Guidelines for Conducting Education Abroad during COVID-19 | ISBN: 978-1-952376-07-8


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The world is a different place now than it was before the COVID-19 pandemic. Given what has happened in our field and in the world, it is pertinent to err on the side of caution in order to protect our students, our institutions and organizations, our communities, our partners, and ourselves. This document is written to help education abroad professionals think through the many steps to make education abroad feasible during and after the COVID-19 pandemic and to mitigate risk associated with education abroad and student mobility during an unprecedented period in our field’s history. It is intended for use within organizations and by partners from different organizations to help guide their development of a plan for returning to and/or scaling up education abroad operations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We begin this guide by emphasizing the importance of a conservative and holistic approach to developing policies, procedures, plans, and back-up plans for education abroad before once again offering international mobility opportunities to students on a large scale. While these guidelines should not be considered exhaustive, and there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for the different types and kinds of organizations and institutions that are involved in education abroad, they can be incorporated into existing plans and protocols being developed at an institution or organization.

In addition to the specific advice that follows, we encourage readers and users of these guidelines to be informed by the following considerations with respect to reopening education abroad:

  • Convincing education abroad stakeholders, such as institutional leadership, students, and their families, to return to education abroad will require strong policies that demonstrate that your department or organization is putting health and safety first, proactively planning, and ever mindful of ongoing challenges.
  • Take an institution-wide or enterprise-level approach to discussions and decisions, especially related to risk management, legal considerations, insurance, and funding for education abroad. The COVID-19 pandemic has focused attention on education abroad operations in new ways. Take advantage of this opportunity to engage outside stakeholders more deeply and empower them to be champions and advocates of education abroad.
  • Entities in different locations and comprising different constituencies will approach the current challenges in various ways and with solutions that fit their unique situation. Understanding that sometimes decisions may not be at the discretion of individual organizations, campuses, programs, or offices with whom you are collaborating, remember that we are all facing extraordinary challenges and keep the long-term goals in mind when communicating with partners and stakeholders.
  • Due to ongoing shifts in the geopolitical environment during and due to COVID-19 and response to the pandemic, planning for a return to large-scale student mobility should also include considerations for how these shifts could impact students or programs.
  • The changes made to education abroad in response to COVID-19 are also likely to change the student experience on-site, perhaps drastically. Intentional co-creation between partners of programs that offer students rich, if alternative, experiences, is more important now than ever. So, too, are communication and expectation management between partners, with on-site staff, and with students.

This guide is being written in June-September 2020 based on the best available information at the time. The Forum on Education Abroad will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation as it evolves and review this document regularly. Updates or addenda may be added as needed.

For general guidance on what makes quality education abroad programming possible, use the Standards of Good Practice for Education Abroad as a reference.



The Forum thanks the following individuals for their contribution to the preparation of this Guide:

  • Andrea Bordeau, Vanderbilt University
  • Gian Franco Borio, attorney at law in Florence, Italy, legal counsel to AACUPI and EUASA
  • Enda Carroll, University College Dublin
  • Elena Corbett, AMIDEAST
  • Amelia Dietrich, The Forum on Education Abroad
  • Jennifer Ewald, Fairfield University
  • Andrew Faas, Institute for Study Abroad (IFSA)/London
  • Elizabeth Frohlich, The Forum on Education Abroad
  • Maureen Gordon, Arcadia University, The College of Global Studies
  • Steve Hopkins, Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI)
  • Bill Hoye, IES Abroad
  • Leanne Johnson, University of Maryland
  • Stephanie Kelly, CCID
  • John Lucas, ISEP
  • Natalie A. Mello, The Forum on Education Abroad
  • Emily Merson, Global Experiences
  • Alexandra Mitchell, CEA Study Abroad
  • Patrick Morgan, University of Michigan
  • Amir Reza, Babson College
  • David Sadoff, University of Pennsylvania
  • Joe Storch, SUNY System
  • John Sunnygard, University of Western Kentucky
  • Melissa Torres, The Forum on Education Abroad
  • Dawn Wood, Kirkwood Community College


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