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 able to send 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 have done thus far.
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 has resumed functions.
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.
Joe Debiec, CIS Abroad Vice President – International Operations