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

August 12, 2020

Below you will find substantive information on the status of study abroad and university-affiliated student international travel activities at KU.  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? 

What conditions must be met for KU to resume study abroad programs or university-affiliated international travel by students?

While efforts to stop the transmission of COVID-19 are seeing success, economic recovery and the normalization of international travel will take time.  The feasibility of resuming university-affiliated international travel by students will be assessed on a case-by-case basis after the following conditions are met:

  • A lifting of KU travel restrictions for non-essential international travel;
  • A lifting of KDHE restrictions on international travel;
  • A reduction in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) travel advisory to a Level 2 or lower AND in the U.S. Department of State (DOS) travel advisory to a level 3 or lower.  See University-Sponsored Travel to High-Risk Locations for additional information on university policies governing student international travel.
  • A resumption of regular operations across U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide;
  • A return of the airline industry to predictable flight services.

How is KU monitoring the COVID-19 situation worldwide?

To assess risks related to study abroad and student international travel, the university 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, assessments by university partners abroad, U.S. Embassy country-specific information, news outlets, and more. University updates can be found at www.protect.ku.edu

How will KU make decisions on future international travel activities?

COVID-19 will remain a source of risk in international travel for an undetermined amount of time.  However, international, national and regional experiences will not be uniform and therefore the risks associated with travel must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.  When making decisions about specific international travel activities, KU and Study Abroad & Global Engagement (SAGE) will consider information from a variety of resources (as cited above) as well as local conditions and program-specific factors, including:

  • Status of pandemic and public health capacities in transit & destination country(ies)
  • Travel restrictions, including entry requirements, visa services, restrictions on return to the U.S., etc.
  • Preparedness of partner institution or host organization to support students, including public availability of a strong health and safety plan, on-site orientation of students, academic contingency plans, testing, tracing, and isolation policies, staff support for international students, etc.
  • Student preparation, acknowledgement of risk, proof of comprehensive medical insurance, parental waiver (as applicable)

For study abroad programs, assuming preconditions have been achieved, SAGE will complete program-specific assessments approximately 60 days in advance of program departure.  Decisions on program continuity will be communicated directly by email to students, faculty directors and academic departments at that time. 

What decisions has KU made regarding Fall 2020 study abroad programs?

At this time, all Fall 2020 study abroad programs offered through KU have been suspended.

What decisions has KU made regarding Winter Break or Spring 2021 Study Abroad Programs?

The global COVID-19 pandemic is unpredictable but, at this time, study abroad programs scheduled for January 2021 and beyond are proceeding as planned.   Study Abroad & Global Engagement staff are very hopeful that we will be able to offer a robust portfolio of Winter Break and Spring semester programming to KU students across academic disciplines. 

Students who are interested in study abroad during the Winter Break or Spring semester should do 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).
  • 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.  
  • Do not purchase airfare, pay housing deposits, or make other financial commitments until you have been notified by Study Abroad & Global Engagement that you can move forward with your plans for study abroad.  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 Winter Break and Spring 2021 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 KU programs remain operational and you choose to withdraw from the program, you will be bound to the withdrawal policy outlined on the financial contract.

Students applying to programs administered outside of KU (direct enrollment programs, student-initiated programs, etc.) should speak with the program provider regarding their withdrawal policy for the Spring term as you will be subject to this policy and any associated deadlines.  Should the partner cancel your study abroad program, you will not be charged the KU Study Abroad Required Fee.  Should the program remain in operation and a student elect to withdraw from the program, the student will be subject to the withdrawal policies of both the provider and SAGE as outlined in the financial contracts.

Program information and applications are available online at www.studyabroad.ku.edu.  Applications are currently being accepted for both Winter Break and Spring programs.  Application deadlines vary by program.

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 are developing comprehensive plans for student health and safety as campuses reopen this Fall, 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.   For example:

  • Academic Experience: many programs and universities are implementing 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 will be limited. Country borders may be closed, travel restrictions or quarantine measures may remain 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 semester abroad may include a 2-week quarantine 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 2020-21 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 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 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 students must follow KU and KDHE recommendations and requirements.  At this time, this includes self-isolation for 14 days, personal health monitoring, and immediate notification to healthcare provider if symptoms develop. 

What opportunities exist for international engagement at KU if travel does not resume quickly?

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!


Spring 2021 programs now accepting applications !

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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
The Office of Study Abroad 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
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5th nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets: Colleges," Military Times