2021 Updates and FAQs

Over the past few months, the AIFS and Global Experiences health and safety task force has been working with our onsite staff, insurance and global risk management resources and partner universities abroad to plan for the future.  As we consider programming for the Spring and beyond, our goal is to have a flexible plan in place that takes into account the changing conditions we are facing, and ensures the health and safety of our students and staff. 

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

  • The current level of the 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 courses 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 and social and cultural programming

As many of us have learned there is not one go-to source of information. We feel gathering information from the multiple sources above will allow us to make sound and timely decisions. Over the next few months we will be clear and constant with our communication so that students, parents and our university colleagues feel confident in AIFS/GE programming.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Updated Program Information for 2021

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  • We are looking forward to having participants on the ground participating for the Spring 2021 season. 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 Spring study/intern abroad even possible?

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  • Absolutely. 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 2021 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 much concern regarding 2021 programming as country-specific COVID-19 policies continue to evolveThe decision to make financial commitment during this time is one we want you to feel comfortable with.  

    AIFS Study Abroad Spring 2021 Refund Policy
    Note: this represents an exception to the above referenced AIFS refund policy for the spring 2021 semester.

    Prior to your program’s departure date, should your program be canceled by AIFS, or you decide studying abroad is no longer an option this Spring, AIFS wants to ensure you can still have the experience of a lifetime or have the option to receive a refund of your deposit. We are pleased to offer these options:

    1. Transfer your application to a Summer 2021, Fall 2021, January Term 2022 or Spring 2022 program. Your application fee and deposit will be credited to your new program and you will also receive a $500 Transfer Grant. Please see refund policy for 21/22 programs. For more Information contact your AIFS Admissions Officer.
    2. Consider a global internship through Global Experiences. Summer 2021 programs are available in 13 cities around the world,, www.globalexperiences.com. You can transfer your AIFS application fee and deposit to GE and receive a $500 transfer grant. For more information contact Augusta Viccellio at  Augusta@globalexperiences.com
    3. If neither options 1 or 2 work, a student can receive a full refund of their application fee and confirmation deposit.


    Timeline for Student Withdrawals from an AIFS program

    If a student withdraws 

    and he/she is on an AIFS program they would receive 

    After final payment deadline and more than 60 days before departure 

    All payments minus the nonrefundable deposit and application fee of $845 and $1,000 and any flight cancellation charges 

    After final payment deadline and 30 to 60 days before departure 

    All payments, minus the nonrefundable deposit and application fee of $845 and 50% of the program fee and any flight cancellation charges 

    After final payment deadline and less than 30 days before departure 

    No refund 


    Timeline for Student Withdrawals from a GE Program

    If a student withdraws 


    More than 60 days before program start 

    100% refund (less deposit) 

    Between 30 and 60 days program start 

    50% refund (less deposit) 

    Within 30 days of program start 

    Recoverable costs only (less deposit) 


  • Is there a chance that Spring 2021 programs will be cancelled?

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  • We are hoping that all our listed Spring 2021 programs will run as we’ve selected locations we feel most confident will offer our students a safe and rewarding experience. However, we may make changes or may have to cancel programs after students have enrolled. 

    Please keep in mind that certain costs may be non-refundable (including but not limited to GE’s enrollment deposit). Depending on when the participant withdrawal occurs recoverable costs may be able to be returned.

    View AIFS financial policies here: https://www.aifsabroad.com/details/


  • If AIFS cancels a 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.

    1. a) Should AIFS cancel a program prior to departure for reasons within its control (including due to lack of enrollment), participants will be notified and options are for another program location, credit towards another program or a full refund, or
    2. b) Should AIFS 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 will endeavor to obtain refunds from suppliers and pass any recovered costs on to the participant. 


  • 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 advisor counselor 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) 
  • What insurance is available?

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  • All participants on our program are covered by a very robust 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.

    When abroad, participants have access to AXA’s Remote Crisis Support & Behavioural Health Assistance which offers access to psychological care administered by U.S. specialists including remote assessment, follow up care and continued support during a student’s time abroad.

    Participants have access to Travel Eye which is a mobile platform allowing for push alerts to be sent to mobile devices regarding global events, country risk information, enhanced medical provider searches, and one-click access to AXA operations center if medical or travel assistance is needed.

    Participants also 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 - https://www.culturalinsurance.com/academic-trip-protector-insurance-program.asp. Students may purchase their plan directly through the CISI website


Health and Safety Abroad

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) How should participants expect to receive information regarding COVID-19 Policies pre-departure?

To ensure that they are well prepared for their study abroad or intern experience and make informed decisions, participants on our programs receive detailed predeparture information and work with our experienced team as they plan for their time abroad. This includes the latest COVID-19 information for their chosen destination.

As mentioned, all participants receive CISI insurance coverage that includes alerts regarding global events and country risk information. Learn more about CISI's support and coverage related to COVID-19.

2) How will COVID-19 protocols impact participants upon arrival?

A) Airport transfers: (AIFS-Programs only) 

Students on AIFS flights will have a transfer from the airport to the accommodation. All transportation providers (private bus or taxi) will be reviewed and we will make sure all guidelines are followed. Students will also have to wear face coverings when using the transfer if it is a local requirement.  

Students on the GE program do not have organized arrival transportation and are encouraged to be in contact with their Program Advisor for recommendations.

B) Orientation:

Content contained in the Orientation specific to COVID-19:  

  • On arrival participants take part in a detailed orientation program with their local staff. This information covers issues such as safety and security, how to access healthcare services including counselling, updates on COVID-19 regulations as well as general program and location information. 
  • Staff also stress the importance of students taking responsibility for their own health and welfare during these briefings and in the provided materials. The importance of good hygiene, rest and good nutrition as well as following all current public health advice, avoiding crowded areas, social distancing, wearing of PPE, etc. is covered. 
  • AIFS/GE have amended their student code of conduct to include wording regarding COVID-19, appropriate behavior and following local regulations and guidelines.  


Delivery of Orientations On-Location

  • All orientations will take place in spaces large enough to allow social distancing or even outside if the location allows or 
  • Will occur virtually allowing students to participate from their accommodation 


C) Student Accommodation:

All program fees include housing. This can be an apartment, student residence, or homestay depending on the location. We are working closely with all of our housing providers to gather information as to what their COVID-19 planning is for Spring 2021. This will include measures such as: 

  • Deep cleaning accommodation prior to arrival 
  • Plans for self-isolation if required 
  • Limits on occupancy numbers 
  • Roommate agreements and information on successful accommodation sharing 
  • Homestay agreements 
  • Use of PPE in common areas 
  • Options to upgrade to a single room for a fee where available (some locations are already single occupancy accommodation as standard) 
  • Additional training and orientations for homestay hosts 
  • Review of homestays to avoid using hosts that fall into the category of vulnerable people or key workers. 

Meals: (AIFS-Programs only) 

Many programs include meal plans and group meals as part of the cultural calendar. Cafeterias and campus food outlets will all abide by local guidelines and when arranging group meals all restaurants will have adequate spacing between tables. No sharing platters will be available. 

3) How do AIFS and GE offer on-site support?

All programs have experienced local support staff who receive training on policies and procedures, health and safety resources, medical and emergency protocols. Staff are also available 24/7 through a dedicated emergency phone line.  

Onsite staff collaborate with other colleges and universities through local and regional associations and academic networks to share best practice on a variety of issues including health and safety. 

Local Medical Support: 

All students have CISI medical insurance included in their program fee (see section on insurance). CISI insurance covers testing for COVID-19 and any subsequent treatment if required. Our local staff have strong contacts with the local medical community and English-speaking medical professionals if needed.  


4) What should I know about academic facilities and courses?

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. 

Online options: 

If face to face classes need to be suspended for any reason we will be able to continue with a virtual delivery model so that students can successfully complete their studies.  


5) What should I know about internships? 

If your program is internship based or has an internship component, you will need to pay attention to all in-country health and legal considerations. Guidance on social distancing, use of PPE and other precautions will be outlined by your employer and will be necessary for you to follow. Violation of procedures set out by your employer will be considered violations of the program code of conduct.  


6) What should I know about cultural activities and excursions?

All programs offer a cultural calendar of weekly activities and events. They may include both typical tourist attractions and lesser known visits which take advantage of the expert knowledge of our local staff and give students a more authentic and insightful view of their program location.

We will review all activities to make sure that they can be conducted with social distancing in mind and adapted if required, such as a cooking class being a smaller group and no sharing of food or equipment allowed. Strong consideration will be given to having outdoor-based activities. If using private transportation buses will be deep cleaned before use and hand sanitizer will be available, and if using public transport the use of PPE as appropriate will be enforced. Local recommendations will be followed such as pre-booking, reduced group sizes, wearing of PPE, etc.

For overnight excursions housing options will be chosen according to suitability and visits reviewed.

Excursions outside the host country may be suspended in certain situations depending on local conditions and entry clearance. An alternative in country excursion will then be offered.


7) What will local transportation be like?

Some students will be able to access their classrooms/internship and accommodation on foot but for many they will need to take public transportation. As part of the orientation program local staff will give students advice on the transportation options open to them and guidance on using PPE if necessary.


8) What are other resources I should access?

AIFS staff also worked with our VP, Director of Alumni and Inclusion Initiatives to deliver ‘Navigating Uncertainty: Resources for Thoughtfully Processing Your Time Abroad’ which was developed to help students unpack the full experience they had and provide resources as they continue their return. This program was selected as the winner of the Innovation in Alumni Engagement category for the 2020 GoAbroad .com innovation Awards and this guide and companion video can be found on the Welcome Back section of our alumni website.

AIFS has also developed a series of webinars focusing on health and safety, diversity, alumni engagement, sessions with our Resident Directors and support services for our university partners. Please see https://www.aifsabroad.com/aifswebinars/ to register for upcoming sessions and to view the subjects we have covered.