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Education Abroad Office

Education Abroad COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

To make sure you find the right information that applies to you as you experience the full education abroad process, from preparing to depart to coming home, please click on the relevant header below.  To find more information about preparing to travel and monitoring the pandemic in your destination country, please visit our Health and Safety Abroad page.


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Preparing for Your Experience

The following questions provide information about choosing and preparing for your education abroad experience.

1. Is UofSC supporting all travel right now?  

No.  The Student International Travel Oversight Committee (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.  Generally, UofSC plans to support students participating in approved education abroad programs.  However, UofSC may decide that it cannot support travel to a particular country.  When this happens, UofSC strives to notify students as early in the process as possible, but COVID-19 conditions can change rapidly from place to place and sometimes necessitate quick decisions.

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. What do all the U.S. Department of State and CDC travel notices mean?

The United States Department of State (“DOS”) has been making frequent updates to the DoS Travel Advisory levels for many countries around the world.  DoS Travel Advisories consider COVID and non-COVID related risks.  The CDC has implemented a new COVID-19 Travel Health Notice system that considers COVID-related risks.

3. How does UofSC make decisions about supporting travel?

Prior to the pandemic, 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.  In 2020, DOS made a number of changes to its methodology to reflect COVID-related risks and to coordinate with the CDC COVID-19 Travel Health Notice system.  As a result, 80% of countries had a Level 4 Travel Advisory that made it difficult to understand the nuance of COVID-related risks between countries.  Accordingly, SITOC reevaluated UofSC’s strategy for assessing risk in education abroad program locations, particularly risk related to COVID-19.

UofSC continues 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:

  • Student's support system in-country, including if the student must quarantine or isolate
  • DOS Advisory level and information
  • CDC COVID-19 Travel Health Notice level and information
  • Recent case rates (daily new case rates per 100,000 people – 7-day rolling average)
  • Daily positivity rate
  • Vaccination rate
  • Hospital infrastructure and capacity
  • Whether U.S. students are allowed to enter
  • Commercial air availability
  • Quarantine and isolation procedures and protocols

4. What should I be mindful about as I prep for my departure to my destination country?

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.

We also suggest compiling your COVID-19 travel safety plan.  You can use this form to compile this important information.

As a contingency plan, it is also helpful to work with your academic advisor to enroll in courses at UofSC as an academic back-up plan.

5.  Where can I find information about what documentation I need to enter my destination country?

Entry requirements can change with little warning so it's important to continuously check.  The U.S. Embassy in your destination country tracks the entry requirements for U.S. passport holders.   You can find this information here.

6. 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.

7. Should I get vaccinated before I travel?

We are strongly recommending that all education abroad students receive the 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.  For example, several countries in Europe have recently announced that only vaccinated travelers from the U.S. will be admitted.  Similarly, being vaccinated may help you avoid mandatory and lengthy quarantines upon entry into many countries.  Finally, we are aware that many of our Global Partner programs now require their participants to be vaccinated.  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.

Also keep in mind that as of November 2021, countries are starting to consider the "expiration" of the vaccine.  For example, Italy recently announced that if you received your second dose more than a year ago, you are no longer considered fully vaccinated.  For this reason and depending on how the timing of your travel aligns with your initial vaccination, you may need to get a booster before travel.

8. 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 or trip interruption 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.

Even if you do not want a "Cancel for Any Reason" policy, we strongly recommend considering a more traditional trip interruption policy with a quarantine benefit.  A trip interuption policy may also be used to cover unexpected expenses, including those associated with having to extend your travel if you test positive for COVID and are not able to return to the United States as originally scheduled.

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

9. 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.

10. I cannot decide whether I want to study abroad right now.  Can you help me decide?

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, there is no shame in cancelling or deferring your education abroad application to a future term.    

During Your Experience

1. What can I expect during my education abroad program?

While it is difficult to predict the future, it is clear that an education abroad experience that takes place during a pandemic 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 at various times in your host city.  It is likely that large gatherings will be limited.  You may be expected to wear a mask in public, including on public transportation.  Above all, you will likely find that regulations and recommendations change over the course of your semester abroad based on case trends in your area.  

Students who are fully vaccinated and adhere to mitigation measures may find that living and studying abroad does not represent a significant shift in risk relative to the risk of living and studying at home.  While we believe a 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.   

2. Should I travel outside of my host country while I'm there?

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. 

3. What happens if COVID or other health and safety conditions deteroiate while I am abroad?

If COVID trends in your destination country drastically deteroriate while you are there--to the point that there is no hospital capacity, you are barely allowed out of your housing, borders are closing, etc-- your program or UofSC may make the decision that it is no longer safe or advisable for you to remain in your destination country.  UofSC understands the financial and academic impacts of cancelling a program once it has begun--rest assured that these decisions are taken seriously and made with your health and safety as the paramount priority.  If your program is cancelled while you are abroad, UofSC will work with your program to arrange a virtual option so you can complete your coursework.  Unfortunately, UofSC cannot refund students for program fees or any other expenses associated with a program being cancelled after it has begun.  {For a full overview of the financial, logistical, and academic considerations associated with traveling during a pandemic, please review the COVID-19 Waiver in your UofSC education abroad application.)  

That said, we expect that students studying abroad during a pandemic understand that COVID-19 case rates will likely go up and down over the course of your program, especially if you're there for a full semester.  When case rates are higher, your local regulations may change.  We expect you to follow these local regulations even as they change throughout your time abroad.

After Your Experience

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

As of 12/6/2021, all international travelers returning to the United States must show proof of a negative test result obtained within one day of your flight's departure to the United States.  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. 

2. I am participating in a short-term program and tested positive a few weeks/months ago.  What can I do if I cannot provide a negative test result because I am still showing up as 'positive' on my recent tests?

If a traveler has tested positive within 3 months of returning to the United States, they may show proof of recovery instead of a negative test result.  For example, if a student tested positive on March 1 and will return to the United States after their Maymester program on May 25, they may show proof of recovery to board their return flight to the United States instead of a negative test result.

University Health Services is available to provide proof of recovery for travelers.  Please instruct your travelers to follow these instructions:

  • Go to myhealthspace
  • Send a message to the Allergy, Immunization and Travel Clinic office ​​
  • Include your passport number in your request for proof of recovery ​​
  • The Travel Office will process the request and the travel waiver letter will then appear in your portal under “Letters”​​
  • Take this letter and your positive test result with you to show the airline when you check in for your return flight to the United States

3. I tested positive the day before I was supposed to return to the United States. What now?

Work with your on-site program staff to arrange housing and supplies for at least five days from the date you tested positive.  As of April 2022, U.S. airlines interpret the CDC guidance to mean that travelers who are not experiencing symptoms must isolate for at least five days from the date they tested positive before they are cleared to travel.  If you are in a country where the required isolation period is longer than five days, we recommend following this as local authorities may not allow a traveler to enter the airport if they have not complied with the local isolation requirements.

You should then open a case with CISI, UofSC's insurance provider.  CISI’s assistance provider, AXA, will provide a recovery letter that states the date you tested positive and on what date you are cleared for travel to the United States, generally five days from the date they tested positive (for example, a student who tested positive on March 12 was cleared to travel on March 17)

UofSC cannot pay for the extra expenses of remaining in your destination country for the extra isolation period.  This is why we strongly recommend a trip interruption insurance policy (see above for more advice).

This page was last updated on 4/21/2022.  

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