Practice Area Column

Building Systems Around Return-to-Travel Considerations

Four factors to consider as institutions prepare for students to study abroad.
Many U.S. institutions are continuing to refine their decision-making processes as they look to potentially send much smaller cohorts of students abroad in fall 2021 or spring 2022. Photo: Eva Darron/Unsplash
Mark Toner

The roughly 100 University of Massachusetts-Amherst (UMass Amherst) students planning to study abroad this fall intimately understand the challenges involved. Most have deferred programs at least once as the COVID-19 pandemic roiled international education over the past year. 

“They’re ready to go and excited,” says Andrea Campbell Drake, MEd, UMass Amherst’s director of international health, safety, and security. 

There are good reasons for optimism. The European Union has announced it will allow international visitors who are vaccinated to enter. As of late spring, vaccination rates are rising, while new cases are decreasing in many—but not all—countries. And many U.S. institutions are requiring students to be vaccinated before returning to their campuses this fall, eliminating one variable for many education abroad programs.

However, new complications have arisen, chief among them the U.S. State Department's mid-April decision to align its travel advisories with the travel health notices issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nearly 80 percent of the world’s countries were originally listed in the Level 4: Do Not Travel category, implying that North Korea and Canada, for example, shared the same level of risk for travelers. On June 8, the State Department adjusted its travel advisories in accordance with new travel health notices from the CDC, which reclassified 58 countries and territories to the Level 3: Reconsider Travel category—including many popular study abroad destination countries like France, Italy, Japan, Spain, and Switzerland.

“One good outgrowth from the pandemic is that we’ll all be more informed and make careful

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