Skip to Content

Education Abroad Office

Education Abroad COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

The Education Abroad Office is currently supporting Summer 2021 students who are on-site and Fall 2021 students departing within the next several months.  To make sure you find the right information that applies to you or your student, please click on the relevant education abroad term below.

Your education abroad experience is coming to an end.  Although it has been unusual, we hope you have enjoyed it and found it worthwhile.  Please review the below questions regarding your return to the United States.

1. Will I need a negative test result when I return to the United States?

Yes.  In January 2021, the CDC implemented a requirement that all international travelers returning to the United States must show proof of a negative test result obtained no more than 3 days prior to your flight's departure. You may also show specific proof of recovery.  Please review the CDC page here to learn more about this requirement.  You should also be prepared to remain in your destination country if you do not test negative and are thus not able to return to the United States on your scheduled return date. You can find information about testing availability in your destination country on the U.S. Embassies’ COVID-19 Information Pages

2. Do I need to think about any other countries' entry requirements besides the United States?

Before departing your study abroad country, make sure you are prepared to meet the entry requirements of both your home country and any countries through which you are transiting.  Many countries require transit passengers to show proof of a negative PCR test even if they're not leaving the airport during the layover.  They might require that you have obtained a negative PCR test 48-72 hours prior to departure.  Think about this time window if have a flight with a layover.  You can find information on countries' entry requirements  in your destination and transit countries on the U.S. Embassies’ COVID-19 Information Pages.

3. What should I do when I return to the United States?

After you return to the United States, if you are vaccinated, please plan on following the CDC’s after-travel guidance and get tested 3-5 days after travel.  If your test is positive, isolate yourself.  If you are not vaccinated, get tested 3-5 days after travel and self-quarantine for 7 days after travel. 

In January 2021, the Student International Travel Oversight Committee made the decision to support longer-term summer programs that are less likely to be cancelled due to logistical challenges like quarantine requirements and entry restrictions.  SITOC also made the decision that UofSC could not support most faculty-led programming due to a number of challenges.  All Maymester and Summer 2021 applicants must submit a COVID-19 Travel Safety Plan for review and approval.

1. Is UofSC supporting summer travel to any country?

No.  SITOC, a committee of UofSC faculty and staff with broad experience in international travel and risk management, assesses a variety of factors when making decisions on where UofSC can support student travel.   Based on this assessment process, SITOC came to the difficult decision to cancel planned student summer travel to Costa Rica and Ecuador.

Additionally, there are many countries not currently admitting U.S. residents.  While some have been allowing exceptions for students, this is not a guarantee and entry restrictions can change at any time.  You must stay up-to-date with entry restrictions for your destination country up until your departure date.  

Finally, please remember the situation as it relates to COVID-19 remains fluid.  All students planning to travel in the near future must remain flexible as sudden changes may become necessary based on the situation in your destination country.  

2. I heard that the U.S. Department of State recently changed many of its Travel Advisories.  How is UofSC responding?

In April 2021, the United States Department of State (“DOS”) updated the Travel Advisory level for many countries around the world.  Nearly 80% of countries have now been given the highest DOS advisory level, ‘Level 4 - Do Not Travel’.   DOS stated it made these changes to better integrate the DOS advisory system with the U.S. Center for Diseases Control (“CDC”) advisory system.  In December 2020, the CDC implemented a new COVID-19 Travel Health Notice system.  The highest CDC COVID-19 Travel Health Notice is triggered when a country has reported more than 100 cumulative new cases per 100,000 people in the previous 28 days.  Given this threshold, most countries in the world have been under a CDC COVID-19 Level 4 Travel Health Notice since the system was implemented.  For context, based on the U.S. population size of approximately 330,000,000, the U.S. would reach Level 4 if we added 330,000 new cases in the previous 28 days.  As of April 2021, in the previous 28 days, the U.S. added approximately 1.7 million cases, well above the Level 4 threshold.   With the DOS changes, there is now coordination between the CDC’s advisory levels and the DOS advisory levels.  DOS has stated that the advisory changes reflect this shift in its methodology rather than a reassessment of risks in each location.

Prior to the DOS’s change in advisory methodology, UofSC generally did not support student travel to countries with a DOS Level 4.  Historically, a DOS Level 4 applied to a small number of countries based on extremely high crime rates, widespread civil unrest, unstable governments, serious security threats such as kidnapping or hostage taking, recent natural disasters, or frequent acts of terrorism.  With the DOS’s methodology change, the Student International Travel Oversight Committee has also reevaluated UofSC’s strategy for assessing risk in education abroad program locations, particularly risk related to COVID-19.

UofSC will continue to not support student travel to countries under a DOS Level 4 advisory because of crime, civil unrest, natural disasters, or terrorism.  To assess the risk related to COVID-19 in each country, rather than using the DOS advisory level as a sole measurement, UofSC will consider the following factors when determining where the university can support student travel:

  • DOS advisory level
  • CDC COVID-19 Travel Health Notice level
  • Recent case rates (daily new case rates per 100,000 people – 7-day rolling average)
  • Daily positivity rate
  • Vaccination rate
  • Number of hospital beds in use and available for COVID-19 patients
  • Whether U.S. students are allowed to enter
  • Commercial air availability

3. What should I be mindful about as I think about departing for my education abroad program?

You should stay up-to-date on the COVID-19 situation in your country continuously -- you can find resources for staying up-to-date on this page.  You should also pay close attention to your program's payment schedule and refund policies.  Please remember that UofSC cannot refund you for any fees you pay to your program.

4. Should I get vaccinated before I travel?

We are strongly recommending that all education abroad students receive a COVID-19 vaccine prior to travel.  Getting vaccinated helps mitigate the risk of contracting COVID and will help you be prepared for vaccine-related travel requirements that countries may begin to implement in the next few months.  Because of its widespread global acceptance, we particularly recommend getting the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine if possible.  As you think about when to schedule your vaccine, please remember you are not considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after your second Pfizer or Moderna dose.  You can find more information about how to obtain a vaccine through Student Health Services.

5. What do I need to know about insurance?  Do I need trip cancellation insurance?

UofSC education abroad students are required to be enrolled in UofSC's international emergency health insurance plan.  Our office enrolls you in this plan.  However, it is important to note that this insurance policy is for emergency medical and mental health expenses incurred while studying abroad.  It will cover medical treatment for COVID-19, but it is not a trip cancellation policy.

The Education Abroad Office recommends considering a “Interrupt for Any Reason” insurance plan or a “Cancel for Any Reason” insurance plan.  Here are some options from our insurance company, CISI.  Not all plans will cover all costs associated with a program – please contact CISI or your chosen insurance provider directly for confirmation of what expenses would be covered.

For more information about what UofSC's international emergency health insurance plan covers, please refer to our insurance provider's COVID-19 FAQ page.

6. What should I think about when booking my flight?

Maximizing flexibility when you purchase your plane ticket is helpful in case any unexpected circumstances arise that mean you need to change or cancel your flight.  When looking at possible flight paths, keep in mind that many countries will require that you have obtained a negative PCR test 48-72 hours prior to departure.  Think about this time window if you're booking a flight with a layover.  You should also be mindful of the entry requirements  in any country that you are transiting, as many countries require transit passengers to show proof of a negative PCR test even if they're not leaving the airport during the layover.  You can find information on countries' entry requirements  in your destination and transit countries on the U.S. Embassies’ COVID-19 Information Pages

7. What can I expect during my Summer 2021 education abroad program?

While it is difficult to predict the future, it is clear that a Summer 2021 education abroad experience will look quite different than in past years.  You mind find that as you begin your education abroad experience, you will need to quarantine for the time period specified by your destination country's government.  You might also have to show proof of a negative COVID test to gain entry into the country.   

Based on reports from our international partners, regardless of your destination, you may complete your coursework with a mix of in-person and online class meetings.  Indoor dining and other social activities may be restricted in your host city.  It is likely that large gatherings will be limited.  You will likely be expected to wear a mask in public, including on public transportation.  Additionally, you might find that regulations and recommendations change over the course of your semester abroad based on case trends in your area.  We do not recommend traveling outside of your destination country on weekends or school breaks, as you might face challenges in re-entering your host country or be required to quarantine again for a period of time.  You should be prepared to adapt to these new recommendations. 

While we believe a Summer 2021 student can succeed abroad and have a valuable experience with the appropriate on-site support and willingness to follow COVID-19 precautions, it is important to go into the experience with an understanding that circumstances related to the pandemic can change quickly and will require a significant amount of flexibility.   

If you are on the fence, we recommend that you think about your own tolerance for uncertainty and change.  It is normal to feel some mixture of nerves and excitement as your departure date nears, but if you are feeling a high amount of stress when you think about your experience abroad this summer, there is no shame in cancelling or deferring your education abroad application to a future term.    

8. Will I need a negative test result to gain entry into my destination country?  Will I need to quarantine?  What about when I return to the United States?

It is very likely that you will need to show proof of a negative result when you enter your destination country.  You must stay up-to-date on the requirements surrounding negative test proof, as each country as its own regulations about how recently you must have taken your test and what type of test is needed.   You can learn more about your destination country's entry and quarantine requirements on the U.S. Embassies’ COVID-19 Information Pages.

 In January 2021, the CDC implemented a requirement that all international travelers returning to the United States must show proof of a negative test result obtained no more than 3 days prior to your flight's departure. You may also show specific proof of recovery.  Please review the CDC page here to learn more about this requirement.  You should also be prepared to remain in your destination country if you do not test negative and are thus not able to return to the United States on your scheduled return date. You can find information about testing availability in your destination country on the U.S. Embassies’ COVID-19 Information Pages

9. What should I do when I return to the United States?

After you return to the United States, if you are vaccinated, please plan on following the CDC’s after-travel guidance and get tested 3-5 days after travel.  If your test is positive, isolate yourself.  If you are not vaccinated, get tested 3-5 days after travel and self-quarantine for 7 days after travel. 

The Student International Travel Oversight Committee and the Education Abroad Office are hoping Fall 2021 travel will look more "normal" than the last few terms, but please bear in mind the pandemic is ongoing and has varying levels of impact across the world.  All Fall 2021 and Academic Year 2021-2022 applicants must submit a COVID-19 Travel Safety Plan for review and approval.

1. Is UofSC supporting fall travel to any country?  

No.  SITOC, a committee of UofSC faculty and staff with broad experience in international travel and risk management, assesses a variety of factors when making decisions on where UofSC can support student travel.  First of all, please remember the situation as it relates to COVID-19 remains fluid.  All students planning to travel in the near future must remain flexible as sudden changes may become necessary based on the situation in your destination country.  Based on this assessment process and current conditions, SITOC is closely monitoring several countries to which students have applied to travel for the fall semester.  Please see Question #3 for more information.

Additionally, there are many countries not currently admitting U.S. residents.  While some have been allowing exceptions for students, this is not a guarantee and entry restrictions can change at any time.  You must stay up-to-date with entry restrictions for your destination country up until your departure date.  

2. I heard that the U.S. Department of State recently changed many of its Travel Advisories.  How is UofSC responding?

In April 2021, the United States Department of State (“DOS”) updated the Travel Advisory level for many countries around the world.  Nearly 80% of countries have now been given the highest DOS advisory level, ‘Level 4 - Do Not Travel’.   DOS stated it made these changes to better integrate the DOS advisory system with the U.S. Center for Diseases Control (“CDC”) advisory system.  In December 2020, the CDC implemented a new COVID-19 Travel Health Notice system.  The highest CDC COVID-19 Travel Health Notice is triggered when a country has reported more than 100 cumulative new cases per 100,000 people in the previous 28 days.  Given this threshold, most countries in the world have been under a CDC COVID-19 Level 4 Travel Health Notice since the system was implemented.  For context, based on the U.S. population size of approximately 330,000,000, the U.S. would reach Level 4 if we added 330,000 new cases in the previous 28 days.  As of April 2021, in the previous 28 days, the U.S. added approximately 1.7 million cases, well above the Level 4 threshold.   With the DOS changes, there is now coordination between the CDC’s advisory levels and the DOS advisory levels.  DOS has stated that the advisory changes reflect this shift in its methodology rather than a reassessment of risks in each location.

Prior to the DOS’s change in advisory methodology, UofSC generally did not support student travel to countries with a DOS Level 4.  Historically, a DOS Level 4 applied to a small number of countries based on extremely high crime rates, widespread civil unrest, unstable governments, serious security threats such as kidnapping or hostage taking, recent natural disasters, or frequent acts of terrorism.  With the DOS’s methodology change, the Student International Travel Oversight Committee has also reevaluated UofSC’s strategy for assessing risk in education abroad program locations, particularly risk related to COVID-19.

UofSC will continue to not support student travel to countries under a DOS Level 4 advisory because of crime, civil unrest, natural disasters, or terrorism.  To assess the risk related to COVID-19 in each country, rather than using the DOS advisory level as a sole measurement, UofSC will consider the following factors when determining where the university can support student travel:

  • DOS advisory level
  • CDC COVID-19 Travel Health Notice level
  • Recent case rates (daily new case rates per 100,000 people – 7-day rolling average)
  • Daily positivity rate
  • Vaccination rate
  • Number of hospital beds in use and available for COVID-19 patients
  • Whether U.S. students are allowed to enter
  • Commercial air availability

3. What countries is SITOC particularly concerned about? 

Based on current conditions, which can change quickly, SITOC is particularly concerned about the the case rates and burden on the healthcare infrastructure in the following countries to which students have applied to travel in the fall:

  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Ecuador
  • Costa Rica
  • Hungary

Please note SITOC closely monitors conditions in all countries where students have planned travel, and conditions in countries may improve or decline quickly.

4. My destination country is on the list of countries in Question #3.  When is UofSC planning to decide about my travel?

SITOC has two decision dates for fall travel based on students' departure dates.  Please see the decision dates below.

  • Argentina: June 15 - Travel Suspended
  • Brazil: June 15  - Travel Suspended
  • Chile: June 15 - Travel Suspended
  • Ecuador: June 15 - Travel Approved for students participating in USFQ GAIAS Program in Galapagos
  • Costa Rica: July 15 - Travel Approved for students in ISA program
  • Hungary: July 15 - Travel Approved

5. What should I be mindful about as I think about departing for my education abroad program?

You should stay up-to-date on the COVID-19 situation in your country continuously -- you can find resources for staying up-to-date on this page.  You should also pay close attention to your program's payment schedule and refund policies.  Please remember that UofSC cannot refund you for any fees you pay to your program.

As a contingency plan, it is also helpful to work with your academic advisor to enroll in fall courses at UofSC, which should be dropped in July when our office enrolls you in the study abroad placeholder course.  

6. Should I get vaccinated before I travel?

We are strongly recommending that all education abroad students receive a COVID-19 vaccine prior to travel.  Getting vaccinated helps mitigate the risk of contracting COVID and will help you be prepared for vaccine-related travel requirements that countries may begin to implement in the next few months.  Because of its widespread global acceptance, we particularly recommend getting the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine if possible.  As you think about when to schedule your vaccine, please remember you are not considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after your second Pfizer or Moderna dose.  You can find more information about how to obtain a vaccine through Student Health Services.

7. What do I need to know about insurance?  Do I need trip cancellation insurance?

UofSC education abroad students are required to be enrolled in UofSC's international emergency health insurance plan.  Our office enrolls you in this plan.  However, it is important to note that this insurance policy is for emergency medical and mental health expenses incurred while studying abroad.  It will cover medical treatment for COVID-19, but it is not a trip cancellation policy.

The Education Abroad Office recommends considering a “Interrupt for Any Reason” insurance plan or a “Cancel for Any Reason” insurance plan.  Here are some options from our insurance company, CISI.  Not all plans will cover all costs associated with a program – please contact CISI or your chosen insurance provider directly for confirmation of what expenses would be covered.

For more information about what UofSC's international emergency health insurance plan covers, please refer to our insurance provider's COVID-19 FAQ page.

8. What should I think about when booking my flight?

Maximizing  flexibility when you purchase your plane ticket is helpful in case any unexpected circumstances arise that mean you need to change or cancel your flight.  When looking at possible flight paths, keep in mind that many countries will require that you have obtained a negative PCR test 48-72 hours prior to departure.  Think about this time window if you're booking a flight with a layover.  You should also be mindful of the entry requirements  in any country that you are transiting, as many countries require transit passengers to show proof of a negative PCR test even if they're not leaving the airport during the layover.  You can find information on countries' entry requirements  in your destination and transit countries on the U.S. Embassies’ COVID-19 Information Pages

9. What can I expect during my Fall 2021 education abroad program?

While it is difficult to predict the future, it is clear that a Summer 2021 education abroad experience will look quite different than in past years.  You mind find that as you begin your education abroad experience, you will need to quarantine for the time period specified by your destination country's government.  You might also have to show proof of a negative COVID test to gain entry into the country.   

Based on reports from our international partners, regardless of your destination, you may complete your coursework with a mix of in-person and online class meetings.  Indoor dining and other social activities may be restricted in your host city.  It is likely that large gatherings will be limited.  You will likely be expected to wear a mask in public, including on public transportation.  Additionally, you might find that regulations and recommendations change over the course of your semester abroad based on case trends in your area.  We do not recommend traveling outside of your destination country on weekends or school breaks, as you might face challenges in re-entering your host country or be required to quarantine again for a period of time.  You should be prepared to adapt to these new recommendations. 

While we believe a Summer 2021 student can succeed abroad and have a valuable experience with the appropriate on-site support and willingness to follow COVID-19 precautions, it is important to go into the experience with an understanding that circumstances related to the pandemic can change quickly and will require a significant amount of flexibility.   

If you are on the fence, we recommend that you think about your own tolerance for uncertainty and change.  It is normal to feel some mixture of nerves and excitement as your departure date nears, but if you are feeling a high amount of stress when you think about your experience abroad this summer, there is no shame in cancelling or deferring your education abroad application to a future term.    

10. Will I need a negative test result to gain entry into my destination country? 

Will I need to quarantine? 

It is very likely that you will need to show proof of a negative result when you enter your destination country.  You must stay up-to-date on the requirements surrounding negative test proof, as each country as its own regulations about how recently you must have taken your test and what type of test is needed.   You can learn more about your destination country's entry and quarantine requirements on the U.S. Embassies’ COVID-19 Information Pages.

11. Will I need to test negative to return to the United States?  Will I need to quarantine?

While the CDC guidance may change by time you return from a fall program, currently, all international travelers returning to the United States must show proof of a negative test result obtained no more than 3 days prior to your flight's departure. You may also show specific proof of recovery.  Please review the CDC page here to learn more about this requirement.  You should also be prepared to remain in your destination country if you do not test negative and are thus not able to return to the United States on your scheduled return date. You can find information about testing availability in your destination country on the U.S. Embassies’ COVID-19 Information Pages

After you return to the United States, if you are vaccinated, please plan on following the CDC’s after-travel guidance and get tested 3-5 days after travel.  If your test is positive, isolate yourself.  If you are not vaccinated, get tested 3-5 days after travel and self-quarantine for 7 days after travel. 

This page was last updated on 7/15/2021.  


Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.

©