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2023–2024 Study Abroad FAQ

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to present challenges that require a strategic approach to ensure ongoing safety for our Vanderbilt University traveling community. Recent positive progress is encouraging and, to the extent risks can be mitigated, Vanderbilt and the Global Education Office (GEO) are committed to offering opportunities to study abroad in the coming terms. We are welcoming applications to most locations subject to ongoing monitoring and review.

Please review the Frequently Asked Questions below for more information about the conditions under which GEO is making study abroad applications available. We recommend students review all questions and answers.

To discuss the application process, planning, or particular destinations, reach out to a GEO advisor. If you have additional questions, please contact or, for questions related to personal health and safety, the Office of Global Safety. See GEO's Events page for information sessions and other events related to study abroad.

If you are applying to a Maymester, be sure to check out the Maymester website after reviewing the information below, and get in touch with the Maymester instructor(s) to discuss how any COVID-related travel considerations might affect the course(s) you are interested in.

Important Notice: US passport processing is still affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As of Dec 1, 2022, regular turnaround for a passport is 6–9 weeks, not including mailing time. Check current processing times and consider expediting service and shipping as needed. If your desired host country requires a visa for entry, we recommend reviewing visa processing timelines too, as you will need a valid passport in order to apply for a visa.

See information on new US passports and renewals.

Frequently Asked Questions (Updated for Fall 2023)

What locations can students apply to?

You can apply to most available approved programs. For some locations, GEO may highly recommend having a backup program. Click on the program's name in the applicable list below to review status and recommendations:

Fall 2023 programs

What might study abroad look like?

There may be modifications to study abroad programs depending on the status of the pandemic. Such modifications may be announced before travel, or they may need to be introduced during the term as conditions shift. Potential changes include:

  • Program length shortened

  • Adjusted arrival or departure times to program

  • Planned program excursions, coursework, or activities changed or cancelled

  • Restrictions on independent travel, whether within the host country or outside

  • Homestays replaced with housing in a hotel, dormitory, residence hall, etc.

  • Partially online coursework as needed due to conditions on the ground

  • Family and friends may not be allowed to visit you on site

  • Quarantine/modified quarantine required upon entry to host country. Students may have additional costs related to quarantine.

  • Requirements related to vaccination, masking, physical distancing, or other direct COVID mitigation measures

Other adjustments might be required. We ask that students be flexible and adaptable to circumstances.

Students may discuss questions about how their Maymester abroad could be affected with the course’s instructor.

Might study abroad programs be cancelled?

The Office of Global Safety monitors conditions in all GEO locations. Upon their informed recommendation, any GEO program may be cancelled at any time. Criteria that could force cancellation include border closures, governmental advice, lockdowns affecting in-person higher education, and health infrastructure crisis. In addition, if a program is not cancelled but moves to fully online learning prior to departure, students will be required to withdraw from the program.

Do students studying abroad need to be vaccinated against COVID-19?

All students are responsible for managing their own vaccine planning. Students should be aware that our partner programs, as well as governments, airlines, and other organizations, may have their own vaccination requirements—or could reintroduce them at any time. Vaccination accommodations afforded by Vanderbilt may not be recognized by our study abroad partners, countries, or other organizations. Failure to comply with vaccination or other travel requirements may mean inability to travel or participate in the program, or may require frequent testing. Any resultant costs would be your sole responsibility. Given all these factors, GEO strongly discourages unvaccinated students from studying abroad.

For up-to-date information, see the University’s information page on vaccination.

If I am vaccinated before I depart, is my term abroad guaranteed to go forward?

Unfortunately, no. Personal susceptibility to the virus is only one small part of the broader safety and viability considerations. Other issues that might affect your ability to participate include the capacity of hospitals to provide critical care to non-COVID patients, entry requirements to your host country, visa processing delays, and more. In addition, your program may be cancelled by our partner for reasons that are not directly related to COVID, such as under-enrollment.

If my program is cancelled, or I choose not to attend, will I owe any money?

Program policies differ. Be sure to inquire and read all information, including your selected program’s withdrawal policies, before signing their commitment to participate. The withdrawal policy for Vanderbilt’s Maymester courses can be found on the Summer Sessions website.

Students will be solely responsible for any costs associated with program cancellation, and for that reason students should avoid committing funds to airfare, housing, visa applications, and other arrangements as long as possible, and under no circumstances purchase airfare without receiving confirmation of status and start/end dates from their program.

There are many reasons—both COVID-related and not—why a term abroad might be interrupted. For example, an accident, critical medical issues, or personal events all may require a student to return home. GEO recommends students consider purchasing flexible plane tickets, as well as trip cancellation/interruption insurance and tuition insurance.

Full Vanderbilt withdrawal policies can be found here.

Will Vanderbilt communicate with me about conditions affecting travel to my chosen destination?

Vanderbilt and our partners will offer multiple venues for students to get more information on local conditions and how COVID-19 might affect their program, including information sessions with the Office of Global Safety. However, students are also responsible for their own research, including around questions such as entry and exit requirements and proper vaccination/testing procedures and documentation.

Are there any special issues around visas and travel I should be aware of?

As of December 1, 2022, travel in most of the world is relatively "open" compared to the past two years. However, selective closure of international borders has been a widely used measure to manage the spread of coronavirus, and countries may change their rules at any time. Visa processing may be delayed or services altered, at short notice, due to COVID-19. Any of these situations could result in adjusted program start dates, individual inability to participate, or program cancellation.

Students should plan to take a simple path to their program site, without landing in any third country—even for a simple flight change—before arriving at their host country. More complicated itineraries may involve unplanned-for regulations and border enforcement.

International students should further be aware that they may face complex requirements related to re-entry to the US, in addition to procuring a destination entry visa for their study abroad. Students who are based outside the US may also have differing levels of flight availability compared to their peers. International students are highly encouraged to speak to GEO and ISSS advisors to determine the feasibility of travel and discuss requirements.

What if I get ill overseas?

Illness and other medical issues are a general risk at home and abroad. If you need medical treatment overseas, whether for COVID-19 or another condition, you will be covered by Vanderbilt’s overseas health insurance, which offers robust coverage.

In the event of serious illness, Vanderbilt’s overseas medical insurer or security provider may be able to facilitate the evacuation of students back to their home country for treatment. However, COVID-19–related travel restrictions may limit the ability for students to leave their host country immediately even in dire conditions. Similarly, it may be difficult or impossible for family members to join you overseas.

If my program location goes under lockdown or a “stay at home” order while I am abroad, will I be able to return home?

In the event a study abroad location goes into lockdown or a “stay at home” order while a student’s program is in progress, the Office of Global Safety will assess whether the risk of staying warrants recommending students return from the program site. If it is determined return is not warranted, Vanderbilt will expect students to remain on site and follow the directives of local government and their program. Should a student choose to leave the program site, the student takes responsibility for all academic and financial consequences of their individual choice to return.

What happens if, while abroad, I ignore quarantine requirements or break program rules related to COVID-19 protocols or independent travel?

Students must comply with the laws of their host country and do not have immunity to the legal consequences of their actions overseas. Students must also follow all rules set by their program, including those rules established to protect health and safety. Such rules might include policies set related to personal, independent travel during the school term. Failure to comply with requirements could result in dismissal from the program.

If a student is unable to continue with a program either because of legal difficulties or disciplinary issues, Vanderbilt will not be able to provide alternative instruction. Any related costs, including lost tuition, will be the student’s sole responsibility.