To prepare for your travel experience during a pandemic, we recommend completing the following steps.
- Know what you're signing up. As noted above, traveling during a pandemic carries heightened health, logistical, academic, and financial risks and requires a high degree of flexibility and tolerance for change. Every traveler has their own level of risk tolerance, but as COVID-19 conditions ebb and flow around the world, 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. Carefully review the waiver in your UofSC Education Abroad Office application that outlines some foreseen risks related to traveling during the pandemic. Additionally, carefully review all cancellation policies associated with your travel, including but not limited to: program provider refund policies, housing refund policies, and airfare policies.
- Compile your COVID-19 travel safety plan. You can use this form to compile this important information.
- Continuously track the impact and trajectory of the pandemic in your destination country. You can use the resources listed on this page. When tracking the impact of the pandemic in your destination country, it is helpful to consider factors like recent case rates relative to the population size, postitivity rate, vaccination rate, and hospital capacity.
- Continuously track the entry requirements of your destination country, as they can change with little warning. The U.S. Embassy in your destination country tracks the entry requirements for U.S. passport holders. You can find this information here.
- Strongly consider getting the vaccine, and check vaccine requirements for your program and destination country. 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. 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. 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 date, you may need to get a booster before travel.
- Consider purchasing trip cancellation insurance. 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.
- Consider booking a flexible 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.
- Have an academic back-up plan. 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. As a contingency plan, it is also helpful to work with your academic advisor to enroll in courses at UofSC. For Spring 2022 applicants, you will need to drop your UofSC courses in April so our office can enroll you in the study abroad placeholder course.
- Enroll in the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).