and all other members of our community, as well as to protect the host communities where we operate. The global COVID-19 situation is continuously evolving.  CIS Abroad’s Risk Management Team is meeting regularly to identify key indicators, programatic parameters, and guiding questions that will allow the organization to restart our programs around the world. Internally, at CIS Abroad, the creation of these guidelines enables us to make objective decisions regarding re-commencement or continued suspension of global programs.  Through transparent communication about these key decision-making factors we hope to create some clarity, for our US university partners, about when and how we will be able to begin sending students abroad again. Our plan is written with flexibility in mind, recognizing that there are likely still unknown variables that will need to be factored in as this dynamic situation continues to evolve.

CIS Abroad’s Risk Management Team has identified a three step process for restarting our programs around the world. 

Step 1 – It must be possible for US citizens to travel abroad, and return safely.  

  • Travel restrictions allow students to travel.
  • US citizens can legally enter the host country.
  • The US Embassy Abroad is open

Step 2 – There must be confidence that the host country is managing the COVID-19 pandemic in a way that would enable students to successfully complete their program.

Considerations and guiding questions:

  • The trends in numbers of new cases.
  • The relative ‘openness’ of the location.
  • The state of local healthcare.

Step 3 – The program design, delivery, and advising strategy must be reviewed and potentially altered to mitigate risk to students, faculty, the host community, and onsite staff. Examples are 

  • Adaptation to local rules and regulations concerning social distancing, mask wearing, contact tracing, and group size.
  • Changes to program accommodations as necessary.
  • Changes in policy regarding independent travel outside the program location.  
  • Safety protocols for illness within the program community.
  • Procedures for academic continuity in the event that there are COVID-19 pandemic program interruptions.

The CIS Abroad Risk Management Team will continue to meet regularly as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds to make program decisions, to share resources, to discuss new developments, and to identify the best course of action.  These are unprecedented times, however by following the guidance of host governments around the world, The US Department of State, The Center for Disease Control, The World Health Organization, NAFSA, the Forum on Education Abroad, our network of US universities, OSAC, and various other resources, we aim to restart our international programs in a careful, intentional way.  

We’re excited to re-engage and to relaunch our programs.  We know that there will be challenges as we navigate through these uncharted waters, and expect new questions to emerge as we move forward. However, we promise to work closely with our community to be transparent in our decision making, and to be the most supportive and responsive partner we can be.

Best Wishes,

Joe Debiec, CIS Abroad Vice President – International Operations

This letter was first published on June 11, and has been reviewed for accuracy.

COVID-19 Statement from CIS Abroad President

June 4, 2020

Dear partners, parents, and friends of the international education community,

We know the plans that students had for traveling abroad with us this year do not look like we expected. The world has changed in so many ways as have our lives. We are grateful for your confidence in us, and want to tell you what we’re doing to move forward as the world re-opens. 

Summer 2020 Programs

  • Due to health and safety concerns, we suspended all on-site operations this summer and are only offering virtual intern and virtual study options.

Fall 2020 Programs 

  • A select group of fall programs remain open, chosen for a combination of factors that lead to a successful experience abroad, with health and safety and academic integrity at the forefront. Please see our virtual internship options as well. You can compare virtual internship programs with this chart.

Spring 2021 Programs

  • We are in the process of determining which 2021 programs will be on offer and are looking at:
    • the flexibility and training of our international partner and our on-site staff
    • the health and safety standards of that particular country, city, and campus
    • the ability to offer various modalities of instructions and housing to accommodate last minute changes

This article in one of our industry publications gives a good overview of what we must consider moving forward. We are working with our Risk Management Team as well as experts across the country to ensure, to the best of our ability, a safe and robust return to international travel and study. 

CIS Abroad’s goal is to provide a safe environment for students, interns, faculty, and all other members of our community, as well as to protect the host communities where we operate. Our Risk Management Team has identified a three step process for restarting our programs around the world. Read the full statement here: Guidelines for Restarting International Programming.

We know finances are critical at this time. For students applying to programs, their CIS Abroad Program Enrollment Coordinator will ensure that program payment deadlines are clear so families can make a decision before non-recoverable payments need to be made. 

When we are able to venture abroad again, we know that travel will not be as it was six months or a year ago, but let’s look at this as an opportunity to experience life, the world, travel, and culture in new ways. A new chapter in life, in education, and in travel is coming, so let’s make the most of it as we work together to find the new normal.

Kris Holloway, President CIS Abroad

CIS Abroad Global Update

March 23, 2020

On March 19, the State Department issued a new Global Level 4 Health Advisory. The Level 4: Do Not Travel advisory “advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19.

“In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period,” the alert said. “Many countries are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders, and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice,” it said.

Due to the elevated travel advisory and the global pandemic, we have cancelled all programs and are urging all students to return to the U.S. as soon as possible.  

The majority of our students have already departed, or have flights scheduled. In locations, where commercial flights are still available, we have been in touch with students directly and urged them to act quickly and return to the U.S. so they don’t find themselves in a situation where it is not possible to return for some time. For students in countries with border closures, we are communicating with government officials to understand the evolving situation, and working around the clock to understand departure options. CIS Abroad students that have voluntarily chosen to withdraw and remain on site have also recived communication advising that they return to the US.

As students return home and settle into remote coursework options when possible, we are still strongly committed to our mission. We believe in the power of international education to create more resilient humans, stronger teams in the workplace, and more innovative problem solving. We believe that, at its best, living abroad expands our human community. We believe it creates a more connected and compassionate world. We remain boldly committed to that vision. See a message of solidarity to the field of international education from our leadership team. #strongertogether

U.S. State Department Global Level 4 Health Advisory

March 19, 2020

We are aware that the State Department issued a new Global Level 4 Health Advisory. The Level 4: Do Not Travel advisory” advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19.”

“In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period,” the alert said. “Many countries are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders, and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice,” it said.

While our top priority is always to support the health and safety of all participants, our hearts still hurt for the participants’ whose onsite experiences have been shortened.  At CIS Abroad, our lives were changed through international experiences. Every day, we strive to create a more connected and compassionate world, one student at a time. As our students return home, we will do our best to ensure academic continuity and hope our students will continue to grow as global citizens.

Program Cancellation in Thailand

CIS Abroad has cancelled spring programs in Thailand. The situation around the world relating to the spread of Coronavirus, and the COVID-19 Disease, is rapidly changing. In recent days, many countries including New Zealand and Australia, have increased their global alerts, and have called all of their citizens home. Many major airlines have seen the demand for travel drastically decrease in the past two weeks. This will result in far fewer flights and options to depart Thailand. Moves to close borders have become increasingly common to stop the spread of the virus . It is likely that Thailand will soon restrict movement within Thailand, and they may follow other countries by locking down their borders to protect their citizens. Due to this, and with great sadness and care, CIS Abroad is cancelling our programs in Thailand.  Students and their emergency contacts have been notified and student should work to return home by Monday, March 25th.

Program Cancellation in Australia

March 17, 2020

The situation around the world relating to the spread of Coronavirus, and the COVID-19 Disease, is rapidly changing. Today, the Australian government has raised their travel level to Level 4 (the highest level), advising all Australians to not travel overseas. This will result in far fewer flights and options to depart Australia. Due to this, and with great sadness and care, CIS Abroad is cancelling our programs in Australia. Students and their emergency contacts have been notified and should work to return home by Monday, March 23.

Program Cancellation in Argentina

March 16, 2020

The situation around the world, relating to the spread of Coronavirus, and the COVID-19 Disease is rapidly changing. We are in an unprecedented time, and it is with a heavy heart that we share we have made the very difficult decision to cancel the remainder of our spring study programs in Argentina, Ecuador and South Africa. We have been in touch with the students and their families for whom this decision impacts.

Program Cancellations in England, Scotland and Ireland

March 15, 2020

The below email was sent to all students and their emergency contacts who are enrolled in programs in the UK and Ireland for spring.

Dear Students & Families

The situation around the world, relating to the spread of Coronavirus, and the COVID-19 Disease is rapidly changing. The CDC raised its alert level to 3 “Avoid Non-Essential Travel” for mainland Europe on Friday, March 13th, and this alert now includes Ireland and the United Kingdom as of today, March 15th. We are in an unprecedented time and have made the very difficult decision to cancel the remainder of our Spring 2020 Europe programs in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. (CIS Abroad suspended its Czech Republic, France, Greece, and Spain programs on March 13th, and its Italy Programs on the 29th of February).

We know this is a difficult time for families; we, too, have had our own children’s schools and universities close and have had to bring colleagues and family home.

We are aware that some of you are already in the process of leaving and others have been asked to return by your home university.  For those of you who have remained, programs will be ending on Monday, March 23rd, so please book your flights to depart before this date. If you need to check out at a later date, for any reason, please coordinate with your on-site staff.  They will do everything they can to assist you. Once you have your return flight information, please fill out this form.

We anticipate you may have to go through additional screenings upon entry, and depending on when you return you may be redirected through one of 13 airports to undergo health screening. Please reference the CDC’s Travel Information and continue to check your flight details up until you depart for potential changes to your itinerary. If your flight is cancelled, please follow our suggestions below to find a new flight.

We are aware that it may be hard to get out on a flight and we are here to help.

Here are recommendations for rebooking a flight:

  • Take action as soon as possible – airlines and travel agents are experiencing a high volume of calls. You may need to wait on hold for an hour or more to speak with an agent. When possible, try to make changes online to expedite the process.
  • Make changes directly on your airline website, or call them directly, rather than changing your flight on a third party website such as Expedia.
  • Ask your airline if they are offering an updated flight change policy – many airlines are waiving extra fees and charges for flight changes, especially for travel to/from regions affected by Coronavirus.
  • Change your flight rather than cancelling it. This can possibly avoid fees.
  • General Safety Tips while traveling – wash your hands, stay away from people who are sick, etc. And cover your mouth if you cough or sneeze! Use your elbow or a tissue.

While we cannot change flights for you, we are happy to talk with you about rebooking flights. Email flightassist@cisabroad.com for assistance and someone from our team will be in touch as soon as possible to talk you through the process.

Many US universities have their own policies that students and families should follow and be aware of.  Some of our European universities have now closed their campuses and are discontinuing or suspending traditional classroom teaching for the time being. Institutions are putting plans in place to enable the delivery of course materials through online platforms at this time. We will communicate with you directly, and update our Academic Resources webpage, as we learn of these specifics.

Refunds are a common question once students return home. We will be attempting to recover any costs possible and pass those on to you. This will differ by program, but for the most part, all program funds (tuition & housing) have been committed abroad. We will be in touch if there are any recoverable costs, but our first priority is to help students return home safely and make sure online courses can be completed so academic credit transfers.

Though our program officially ends on March 23rd, we will ensure students have housing in all extenuating circumstances. Our site directors are on-site and on call; our student CISI health insurance stays intact for 30 days after you return. Again, please complete this short form once you have your return flight details.

We appreciate your understanding and willingness to help us as we work hard to support the health and safety of all participants, and our global community at large.

Sincerely,

The CIS Abroad Risk Management Team

Remote learning resources for students in canceled programs

March 13, 2020

We are actively working with all of our overseas partners on their remote learning opportunities, prioritizing the following countries: France, The Czech Republic, Spain and Greece, since we canceled their programs this week. Some of our overseas partners have announced that they are moving to an online learning platform temporarily. As we learn of these specifics, we will continue to update our Academic Resources page.