Study Abroad/Away and COVID-19 FAQ
- How does SUNY Geneseo assess the risk of a location?
SUNY Geneseo assesses the relative risk of a location by following U.S. State Department Travel Advisories, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Travel Health Notices, and World Health Organization (WHO) advice. Any elevation in advisory levels indicates a change in condition, prompting us to review the situation, assess impact on our students and staff, and evaluate whether we can maintain our programs.
Our assessment also includes information from reliable intelligence entities, including local staff, intelligence providers, the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), and we cross-reference with our fellow SUNY study abroad offices.
Sometimes warnings are particular to a region or a group of people, and we can safely and confidently mitigate the risk. When our review aligns with the government advisory and mitigation proves impossible or impractical, we decide to suspend a program. However, this assessment and decision making is superseded by decisions and advisement given by the State University of New York and Governor’s office.
Planning to go Abroad
- How can I best prepare to study abroad/away under the current circumstances?
You must understand that during this uncertain time, you should be prepared to navigate ambiguity and change guidelines independently. You and your family/emergency contact should consider many factors as you prepare to go abroad under the current circumstances, even as the COVID-19 situation improves.
First and foremost, review the various scenarios described below, such as needing to quarantine, navigating a COVID-19 outbreak, or contracting the virus, and develop your contingency plans. Consider finances in case of emergency, your health, the health of your family members, the healthcare system in your host country, the level of support on-site, your comfort level if you are unable to travel for a given period of time or told to shelter-in-place, and your comfort level in navigating flight changes or border restrictions. Your Study Abroad Office will be able to answer certain questions and assist you in discussing various scenarios and reviewing your risk tolerance. However, much of this decision will be about your personal preferences and comparing options for what is right for you.
Students are encouraged to purchase the supplemental trip cancellation and interruption plan insurance. Information about the plan offered by Crum and Forster can be found in the SUNY Trip Cancellation & Interruption Brochure
All students will be enrolled in the SUNY International Health Insurance policy through United HealthCare. The insurance policy covers most medical expenses and hospital care while abroad. Please make sure to review the coverage details on either the SUNY International Health Insurance Brochure or the or the Highlight Sheet for those traveling internationally, or the Highlight Sheet for those traveling within the United States.
- Do I need to be vaccinated in order to study abroad?
As of May 18, 2023, the COVID-19 vaccination is no longer mandated for participants on SUNY study abroad/away programs. COVID-19 vaccinations are strongly encouraged for students, along with other recommended vaccinations for your destination country. Please review the CDC Traveler's Health website for your destination country to learn more about required and recommended vaccinations and medications.
Host countries and institutions may require vaccinations and booster shots. While your sending institution’s study abroad office may be able to assist in determining host country and host institution requirements, it is ultimately your responsibility to have the correct documentation for travel.
- What should I pack for study abroad/away given COVID-19?
Students will be responsible for bringing their own appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) which meets health standards of the host country. Students must comply with the SUNY sending institution, the partner institution, and host country policies regarding mask wearing, social distancing, isolation, and quarantine. In addition to PPE, we recommend bringing a first aid kit which includes a thermometer, hand sanitizer, and appropriate medications, including an over-the-counter pain reliever and antihistamine.
- When should I book my flight?
Given the uncertainty of things due to COVID-19, you should wait to book any flights until directed to do so by your study abroad/away program advisor. SUNY requires student to purchase round trip tickets. The SUNY Geneseo Study Abroad Office recommends that you purchase changeable airfares where possible and fully review the airline’s fine print regarding canceling or changing a flight.
Students should have contingency funds planned as part of their overall program budget. Examples include funds for a separate quarantine room/location, if necessary, or unexpected travel occurrences.
- My study abroad country requires a negative COVID-19 test in order to enter. How do I coordinate this?
Be sure to carefully review the U.S. Embassy’s website of the country you will be visiting for information on their updated testing requirements. Pay particular attention to the type of COVID-19 test which is required to ensure you meet the testing requirement. Be sure to check the embassy’s website frequently in case there are any updates or changes to this testing requirement.
The embassy’s website will provide you with COVID-19 testing information for the country you will be visiting. There are also many websites that can help you find COVID-19 testing locations. One useful website is TestforTravel. Many airports also offer COVID-19 testing. Please check the airport’s website for testing information.
- What should I do if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in my host location?
You should remain informed on guidelines and proclamations set out by local and national governments in the location where you plan to study abroad. The Embassy website is a good resource for study abroad programs.
Be sure to follow all instructions and policies of your program and/or host institution in addition to local and national guidelines.
- What will SUNY and/or my sending institution do in the event of an outbreak of COVID-19?
Your sending institution (working with study abroad partners) will provide as much guidance and information as may be available at any given time. You must create and maintain contingency plans should your study abroad program be canceled (i.e. making plans for being on-campus the semester you are planning to go abroad).
- What will happen if my program is canceled prior to my departure or if I should choose to withdraw from that program due to a COVID-19 related reason?
If your program is canceled, to the extent possible, the sending institution and your home institution will work together to assist you in developing an academic plan for the term. Please understand that the ability to develop an academic contingency plan will be impacted by the timing of the program cancellation during the semester.
If you withdraw before the start of the program you will be responsible for paying any part of those costs that cannot be recovered by SUNY or that SUNY may still be required to pay on your behalf. If you withdraw from the program after its starting date, you should not expect to receive a refund of any program fees, differentials, or other charges and, depending on the rules of the host university, may not receive a refund of SUNY tuition. Please see the Agreement and Release for Study Abroad and the Faculty-Led Programs - Withdrawal and Financial Liability Information for more information on this policy. If you decide not to participate in your program due to COVID-19 related reasons, you should contact the sending institution’s Study Abroad Office and your academic advisor immediately to arrange an alternate plan for the semester, such as registering for classes on your home campus, if possible.
Note: If your semester abroad begins later than the start of the semester on your home campus, please be aware that it may be too late to register on your home campus. This may require you to take a semester off. You are also subject to the withdrawal policies of your sending and home campuses, as well as any refund/withdrawal policies for entities associated with your study abroad program (i.e. flight, housing, etc…).
- Can I make independent travel plans in advance?
We discourage making any independent travel plans in advance, especially if those plans are non-refundable. You should remain up to date with travel advisories (see resources below) and develop contingency options in the event that travel is made difficult or impossible due to COVID-19. SUNY does not monitor independent student travel and cannot assist you should your travels be disrupted or canceled due to COVID-19.
- What is expected of me while traveling abroad during the time of COVID-19?
You are expected to do thorough research into your destination’s travel and border restrictions, current COVID-19 pandemic protocols and policies, availability of healthcare, and quarantine requirements. As a student on a SUNY program, you represent not only the SUNY system but also your home country. As such, you are required to follow all local laws and regulations on site. As a study abroad student, you are a guest in your host country, and thus should respect the local laws, customs, and perceptions of COVID-19 as an opportunity to show respect and empathy, regardless of your personal feelings about the pandemic.
Students will be required to update their contact information after arrival and keep the SUNY sending institution informed of their current contact information at all times. Students are also expected to continue to check their home campus e-mail, as this is the official form of communication used by the SUNY Geneseo Study Abroad Office.
- What should I do if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in my host country?
You should follow guidelines and proclamations set out by local and national governments on site, in addition to guidance by the U.S. government, SUNY, and/or your sending institution’s Study Abroad Office. Such guidelines might include sheltering-in-place rather than returning home. Host institutions/programs will also be the best resource for determining next steps in coordination with your sending institution’s Study Abroad Office. You should be prepared to shelter-in-place for an extended period of time should there be an outbreak.
- What will SUNY and/or my sending institution do in the event of an outbreak of COVID-19?
Students participating in study abroad programs assume all risks associated with travel. In the case of an outbreak, SUNY and/or your sending institution (working with study abroad partners) will provide as much guidance and information as it has available. In the event that SUNY and/or your sending institution gives guidance to return home, to the extent possible, the SUNY sending institution will provide travel assistance for your return to the USA. If the host institution/program provides an online option for completion of coursework, you will be expected to complete those courses online. In the event that coursework cannot be completed remotely, SUNY and/or your sending institution’s Study Abroad Office will work with you to identify the options for completing your academic requirements.
SUNY and/or your sending institution will not evacuate students or refund any unrecoverable program costs if you are compelled to leave the host country or complete coursework remotely.
- What should I do if my host university/program switches from in-person or hybrid classes to fully remote learning due to an outbreak?
If you are already in the host country, you should continue to take and complete your courses online and follow the guidance provided by your local host university or program staff. If you choose to return to your home country as a result of this switch, that is your decision and at your expense.
- What if I have upcoming independent travel plans?
We encourage students, family members, and partner university colleagues to stay up-to-date with appropriate travel advisories, review their independent travel plans, and develop contingency options in the event that travel is made more difficult by health concerns.
The SUNY Geneseo Study Abroad Office does not monitor independent student travel. Students who are currently studying abroad should carefully consider independent travel plans and not visit locations under travel restrictions regarding a known virus "hotspot". Students should check with their local host university international office, the CDC, and the WHO prior to travel to reconfirm local conditions.
Students are strongly encouraged to inform their sending study abroad office of any independent travel plans during their study abroad program in the event that we may need to contact you.
Students traveling independently will be required to abide by any public health or safety measures imposed by local authorities. Students traveling independently should exercise standard hygiene practices and consult with local health care providers if they experience symptoms associated with COVID-19. They should also prepare for extended disruptions, including the potential need for self-isolation or quarantine, by bringing along passports, medications, insurance information, and other necessary personal items and documentation.
- Are there additional risks for students studying abroad independently?
During the COVID-19 outbreak, some locations have experienced rapidly changing conditions and serious disruptions, including public transportation curtailment, mandatory health screening, regional entry and exit prohibitions, mandatory quarantine, and other significantly impactful public health measures. Your sending institution will provide pre-departure information to assist students in making good choices to minimize risk; the risk assumed (health, safety, and academic/program) by traveling outside of their country of study is a student’s own. Students considering independent travel are strongly advised to research local conditions, anticipate potential complications that may impact their personal health, safety, or ability to complete their academic program, and prepare for possible long-term disruptions.
Students should be keenly aware that, whether or not they are exposed to the virus, the local response to the virus could dramatically alter their travel plans.
- What should I do if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in a location in which I am temporarily traveling?
If you are currently traveling in a location with an outbreak, you should monitor local and regional guidelines for returning to your host country. Upon your return, you should follow isolation and/or quarantine instructions from your host country and communicate with your host institution/program/faculty leader about participating in coursework remotely. We recommend packing a supply of disposable masks and any other items you have found helpful in the past.
- What should I do if I contract COVID-19 while abroad?
Please notify your sending institution’s Study Abroad Office. The SUNY International Health Insurance policy offered by United HealthCare covers most medical expenses and hospital care while abroad. Please make sure to review the coverage details under your United HealthCare (UHC) policy. In scenarios where it is deemed necessary by UHC, the insurance covers medical evacuation and repatriation. However, it is unlikely that an evacuation would be recommended if COVID-19 is diagnosed.
It is important to familiarize yourself with the local healthcare system and to know where to go in case you do get sick. Understand that it may not be possible for loved ones to visit or assist from abroad depending on travel restrictions at the time.
With limited exceptions, if you test positive for COVID-19, you must isolate, at minimum, for 5 consecutive days. CDC guidance is the minimum requirement for all study abroad program participants, but local country or municipal requirements may go above and beyond CDC guidance. Consult the US Department of State COVID-19 Embassy website for links to country-specific information.
Students are encouraged to purchase supplemental trip cancellation and interruption plan insurance. Information on the plan offered by Crum and Forester can be found in the SUNY Trip Cancellation & Interruption Brochure.
This insurance may help cover travel costs associated with a positive COVID-19 result including trip interruption and quarantine assistance. Please contact the sending institution’s study abroad office for coverage details any assistance with this insurance plan.
- What if I need to quarantine while abroad?
If a student has a medically mandated quarantine while abroad, due to a positive test result or prior travel, please notify the sending institution study abroad office and review the COVID-19 information and quarantine protocols through the local U.S. Embassy for the area in which you are studying. If you have not already done so, it is encouraged and advised to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) with the Department of State.
Please be advised that if a quarantine is required, the cost of the quarantine will be the student’s responsibility.
- How do I fulfill the COVID-19 test requirement to return to the USA?
According to the CDC website, "as of 12:01AM ET on June 12, 2022, CDC will no longer require air passengers traveling from a foreign country to the United States to show a negative COVID-19 viral test or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before they board their flight."
Please note that testing requirements may change frequently, so it is important to check the CDC website frequently.
- What if I test positive for COVID-19 and need to quarantine before returning to the U.S.?
If you test positive for COVID-19 and please contact the sending institution’s study abroad office immediately for assistance and to determine if you will need to quarantine before returning to the US. If you are on a faculty-led program, be sure to inform your program leaders immediately. If necessary, the Study Abroad Office and your program leaders will support you on making arrangements for your quarantine. If you are enrolled in the SUNY Trip Cancellation and Interruption Plan, we will also investigate whether or not you can use the Plan to help cover some of the costs associated with the quarantine.
- I am worried about the impact of quarantine/isolation or COVID-19 in general on my mental health while I am abroad. What mental health resources are available to me?
Please alert your sending institution regarding your concerns. Each study abroad program is going to have different resources available to you. Your program advisor can also assist you in reaching out to United HealthCare (including telehealth) to understand what mental health related costs will and won’t be covered while you are abroad. You may also have access to counseling services at your home campus. Please consult the student health center/office at your home campus.
1 Your “sending institution” is defined as the SUNY campus whose program you are studying abroad through, which may not necessarily be your home campus
Important Information All Students Must Know
SUNY study abroad offices are required to inform students participating in any SUNY study abroad programs of the following:
- After starting, if conditions warrant it, programs may be modified or ended early.
- Programs may be cancelled if conditions in the host country or region deteriorate significantly, and participants must be informed of cancellation or early termination conditions.
- Host requirements for quarantine (if any) and what associated costs there may be, if any.
- A post-arrival post return quarantine/isolation requirement may be introduced at any point before or during the program.
- Participants may be required by the administering campus to purchase supplemental insurance identified by SUNY that will help with potential unrecoverable expenses stemming from COVID disruptions.
- Participants are required to purchase round trip tickets. If they purchase highly restricted tickets, the participant may have difficulty evacuating a country if conditions deteriorate, in which case SUNY will be limited in how it can assist.
- Working with their academic advisors they should prepare an alternate academic plan in the event they cannot attend their chosen overseas program, e.g., be prepared to enroll in classes at the home institution
- Participants are required to update their contact information after arrival and keep the SUNY administering campus informed on their current contact information at all times
- Strict compliance with SUNY’s and local government or host institution risk mitigation requirements is a firm expectation of all participants, and that non-compliance may lead to program expulsion
- In the event of a rise in COVID cases at their host institution or in their host country they will be expected to follow the requirements of the host institution for isolation and the continuity of studies
- If they choose to return home due to an increase in COVID activity, they will do so at their own expense and they are expected to make arrangements with their host institution to finish their academic programs
- They should be prepared in the event they must return home due to the closure of their host institution, city, or country. In the event that evacuation is required and is not covered by the student’s supplemental insurance policy, the SUNY administering campus will provide administrative assistance in arranging exit travel.
- U.S. directives related to testing and travel may change, and participants are responsible for checking requirements prior to departure from the host country.
- They are required to return if directed to by SUNY.
- In the event of a rise in COVID activity there may be limits on commercial air travel that may restrict their travel options and they could be forced to remain in place until flights are available.
- Immigration restrictions (“travel bans”) may be imposed quickly by the United States. Although these circumstances can affect all travelers, non-US citizens without Resident Alien status should be advised that they are at the highest risk of not being readmitted to the United States, if an outbreak occurs while they are abroad. These risks should be assessed on a case-by-case basis in collaboration with applicants, and where appropriate, in consultation with international student advisors or the student’s immigration attorneys.
Resources for Study Abroad Students
How can I monitor updates and travel warnings related to COVID-19? You can follow U.S. government updates on travel safety by using the Department of State and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resources, which are assessed at least every 28 days. You should also check U.S. Embassy websites for your destination, as these sites may have more information specific to your program destination.
Other important resources for risk analysis and different perspectives:
Local health department guidelines
Private sector organization resources: airlines, travel agencies, etc.
Check your email from your SUNY administering campus and your host institution/program daily in case there are any updates.
Information about COVID-19 Vaccines.
Study Abroad in the Time of COVID-19 - Presentation by the SUNY Geneseo Study Abroad Office as part of the February 2021 Ready, Set, Study Abroad event