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Fall 2021 Study Abroad

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to present challenges that require a strategic approach to ensure ongoing safety for our Vanderbilt University 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 during the Fall 2021 semester should travel conditions improve as anticipated. To manage the uncertainties of international travel safely and effectively, we will be offering a limited number of programs.

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.

If you have additional questions, please contact or, for health and safety related questions, the Global Safety team.

Frequently Asked Questions

What locations can students apply to in Fall 2021?

The list of programs to which students can apply in Fall 2021 can be found here.

The locations have been chosen based on multiple factors, including past health system performance, anticipated travel regulations, academic offerings, and more. These will be the only locations available, and GEO will not be able to consider student petitions to other sites.

What might study abroad look like in Fall 2021?

Like adjustments made to other academic programs, there may be modifications to study abroad programs depending on status of the pandemic at the time of travel. Potential changes include:

  • Program length shortened
  • Adjusted arrival or departure times to program
  • Quarantine/modified quarantine required upon entry to host country
  • Requirements related to masking, physical distancing, or other direct COVID mitigation measures
  • Planned program excursions changed or cancelled
  • Restrictions on independent travel, whether within the host country or outside
  • Homestays replaced with housing in 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

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

How and when will Vanderbilt decide whether study abroad can proceed?

Worldwide travel conditions will need to improve from their current state (as of March) in order for study abroad to occur. The Vanderbilt Travel Risk Assessment Committee (VTRAC) will assess each of the Fall 2021 locations in June to determine their viability. On June 15, a decision will be made if each program can proceed. Programs that do not receive a recommendation to proceed from VTRAC will be cancelled and students’ applications withdrawn.

While a program may be recommended to proceed by VTRAC, the situation at that location will continue to be monitored, and at VTRAC’s further recommendation the program may be canceled at any time. Criteria that could force later cancellation include border closures, governmental advice, lockdowns affecting in-person higher education, and health infrastructure crisis. In addition, if a program is not canceled but moves to fully online learning prior to departure, students will be required to withdraw from the program.

If I am vaccinated before I depart, is my semester 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.

Will I have to take a COVID test or be vaccinated against COVID-19 to study abroad?

As of March 1, Vanderbilt is not requiring students be tested for COVID-19 or be vaccinated before studying abroad. However, our partner programs, airlines, US government, and foreign governments may set different requirements. Students are subject to all of these requirements, and need to be aware of them. Failure to comply with requirements may mean inability to travel or participate in the program; any resultant costs would be the sole responsibility of the student.

All students are responsible for managing their own vaccine planning. Vanderbilt University is not a distribution site for the vaccine, so you should consult your home county’s guidance for vaccine availability and eligibility in your area. If you are planning travel or other activities this summer, be sure to consider how those plans might affect your ability to be vaccinated.

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

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

Wherever possible, GEO is working with partners whose withdrawal policies allow for withdrawal until very near the time of departure. Generally, students will be able to withdraw for any reason up to two weeks before the program starts without paying any withdrawal fee. Some programs will allow withdrawal up to the day of departure. Be sure to read all information, including your selected program’s withdrawal policies, before signing their commitment to participate.

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 not until June 16 at the earliest.

There are many reasons—both COVID-related and not—why a semester 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 trip cancellation/interruption insurance and tuition insurance.

Full Vanderbilt withdrawal policies can be found here.

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

Yes. GEO will offer multiple venues for students to get more information on local conditions and how COVID-19 might affect their program, including a bi-monthly update sent to applicants from the GEO’s Global Safety and Security Team with a health and safety update for their country/city destination: On the second Friday of every month, GEO’s Global Safety and Security Team will send applicants a health and safety update for their country/city destination. This update will include an overview of current metrics and relevant news or information sources to monitor.

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

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 due to COVID-19. Both of these situations could result in adjusted program start dates, individual inability to participate, or program cancellation.

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 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, 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, and particularly those rules established to protect health and safety. 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.

Will perks for fall study abroad be available in Fall 2021?

Because of the impact of COVID-19, not all of the fall study abroad incentives may be available in Fall 2021. As of March 1, the status is as follows:

  • Monetary perks will be available from these partners: CET, DIS, IES, IFSA, and SIT.
  • The Vanderbilt Early Registration benefit is available.
  • The status of Vanderbilt housing benefits is uncertain at present.

See our page on fall study abroad for further descriptions of these perks.