May 6: Fall 2021 Study Abroad Updates: State Dept Advisory & Vaccines

Dear Fall 2021 Study Abroad Students and Parents,

Please read the complete e-mail below for important updates and required action items related to your Fall 2021 Study Abroad Program.

Department of State Travel Advisory

The United States Department of State (DOS) recently changed its country travel advisory methodology to align with the Travel Health Notices issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  This change, with the current situation with the pandemic, means that nearly 80% of the countries in the world (including our Fall 2021 program sites) will be given the highest U.S. DOS advisory level, “Level 4: Do Not Travel.”

The CSB/SJU International Travel Risk Assessment Committee met to review the latest DOS advisory and the impact on our Fall 2021 program sites in the United Kingdom, France, Greece, and Italy.  We believe the increase in the DOS level represents a change in designation to better align with the CDC’s existing COVID-19 Travel Health Notices, but that it does not represent a fundamental elevation of current risk in the United Kingdom, France, Greece, and Italy.  Consequently, the CSB and SJU Presidents have made the decision to continue with our Fall 2021 programs in the United Kingdom, France, Greece, and Italy.

Prior to the most recent DOS Level 4 advisory, CSB/SJU made the decision to move forward with these programs under their existing CDC Travel Health Notice “Level 4: COVID-19 Very High.”  We chose to move forward with these programs due to these program factors: on-site COVID-19 protocols, ability to obtain student visas, availability of international flights, ability to manage entry quarantines, available medical infrastructure, housing capacity (availability of isolation and quarantine space), and academic support (ability for in-person, hybrid, or online learning modalities).  These factors all remain in place at these program sites and these factors are not impacted by the latest DOS advisory level.  We also remind students that their commitment to the Fall 2021 Study Abroad Community Standards plays an important part in protecting their study abroad community and the local host community.

The Center for Global Education (CGE) will continue to monitor the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Overseas Security Advisory Council, and governmental health ministries for the above program factors.  As mentioned during the program orientation, should any of these factors change or diminish, CSB/SJU may still cancel a program.  Moreover, CSB/SJU will not operate in countries that the DOS designates as “Level 4” due to the following risk factors: crime, terrorism, civil unrest, natural disaster, kidnapping or hostage taking.

COVID-19 Vaccine

CSB and SJU have made the recent decision to require that all students complete a COVID-19 vaccination series before participating in a CSB/SJU-sponsored Fall 2021 study abroad program.  A growing body of evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people are less likely to be infected without showing symptoms and thus potentially less likely to spread the virus that causes COVID-19 to others.  In addition, study abroad program countries may now require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for entry and the vaccination may enable students to reduce or avoid a period of quarantine.  Students inoculated in the U.S. will likely receive the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.  All of these vaccines are approved and accepted by the European Union and the United Kingdom.

Any exemptions to being vaccinated that may be considered for conscientious, religious, or medical reasons will ultimately be contingent on any requirements for vaccinations mandated by the host country governments and/or host sites as a requirement for entry and attendance. 

Required Action Items

The following action items must be completed by each Fall 2021 study abroad student:

  1. Updated Study Abroad Agreement and Waiver: Due to the recent DOS advisory changes, each student must review and electronically sign an updated Study Abroad Agreement and Waiver to acknowledge changes in the DOS advisory levels. Students can now find this updated form in their CSB/SJU-Global Portal. This must be completed by May 14, 2021.
  2. COVID-19 Vaccine Verification: After completion of the COVID-19 vaccination series, each student must upload a picture or scan of their CDC COVID-19 vaccination card to their CSB/SJU-Global Portal. This documentation must be uploaded by July 1, 2021

We know that you may have questions about these latest updates.  As always, please feel free to contact CGE ([email protected]) if you have any questions or concerns about this information.

Sincerely,

Kevin Clancy, Ph.D.

Director, Center for Global Education

College of Saint Benedict | Saint John’s University