2021 Updates and FAQs

The AIFS Abroad Team continues to work with our onsite staff, insurance and global risk management resources and partner universities abroad to implement and modify a flexible plan which reflects ever-changing realities of running a program in a pandemic. We have learned a lot since the onset of COVID-19 allowing us to successfully have students on an international program. We continue to gather information from multiple sources below and will continue to make well-informed and timely decisions. 

Our planning for each of our programs takes into account factors such as: 

  • The current level of U.S. State Department travel advisory for each country   
  • Each individual country’s current entry status and where necessary their quarantine rules
  • World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control guidance  
  • Current levels of COVID-19 transmission within that country / region  
  • Local government rules regarding social distancing, the use of PPE and gatherings  
  • Each on-location partner university’s plan for the delivery of course onsite and their ability to switch to a virtual delivery model should the need arise
  • Housing options in each site and related COVID-19 planning  
  • The delivery of support services including orientation, social and cultural programming

As an organization we strive to be clear and constant with our communication so that students, parents and our university colleagues feel confident in AIFS Abroad programming.

AIFS Abroad offers programs in many locations around the globe. In all of these locations we will be working closely with our local representatives, local authorities, consular partners and university partners to make sure we are following the most up to date guidelines and procedures for COVID-19. Below you'll find answers to some key questions for our health and safety review and practices.

Vaccinations 

As vaccinations continue around the world, evidence collected by a variety of health organizations indicates that fully vaccinated people are less likely to be infected without showing symptoms and therefore potentially less likely to transmit COVID-19 to others.  

In an effort to keep our participants, staff, and host communities safe, AIFS Abroad will be requiring vaccinations for all Fall 2021 participants and beyond. We will continue to monitor the information from our host countries and advise participants as entry protocols change. Recent news suggests that some countries may be opening to fully vaccinated individuals to travel as tourists this summer, removing the need for quarantine on arrival, and requiring proof of vaccination for entry. 

Acknowledgement of Risk & Policy Violations  

All participants sign specific documents to participate on our programs (Code of Conduct, Program Contract, Acknowledgements) where adherence to program rules is clearly outlined. As COVID-19 concerns persist, participants are also signing an Assumption of Risk document indicating that they will abide by local government rules and regulations as well as AIFS Abroad policies. Violations of these policies can result in removal from the program. Participants can expect additional information provided in pre-departure orientations and welcome orientations. 

Questions about Cancellations / Refunds for 2021 Programs

  • Updated Program Information

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  • We will continually evaluate the feasibility of program operations so if you have questions about where our programs are running or program start/end dates, please continue to consult the following:
  • Is study/intern abroad even possible during a pandemic?

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  • Absolutely. We have students on the ground right now! Our entire team is dedicated to organizing safe and life-changing opportunities for anyone wishing to participate in our programs. Colleagues in the US and overseas are in continual communication discussing program viability. We appreciate the enthusiasm that students have for future programs and mirror it with our own.

    We are working hand in hand with partners such as overseas universities, housing providers, visa processors, host employers, excursion providers to adhere to all location and country-specific COVID-19 regulations. The changeable nature of the regulations necessitates a higher-level of responsibility from our team but also from our participants as well.

  • What happens if a participant withdraws before the program starts?

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  • We realize that there is ongoing uncertainty as country-specific COVID-19 policies continue to evolve. The decision to make a financial commitment during this time is one we want you to feel comfortable with.

    AIFS Abroad Refund Policy

    Please refer to our refund policy pages:

    Summer

    Semester

     

  • If AIFS Abroad cancels my program will I receive a refund for my payments?

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  • Different than if a student withdraws, circumstances may dictate that we cancel a program in a certain location.

    • Should AIFS Abroad cancel a program prior to departure for reasons within its control (including due to lack of enrollment), participants will be notified and options include options moving to another program location, receiving credit towards another program or a full refund (including deposit.) This is the only unique situation where a non-refundable deposit can be returned.
    • Should AIFS Abroad cancel a program (including once the program has started) for reasons beyond its control including but not limited to Acts of God, government actions (including those restricting travel), pandemics, fire, flood, explosion, earthquake, or other natural forces, war, civil unrest, accident, terrorism, any strike or labor disturbance, or any other event similar to those enumerated above (a “Force Majeure” Event) participants will receive no refund except for recoverable costs.
    • Recoverable costs may include, but not are not limited to program fees (including tuition), housing, social/cultural activities/ excursions, safety and security and administrative cost, or organized flights. Most of these costs are paid before the start of the program are not typically recoverable. In the event of cancellation AIFS Abroad will endeavor to obtain refunds from suppliers and pass any recovered costs on to the participant.

    If an on-location program is canceled by AIFS Abroad prior to the start date, participants will be able to:

    • Switch to another on-location program for the same term.
    • Have their application re-assessed for a virtual program in the same term.
    • Postpone their program to a future on-location or virtual program.
  • What happens if a participant decides to leave the program once it has started?

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  • Students choosing to leave the program early for personal or other reasons are not entitled to any refund. Completion of academic credit will be determined on a case by case basis. Students dismissed for disciplinary reasons receive no refunds of any kind and forfeit all academic credit.

    There are no refunds for meals, accommodation, cultural activities/excursions, tuition or transportation missed by students for any other reasons other than those listed above once the program has started.

  • What other options do I have if my program gets cancelled?

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  • If your program is cancelled prior to it starting you can work with your AIFS Abroad advisor to determine what the best path forward is. You have the ability to:

    • Change location in the case where one or a few locations are closed but others remain open for the same program time period
    • Change programs to a different date or term/season – so if your spring program was cancelled you can move to a summer, fall or even next summer program
    • Participate in a virtual internship with Global Experiences
    • Request a refund of your fees (less deposits or any other costs) if a refund is due.
  • If my university cancels study abroad, will I receive a refund for my payments?

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  • Different than if a student withdraws, or AIFS Abroad cancels a program, a university may choose to cancel travel through a specific date or restrict travel to specific locations.

    Please refer to our refund policy pages:

    Summer

    Semester

    Should a university cancel a program (including once the program has started) for reasons beyond its control including but not limited to Acts of God, government actions (including those restricting travel), pandemics, fire, flood, explosion, earthquake, or other natural forces, war, civil unrest, accident, terrorism, any strike or labor disturbance, or any other event similar to those enumerated above (a “force majeure” event) participants will receive no refund except for recoverable costs.

    Recoverable costs may include, but not are not limited to program fees (including tuition), housing, social/cultural activities/excursions, safety and security and administrative cost, or organized flights. Most of these costs are paid before the start of the program and are not typically recoverable. In the event of cancellation AIFS Abroad will endeavor to obtain refunds from suppliers and pass any recovered costs on to the participant.

  • What insurance is available?

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  • All participants on any AIFS Abroad program (study abroad, internship or custom faculty led) are covered by a very robust Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) travel and medical insurance as part of their program inclusions. There is no extra cost for this coverage. CISI has published a list of frequently asked questions related to COVID-19 that may be useful to you.

    As part of the medical insurance, assistance and security will be provided by On Call International. OnCall has worked in the higher education field for over 20 years and is well known for their proactive and holistic approach to managing travel emergencies. They will provide phone support.

    On Call’s Nurse Helpline is also available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This service is for those who aren’t sure if they are ill enough to see a doctor, but would like to seek advice over the phone from a medical professional. Not every illness or injury warrants a trip to the ER or a doctor’s office – this free service will help participants determine how best to treat whatever condition they may have.

    Is additional insurance available for an extra fee?

    AIFS Abroad strongly recommends that students take out CFAR / IFAR insurance which covers cancellation / interruption “for any reason”. Participants have the option of purchasing additional trip cancellation or interruption insurance which allows them to protect their study abroad program. This is at an additional cost and is NOT a program inclusion. This policy includes options to cancel for any reason (CFAR) and interrupt for any reason (IFAR). Details of the Worldwide Trip Protector Plans with travel insurance underwritten by the United States Fire Insurance Company, rated A (Excellent) by A.M. Best 2019, are available on the Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) website. Students may purchase their plan directly through the CISI website.

  • What about Custom Faculty Led Programs?

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  • If you are currently proposing, or planning for a customized faculty-led (CFL) program with AIFS Abroad, please be in direct contact with your Program Manager. You can view relevant updates for all CFL programs here:

    Customized Faculty-Led Programs

    Questions about COVID-19 and Health and Safety

    AIFS/GE Response to COVID-19

    AIFS and GE offer programs in many locations around the globe. In all of these locations we will be working closely with our local representatives, local authorities, consular partners and university partners to make sure we are following the most up to date guidelines and procedures for COVID-19.


    1. Is self-isolation or testing required by the governments of any of your host countries? If so, How
      will you support students during a self-isolation period, or how will you ensure that they are tested?

    Countries requiring self-isolation / proof of negative test is an ever changing list.

    Ensuring that students are tested before departure will be done by comprehensive pre-departure advising and in collaboration with our students who have a due-diligence to ensure they have done everything necessary to be eligible to travel. As COVID protocols continue to be developed by airlines and governments we will be amending our policies and advising our students accordingly.

    Should students be required by host country's mandate to quarantine upon arrival then that will be a mandatory requirement to our program. Failure to adhere to quarantine protocols will result in expulsion from the program. AIFS Abroad will work within the variety of housing providers to ensure the health and well-being of our participants will be looked after. This could be from daily check-ins, meal delivery, etc.

    1. How will you operate your housing during COVID-19?

    AIFS Abroad uses a variety of housing options for students around the world. This could be student residences, apartments, hotels and homestays. Please indicate which types of student accommodation your organization will be using in 2021:

    We are focusing our accommodation to be single occupancy but in some locations this is not possible. In locations where we use Student Residences / Apartment buildings we will be following their visitor restriction policies.

    All host families receive additional training regarding COVID protocols for their local area. If someone in the house tests positive for COVID-19 then the appropriate officials will be contacted and the correct quarantine steps put in place. If the person is very ill then of course they will go straight to hospital. If they are well enough to stay at home they will be quarantined as well as other family members as required by the authorities. If needed we have access to additional accommodation so students can quarantine in private rooms if needed.

    1. Please describe how student housing and dining would be managed if a student tested positive
      for COVID-19 and had to self-isolate.

    Students testing positive for COVID would be subject to immediate quarantine in their accommodation or in separate accommodation if required.

    Meals/groceries would be arranged to be delivered in a safe and secure manner.

    1. What COVID-specific protocols have you put in place for academic spaces and what happens to my
      academic program if on-location delivery is suspended?

    We work closely with our partner universities in each location who in turn are following all local guidelines so that students can safely attend class. These guidelines include practices such as caps on class size to allow for social distancing, spacing of desks to comply with current requirements, cleaning of classrooms regularly and high traffic areas, access to hand sanitizer at entrances, implementing one-way systems where practical, and enforcing mask wearing where obligatory. In our own facilities we will follow the same guidelines as required locally. These may change as local circumstances dictate.

    If face to face classes need to be suspended for any reason we will be able to continue with a virtual delivery model allowing participants to finish the academic portion of the program (thereby not losing progress towards degree completion).

    1. What social distancing protocols do you have and will you be providing PPD or sanitizing supplies?

    Much of our physical distancing protocols are being developed according to the governmental guidelines in each country and with our institutional and employer partners. This takes into account how many students are allowed in a classroom, how many individuals constitute a “pod” for social events/outings, how many participants can be in accommodations, how many individuals are allowed at a specific host company, etc.

    Students should come prepared with enough masks to safely get through the first few weeks of their program. After students become familiar with their surroundings they will be able to communicate with on-site staff to organize additional PPE / sanitizing supplies as needed.

    1. How are you addressing the “proof of negative test” as it relates to entering into the host country or return to the US?

    We are constantly monitoring the entry regulations for our countries which are fluid and change often. In all cases, we would defer to local regulations. These are legal requirements, not imposed by AIFS. Some of our countries have been requesting the negative test result as an entry requirement for some time although the U.S. only recently posted the request itself, so we have been monitoring and will communicate all requirements to our students.

    1. Will AIFS require participants to get a vaccine?

    AIFS Abroad requires vaccinations for our Fall 2021 participants and beyond. We will continue to monitor the information from our host countries and advise participants as entry protocol changes.


    If you have additional questions about AIFS Abroad’s policies and procedures and you are a student please contact your program advisor or your enrollment manager. If you are a university advisor or administrator please contact your regional representative or CFL Program Manager. View a list of the team here: https://www.aifsabroad.com/our-team/