Study Abroad Coronavirus Update

Coronavirus Updates as of November 6, 2020

Unwilling to compromise the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff, the Office of International Programs and Sam Houston State University have had to make some tough decisions in regards to international programs. Here are the latest updates:

Faculty-led programs

Sam Houston State University has canceled ALL faculty-led programs that will depart the U.S. on or before January 1, 2021. Students and faculty leaders impacted by this cancellation have been individually notified.

All 2021 faculty-led programs are at this time open and decisions will be made in March, 2021 if the program will be able to run. Due to the rapidly changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, this decision is subject to change. We recommend that faculty and students refrain from making financial commitments outside of program fees paid to SHSU until later in the Spring semester when possible.

Exchange and affiliate provider

All Spring 2021 programs have been cancelled by SHSU. For Summer 2021, students participating in individual experiences through a provider or exchange partner are permitted to go as long as the host university or partner has confirmed that it is operational, and with the understanding that they do so at their own risk. The program must also be located in a country with a Department of State advisory level of Level 1 or 2. Any financial loss incurred because of travel or health issues related to COVID-19 will not be reimbursed by International Programs or Sam Houston State University.

A few things students should consider include:

  • The ability to depart the U.S. and enter destination country based on current travel restrictions
  • That programs may be abruptly ended by the provider or host institution if conditions worsen
  • Travel restrictions may change while abroad, prohibiting students from returning to the U.S.
  • There may be a need to self-isolate upon return to the U.S.
  • Major delays in the processing of passports may prevent students from obtaining a passport and/or visa (or residence permit) in time for travel
  • Institutional and federal financial aid may not be awarded due to travel restrictions
  • Remaining enrolled in Sam Houston on campus/online courses until closer to the departure date in the event travel is not possible

Voluntary withdrawal

If you choose to cancel your participation in an exchange or affiliate provider program, or defer your experience to a future term, please do the following:

  • For provider programs, inform your provider that you would like to cancel or defer your program and ask about options for reimbursement and/or future programs. Many providers have extended their deadlines and withdrawal policies given the COVID-19 pandemic. Please CC: studyabroad@shsu.edu.
  • Call and/or email your academic advisor to let them know your situation and to identify immediate academic needs due to no longer going abroad this spring.
  • Reach out to your airline carrier to cancel your flight. Please reference that it is COVID-19 related and you may be able to get a full or partial refund or a voucher for future travel.
  • Email your study abroad coordinator at studyabroad@shsu.edu to let us know if you are canceling or deferring your program. If you wish to defer your provider program, let us know the new term you intend to go abroad and we’ll update your application in the portal accordingly. If you wish to defer your exchange program, let us know your desired term and we’ll help you liaise with our exchange partner to see this can be accommodated.

Future Study Abroad Programs

International Programs at Sam Houston State University continues to closely monitor federal and international travel advisories and restrictions, as well as guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the World Health Organization (WHO), and the U.S. Department of State.

Although state and federal restrictions are being loosened, the global threat posed by COVID-19 still remains high. Decisions about Summer 2021 will be made in March.

Important Summer 2021 Program Deadlines

  • Program application deadline: March 1, 2021
  • Scholarship Deadline: February 1, 2021

For more information about Study Abroad opportunities, please visit the Study Abroad website at www.shsu.edu/study-abroad, call 936.294.3276, or email studyabroad@shsu.edu. Virtual appointments can be scheduled through Campus Connect.

Frequently Asked Questions

Information presented in these FAQs is updated and accurate as of November 6, 2020. Because of the fluid nature of the pandemic and its effect on international travel, however, the information is subject to change.

Decision-making
  • How does the University make decisions about travel-related to future Study Abroad programs?

    SHSU Administration makes decisions about university-sponsored travel in consultation with the university's Compliance and International Programs. All travel must route through SHSU’s approval process for review, risk mitigation, and subsequent recommendation to the Provost for approval. Decisions about future abroad programs may be communicated by the University and shared by International Programs through email. Updates to information will also be available on the Study Abroad website.

    SHSU will base decisions on the following information:

    • Travel Health Notices from places including the CDC and the WHO;
    • Travel Advisories from authorities including the US Department of State;
    • Availability of COVID-19 testing in host countries;
    • Infrastructure and capacity of the public health system in the host country including the availability of resources, testing, and ventilators;
    • Accessibility of the healthcare system to Americans abroad;
    • The ability for Americans to enter a host country, including securing passports and visas;
    • COVID-19 protocols for visitors to the host country;
    • Ability to depart the host country promptly should evacuation be necessary;
    • Ability to ensure participants have been taking appropriate steps to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission before departure;
    • Restrictions in place for Americans returning from abroad; and
    • Academic and financial risks to students if programs need to cancel later.
Safety
  • Can you guarantee my safety abroad?

    While no one can guarantee the safety of students, faculty, or staff in any location (on campus, in the United States, or abroad), or eliminate all risks from traveling and studying abroad, the University is committed to taking reasonable steps to ensure that it does not place students in situations that expose them to undue risk.

    While the COVID-19 pandemic continues, SHSU Study Abroad will:

    • Communicate the risk of travel abroad to students, faculty, and staff before departure;
    • Require all student, faculty, and staff to register with the US Department of State through the STEP program;
    • Enroll all SHSU students, faculty, and staff on faculty-led and exchange programs in International SOS and CHUBB international insurance, and require enrollment in an international insurance policy for students on affiliated programs;
    • Provide 24/7 emergency assistance for SHSU students, faculty, and staff abroad through International SOS and University Police;
    • Provide COVID-19 related training and information to students, faculty, and staff;
    • Require international vendors and partners to provide risk mitigation and emergency plans;
    • Regularly review and assess host country requirements or restrictions related to COVID-19 and communicate updates to faculty, staff, and students;
    • Provide students, faculty, and staff with details on locating resources and assistance in their host country.
  • What additional measures will International Programs put in place due to COVID-19?

    We are working with the University's Compliance and Insurance and our in-country partners regarding additional risk mitigation measures due to COVID-19. As there are Study Abroad programs in many countries, each with different program designs, and evolving impacts of COVID-19 in host locations, measures will vary by program and may need to be adjusted multiple times before departure or while abroad. Examples of recommended measures are:

    • Limiting student accommodations to no more than two students per room and no more than four students per apartment or suite;
    • Minimizing the use of public transportation;
    • Limiting program and independent student travel outside the primary host country; and
    • Requiring all students, faculty, and staff to have a working international phone/data plan.
Protocols and Guidelines
  • Will I be required to sign an additional waiver related specifically to COVID-19?

    Students will be provided with an informed consent document prior to participating in Study Abroad experiences. We ask that you disclose health conditions in the Medical Information questionnaire section of the Bearkats Abroad Portal and schedule a travel health assessment with Student Health Center or your primary care provider before your departure. You may also be asked to participate in additional predeparture trainings related to COVID-19 and travel abroad.

  • What is the protocol for COVID-19 in my host country?

    The protocol for traveling to and from international destinations, and for reporting information on COVID-19 is country-specific. The best place to find information on COVID-19 in a specific country is through that country's Ministry of Health and government websites, US Embassies and Consulates overseas, The Center for Disease Control Travel Health Notices, and the US Department of State.

  • Will I need to be tested for COVID-19 before I travel abroad?

    It will depend on the country you are visiting. The protocol for traveling to and from international destinations, and for reporting information on COVID-19 is country-specific. The best place to find information on COVID-19 in a specific country is through that country's Ministry of Health and government websites, US Embassies and Consulates overseas, The Center for Disease Control Travel Health Notices, and the US Department of State.

  • Will SHSU pay for my COVID-19 test to enter my host country?

    No, SHSU will not pay for a COVID test to enter your host country. You can currently get a free test at the Student Health Center and Huntsville Memorial Hospital. You want to make sure the test available is the test needed for the host country. If you need a different test you should reach out to your insurance provider with questions about covering the cost of testing.

  • Will personal travel be restricted while abroad?

    It is likely that personal travel will need to be restricted while abroad and students should prepare accordingly. Each country and program will be different, and may depend on the program model and host country protocols. Some excursions and other co-curricular events may need to be restricted, rescheduled, or cancelled, depending on local and global conditions. Students will need to check with the faculty director, host institution, or program provider for specific information related to personal travel.

Insurance
  • Does the international insurance provided by SHSU include medical care if I get infected by COVID?

    Yes, it does cover treatment for students diagnosed with COVID-19. However, this is subjected to change starting January 1, 2021.

  • Does the international insurance provided by SHSU include evacuation coverage due to COVID?

    If you become ill with COVID-19 and a medical evacuation is necessary or evacuation is required by relevant government entities, that evacuation will be covered. However, this is subjected to change starting January 1, 2021.

  • Will I be required to purchase additional insurance, such as Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) or Interrupt For Any Reason (IFAR) policies?

    SHSU will not require you to purchase additional insurance; however, all students are strongly encouraged to purchase additional travel insurance that will cover you if your flight or program is canceled or if you are recalled to the U.S. because of COVID-19 since these events will not be covered by most international insurance policies, including the SHSU international policy. Additionally, SHSU will not be reimbursing those costs or refunding Study Abroad fees. You may also wish to search for additional coverage for other risks not covered by SHSU’s current international insurance policy or the policy utilized by your provider if on a non-SHSU program.

    We recommend that you thoroughly read the plan you are considering and review the fine print closely. Many policies may have a “pandemic exclusion.” Look for plans that allow you to cancel for any reason, often called Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) or Interrupt for Any Reason (IFAR) plans.

Cancellations/Early Returns
  • What happens if my program is suspended and returned early?

    If a faculty-led program is canceled after it is confirmed to run, but before departure, International Programs or the department managing the program budget will make every effort to recoup funds for payments or financial obligations made by the University on your behalf. However, we cannot guarantee that money will be returned. We strongly urge all students to purchase CFAR/IFAR insurance to protect their investment. Specific policies related to payments and refunds for fees charged by SHSU are available in the Financial Responsibility Agreement in the study abroad application. These policies remain unchanged as they pertain to COVID-19. Students on faculty-led programs receive payment schedules and information in their program application portal.

    Students not on faculty-led programs are encouraged to reach out to their program provider or host institution for details pertaining to program cancelation and refund policies, to purchase additional CFAR/IFAR insurance, and to register in SHSU courses for their expected term abroad in the event they are not able to participate.

  • What happens if my program is suspended and returned early?

    International Programs will work with University leadership, our insurance provider(s), host universities, and program providers to facilitate faculty and students' return to the United States as quickly as possible. If necessary, we will coordinate with local, state, and national governments to ensure the prompt return of our students and faculty abroad. International Programs will communicate with emergency contacts in the event of an abrupt, unexpected departure. Every effort will be made to ensure that students can maintain progress towards their degree and complete their academic work. Specific policies related to payments and refunds are available in the Financial Responsibility Agreement in the study abroad application. These policies remain unchanged as they pertain to COVID-19.

  • What happens if my classes move online?

    Each country and program will be different, depending on the program model, how far into the term the program is, and the contingency plans of program providers and host universities. International Programs will coordinate with academic departments to determine the best course of action and will communicate information to students.

  • Do I have to return early if my study abroad program converts to remote learning?

    If a program converts to remote learning due to COVID-19, it is important to follow the guidance issued by SHSU International Programs and your host university or program provider. If SHSU recalls a program due to COVID-19, you will be required to return. If your program is canceled by an external entity such as an international university or program provider, you should follow their recommendation. In deciding if to return to the US, you should consider,

    • Infrastructure and capacity of the public health system in the host country including the availability of resources, testing, and ventilators;
    • Accessibility of the healthcare system to Americans abroad;
    • Ability to depart the host country promptly should evacuation be necessary;
    • Restrictions in place for Americans returning from abroad; and
    • Academic and financial risks to students if you choose to stay in the host country.
Future Programs

University Information regarding Coronavirus

General Information regarding Coronavirus