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Study Abroad and University-Affiliated Student International Travel During COVID-19

September 15, 2021

KU Study Abroad & Global Engagement (SAGE) excels in the offering of high-quality, affordable, and experience-rich international education programs to students.  We recognize the strong desire of our student body to take part in these programs and activities and the possible challenges of international travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below you will find information on the status of study abroad and university-affiliated student international travel activities at KU, as well as information on the factors influencing future decision-making.  Please contact us at studyabroad@ku.edu with any questions you might have.

What is the current status of study abroad and university-affiliated student international travel at KU? 

  • On April 19, the University of Kansas discontinued restrictions on university-affiliated travel that had been put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior approval by the Provost’s Office is no longer needed for KU-affiliated faculty and staff travel.  However, all travelers are must adhere to all applicable state and federal travel guidelines. If traveling internationally, faculty, staff and student travelers must also adhere to the University-sponsored Travel to High Risk Locations policy.  Under this policy, and due to elevated international risk levels, the majority of university-affiliated student international travel is permissible only if approved by the International Travel Review Committee (ITRC) following a comprehensive assessment of the program, planned travel activities, and public health context in the destination country(ies).  
  • Travel policies and processes are informed by current guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of State (DOS). 
  • International travel processes are also informed by KU policies governing student international travel, including the KU policy on University-Sponsored Travel to High-Risk Locations and University-Affiliated Student International Travel.
  • Travel policies do not apply to personal travel. However, students considering personal international travel are strongly encouraged to weigh the risks as articulated by the CDC and State Department.
  • Any person traveling to KU from abroad must follow CDCKU and KDHE recommendations and requirements.  At this time, this includes provision of a negative COVID-19 PCR test upon arrival to the United States, personal health monitoring after arrival, and immediate notification to your healthcare provider if symptoms develop. 
How is KU monitoring the COVID-19 situation worldwide?

To assess risks related to study abroad and student international travel, KU Study Abroad & Global Engagement (SAGE) uses a number of resources, including governmental agencies (U.S. Department of State, Center for Disease Control and Prevention), the World Health Organization, the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), professional health and security organizations (including AIG and AlertTraveler), assessments by university partners abroad, U.S. Embassy country-specific information, news outlets, and more.

Information on the KU-Lawrence campus' management of COVID-19 can be found at www.protect.ku.edu.

How is KU making decisions on student international travel activities?

When making decisions on specific international travel activities, KU and Study Abroad & Global Engagement (SAGE) considers information from a variety of resources (as cited above) as well as local conditions and program-specific factors, including:

  • International travel restrictions (open/closed borders, commercial flight availability, accessibility of U.S. embassies/consulates, host-country entry requirements, and considerations for return to the U.S.)
  • Public health conditions in the destination location (COVID-19 transmission rates, COVID-19 vaccination rates, quality of healthcare, hospital and ICU capacities, public health mandates, etc.)
  • Host institution preparedness (mitigation plans, academic contingency planning, student accommodations, student support services)
  • Student preparation, acknowledgement of risk, proof of comprehensive medical insurance, parental waiver (as applicable)

Although the U.S. State Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued Level 4 (Do Not Travel) or Level 3 (Reconsider Travel) advisories for many countries due to the prevalence of COVID-19 in these locations this does not automatically alter KU’s decision to conduct study abroad programs in a particular country.  Rather, under KU's Travel to High Risk Locations policy, formal education abroad activities in a country under a Level 3 or Level 4 travel advisory must be reviewed and approved by KU's International Travel Review Committee (ITRC) in advance of operation.  The ITRC meets regularly during the academic year.  Any changes in program status will be communicated to students immediately after review. 

What is the status of  fall 2021 and spring 2022 study abroad programs?

Study Abroad & Global Engagement is supporting student participation in study abroad programs to select destinations during the 2021-22 academic year.  Additional information for students and families is available here.

What is the status of winter break study abroad programs and how might programs be impacted by COVID-19?

While the risks associated with travel and Covid-19 will continue through the months ahead, with meaningful and practical application of risk mitigation strategies, SAGE is planning to offer a limited portfolio of on-site winter term study abroad programs, modified to incorporate best practicies in mitigating COVID-19 transmission and spread.  Examples of changes being made to select programs to support student health abroad include:

  • Student accommodations, to include a more limited use of host families or multi-occupancy hotel or dormitory rooms;
  • Program excursions, to included limited out-of-country or long-distance travel;
  • Hybrid learning or remote work could be employed in some locations to minimize the number of students in a classroom or at the work site on a daily basis;
  • Mandatory compliance with all local regulations and restrictions (masks, social distancing, gathering size, etc.)
  • Limitations on student independent travel on free days/weekends, as necessary due to local restrictions or recommendations.

Students who plan to study abroad during winter break should ensure they are moving through the steps below the following:  

  • Meet with your KU academic advisor and SAGE Program Manager to discuss your interest in study abroad, academic objectives, and program opportunities.  Apply to your preferred study abroad program(s) by the deadline indicated on the program website.
  • Following admission to the program, complete all post-acceptance paperwork as outlined in your JayhawksAbroad portal and submit the contract by the due date indicated. If you have concerns regarding submission of the contract, speak with your Program Manager.  
  • For those programs requiring review by the International Travel Review Committee (in a country under a State Department Level 3 or 4 travel advisory) do not purchase airfare or make other financial commitments until you have been notified by Study Abroad & Global Engagement that your program has been approved.  If you do choose to make financial commitments such as the purchase of airline tickets, we strongly suggest that you consider fully refundable airline tickets and/or trip cancellation insurance ("cancel for any reason" coverage) and verify that the policy will cover cancellation due to pandemic.  

The University of Kansas will make decisions on the operation of all future study abroad programs on a case-by-case basis approximately 60 days in advance of program departures. If SAGE makes any changes to your program, we will reach out to you directly via email. Please check your KU email account and JayhawksAbroad account regularly.

If KU determines that we cannot safely operate a program due to COVID-19 and SAGE cancels the program, you will not be charged the KU Required Fee or KU Program Fee and SAGE will void your financial contract.  If programs remain operational and you choose to withdraw from the program, you will be bound to the withdrawal policy outlined on the financial contract.

Program information and applications are available online at www.studyabroad.ku.edu.  

Am I required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to participate in study abroad?

The University of Kansas encourages all students participating in a study abroad program to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.  Vaccination against COVID-19 greatly reduces the risk of becoming severely ill with the virus and will go a long way toward ensuring student health while abroad.  Students planning to get vaccinated in advance of travel should complete the vaccine series not later than 15 days prior to departure. 

KU does not require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to participate in a study abroad program.  However, vaccination against COVID-19 may be required by foreign governments, partner institutions abroad, external program providers, or private entities (such as cultural sites, corporate hosts, event venues, etc.) engaged in the delivery of curricular or co-curricular content on study abroad programs.  If mandated by a third-party, KU students seeking to study abroad in an impacted program or destination should be prepared to comply with this requirement.

Study Abroad staff will advise all students on the requirements in place at each program location.  If a student has elected not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and a foreign government, partner institution, program sponsor or private entity requires this for the destination country or program, Study Abroad will work with the student to identify an alternative program for term in question.  However, please note that third-party regulations governing COVID-19 vaccination can change without warning at any time prior to departure or while abroad, and thus affect a student’s ability to travel or participate fully in a program or program activities.  Unvaccinated students are at heightened risk for disrupted travel or financial losses resulting from the sudden implementation of vaccination requirements by third-parties.

What can students expect if studying abroad during COVID-19?

Studying abroad during COVID-19 will be different!  Just as KU and universities across the United States have developed comprehensive plans for student health and safety as campuses reopened this year, partner universities abroad are modifying academic calendars, class schedules, course delivery, student accommodations and many other facets of academic life to support student health and well-being at their institutions.  A student’s experience abroad at this time will be different than what they may have originally imagined, though the increasing prevalence of vaccines is allowing many campuses to operate in a more normal capacity in fall 2021.  For example:

  • Academic Experience: programs and universities may implement a hybrid online/ in-person format for the upcoming semester. There may be changes to the academic format of your program and additional rules or restrictions may be put in place to govern the number of students and student spacing within the physical classroom.
  • Student Housing: the availability and type of on-campus housing may differ as campuses seek to reduce the number of students in confined quarters.  Students may need to exercise flexibility in the selection of housing or be prepared to find housing off-campus.
  • Independent Travel: independent travel outside of the city and/ or country in which you are studying/interning/conducting research may be limited. Country borders may be closed, travel restrictions or quarantine measures may be put in place, and there may be rapid changes to a country’s entry and exit requirements.  In addition, host institutions or program providers may have student behavior contracts in place limiting independent travel.
  • Program Excursions and Activities:  Excursions may be altered or canceled to adjust to current health and government recommendations and to support student health and well-being.
  • Quarantine: your time abroad may include a quarantine of 0-14 days upon arrival should this be required by local/regional/national governments, or a quarantine at a later time should you, another student, faculty or staff with whom you are a contact be exposed to the coronavirus.
What would happen if a KU study abroad program was cancelled prior to departure or while students are abroad?

If Study Abroad & Global Engagement makes a decision to cancel a program before the program’s official start date, students will receive a full refund of all fees paid directly to SAGE.  Given the uncertainty of the international travel environment in light of COVID-19, students are encouraged to maintain a back-up plan (enrollment at KU, housing, etc.) for the term of their study abroad program until they receive confirmation from SAGE that their program will be offered.

Should a program be suspended while students are on-site, SAGE will immediately inform students and their emergency contacts and students will be advised on the process for return home.  In this situation, SAGE works closely with the academic departments at KU and with our overseas partners to mitigate to the greatest extent possible the potential impact of program suspension on students’ academic progress.  Where possible, students will complete coursework remotely through the host institution.  In the event remote learning is not feasible, SAGE will work with the academic department to explore on-campus course options for KU students impacted by program suspension.

If a program is cancelled after its official start date, refunds will be provided for recoverable costs only and will vary depending on a number of factors. SAGE will only be able to refund recoverable costs paid directly to KU.  Students participating on programs administered by partner organizations will be required to work with that partner to determine any recoverable costs. 

What is the process for students engaging in university-affiliated international travel (not formal study abroad activities) during the 2021-22 academic year?

Graduate and undergraduate students engaging in all other university-affiliated international travel should register through the Student International Travel Registry  as per established policy.  Covered activities include: non-credit bearing travel organized or sponsored by a KU unit, faculty or staff member; travel supported with KU funding; international performances or athletic competitions; travel organized or sponsored by KU student organizations; and travel by students to meetings of academic and professional associations, including conferences.  International travel registration must be completed not later than 30 days prior to departure.

Students registering travel to locations with a Department of State travel advisory level 3 (undergraduates) or travel advisory level 4 (both graduates and undergraduates) will be required to secure approval through the KU International Travel Review Committee (ITRC) in advance of travel.  Students approved for travel to a DOS Level 3 or Level 4 destination will be required to sign the associated waiver and release of liability for travel to high-risk locations. Parent/guardian signature is required on this document for all undergraduate students.

I am traveling abroad for personal reasons.  Do I need to register this travel with KU?

It is strongly encouraged that all students traveling internationally for personal reasons register travel activities through the Student International Travel Registry.

I am returning to campus following international travel.  Do I need to self-isolate? 

Upon return from international travel, all individuals follow CDCKU and KDHE recommendations and requirements. This may include provision of a negative COVID-19 PCR test upon arrival to the United States, personal health monitoring, and immediate notification to your healthcare provider if symptoms develop. 

What opportunities exist for international engagement at KU for students unable or electing not to travel internationally at this time?

Study Abroad & Global Engagement, in collaboration with domestic and international partners, has created a number of Virtual Study and Internship Abroad programs.  Students can earn academic credit at KU, gain intercultural competence and career skills, and engage globally through these experiences while remaining local.  For more information, visit our websites at http://studyabroad.ku.edu/virtual-study-abroad and http://studyabroad.ku.edu/virtual-international-internships

There are myriad ways to gain global competencies while on the KU campus.  Opportunities such as the Global Awareness Program, Global Scholars program, Global Partners, foreign language and area studies, and more are excellent ways to engage your curiousity for the world!


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9th among public universities in the country for high quality, low cost study abroad programs — U.S. News & World Report
Longest-running exchange program in Western Hemisphere (begun in 1958) between KU and University of Costa Rica
18th in the nation among public universities for undergraduate participation in study abroad — Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange
28.1% of KU undergraduate students study abroad prior to graduation.
KU students who study abroad graduate in four years at twice the rate of students who do not study abroad
More than 160 study abroad programs in 75 countries, with instruction in all disciplines and 20+ languages
Students can study abroad for an academic year, semester, summer, spring break, or winter break
Programs include international study, internships, service, and research opportunities
Students participating in semester, academic year, and select summer programs fulfill Goal 4.2 of the KU Core curriculum
Students can fulfill major, minor, certificate, elective, and KU Core curriculum requirements abroad
Programs are available for students in every major at KU
Financial aid is applicable to study abroad programs, and most KU scholarships and grants can be applied to study abroad
Study Abroad & Global Engagement and many academic departments offer scholarships to qualified KU students
By studying abroad, students gain a global perspective on the world and strengthen their career opportunities
One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
—ALA
5th nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets: Colleges," Military Times