August 20: CGE Important Guatemala Program Update

Dear Guatemala Study Abroad Students, Parents, and Guardians,

We look forward to welcoming you back for the new academic year.  While the beginning of the new school year is an exciting time, we also know this year is filled with many questions.  Specifically, we know you have questions and concerns about COVID-19 as you look ahead to a planned spring semester in Guatemala. 

The Center for Global Education (CGE)’s top priority is the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff abroad.  We continually monitor the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and governmental health ministries to guide our programmatic decisions.  CGE has developed a global travel and health assessment (https://www.csbsju.edu/global/covid) for each spring study abroad program site.  Additionally, we have worked with each of our international site partners to understand the impact of COVID-19 on their communities and their respective COVID-19 protocols.

After very careful consideration and evaluation, the Provost’s office made the decision to cancel the CSB/SJU spring 2021 Guatemala program.  The decision to cancel the Guatemala program was based on many factors, that include:

  • The global health and travel risk assessment for Guatemala is high for all indictors outlined in the CGE global health and travel assessment (https://www.csbsju.edu/global/covid).  Further, due to COVID-19, Guatemala has been placed as a US State Department Level 4: Do Not Travel.  This is the State Department’s highest alert level.  The health infrastructure capacity in Guatemala means these indicators are highly unlikely to change prior to spring semester. 
  • The Guatemalan government maintains a tiered system of COVID-19 health alerts.  The Guatemalan government has placed Quetzaltenango in the highest, maximum-threat alert status.  Currently, the entire country is under moderate-, high-, or maximum-threat alert status. These alerts mandate significant restrictions on movement and activities within Guatemala.
  • The US Embassy is still facilitating repatriation flights (evacuating U.S. citizens) out of Guatemala.

Given all of these factors, CSB/SJU is unable to run this program in spring 2021.  We know this is a very upsetting decision as you were planning to spend the spring semester in Guatemala, but we must take these health and travel risks seriously to ensure your safety. 

We know this e-mail raises many questions and concerns.  Your CGE Program Manager, Nicole Clements, will be e-mailing the students shortly with details on a specific Zoom meeting with Faculty Director Roy Ketchum to discuss questions and options further. 

We also have some answers below to your immediate questions:

What are my options now that my program is canceled?  

You will soon receive a follow up message from your CGE program manager outlining your options moving forward.

Are all Spring 2021 programs cancelled at this point?

No.  While select program cancellations have happened, other programs are still being evaluated. CSB/SJU is using the global travel and health assessment (https://www.csbsju.edu/global/covid) for each spring study abroad program site.  At a minimum, for a program to run, a program must have no red square indicators by Monday, October 19.  The reason for this timeline is because on-campus registration for spring courses begins in early November.

Why can’t you wait until October 19 to make a decision about the Guatemala program?

There are several reasons why CSB/SJU made an early determination on the Guatemala program.  The most important reason is the US State Department Level 4: Do Not Travel.  As mentioned, this is the State Department’s highest alert level.  This alert level, as well as the other risk indicators, are highly unlikely to change prior to October 19.  Additionally, the Guatemalan government’s elevated health alert statuses, including the maximum-threat alert for Quetzaltenango, mean there are significant restrictions on movement and activities within the country.  Given we have all this data now, we feel it most transparent to make this decision so you can begin to consider your next steps.

What if I am awarded a CSB/SJU Study Abroad Scholarship and my program is canceled, or I choose to defer my program? 

If you receive a CSB/SJU Study Abroad Scholarship you can defer this scholarship to a future program. 

Should I still apply for a U.S. passport? 

CGE is still recommending that students apply for U.S. passports if they plan to travel abroad sometime in the next 12 months. There is a very long backlog of U.S. passport applications and so it is still advisable for students to apply for U.S. passports.  Even if a student opts not to travel on a study abroad program, the passport is valid for 10 years. 

This is a lot of information to process, and so we encourage students to join the upcoming Zoom meeting with Nicole Clements and Roy Ketchum. 

We know this is not the spring semester you had envisioned, but please know we are here to discuss the next steps moving forward with you.

Sincerely,

Kevin Clancy, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Global Education