Even though international travel is tough right now because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is actually an ideal time to start considering which study abroad program is right for you and your academic trajectory! Ideally, you should start planning at least a year before you intend to depart for your study abroad experience. Starting the process early allows you plenty of time to:
- apply for scholarships
- ensure your academic credits will transfer so you stay on track for graduation
- have the opportunity to chat with program alumni
- do some research about your host location
Although there is a lot of uncertainty in the world right now, there is still a lot of interest in studying abroad. We feel confident that once the skies open up again, students will be excited to depart on their own AIFS study abroad adventure as soon as possible!
As we look to the future of study abroad after COVID-19, here are 5 things you can expect from AIFS:
Colleges and universities throughout the United States have had varying approaches to the Fall 2020 semester, and each has experienced a different degree of success. What’s been clear from the very beginning of this school year is that transparency plays a huge role. Students want and deserve to be kept informed during these times, particularly regarding decisions that impact them on a personal level.
This same logic also applies to students interested in studying abroad. It’s very important that you are able to see exactly what is included in program fees – and are fully aware of the academic continuity and safety/contingency plans and the program’s refund policies.
AIFS prides itself on its student-centered programs. We have created a hub on our website for all things COVID-19 related so students who choose to study abroad can know what to expect with confidence. We know that the more transparent we are, the more confidence you, your family and your friends will have in us, and we take that responsibility very seriously.
“Be cautious, but not fearful. I would tell students to always prepare for unseen circumstance ,but do not hyper focus on what might happen,” said Gabriella DeAngelis, a junior at Worcester State University who studied abroad during the spring 2020 semester in Prague, Czech Republic with AIFS.
2. Expanded Health and Safety Measures
Each country is handling COVID-19 in their own way. AIFS is dedicated to working with our university partners overseas to ensure thorough health and safety protocols are executed and followed on-site. Because of the pandemic, there may be a chance that students who study abroad during or after COVID-19 will be required to quarantine upon their arrival to their host city, as well as quarantine should they test positive for the virus during their program. We fully expect that you will be looking for information on these protocols prior to departure, so we are prepared to provide clear information to you before you embark on your journey on what the health and safety measures will be taken in each program location to manage the possibility of virus outbreaks.
“I would tell students to check how the virus is/was dealt with in the country that they are hoping to study in. When narrowing down potential programs, chose one that you truly want to go on. Being cautious about the country’s COVID response is important, but AIFS will ensure your safety no matter where you are,” said Jessica Williams, a senior at the University of Rhode Island who studied abroad during the spring 2020 semester in Prague, Czech Republic.
3. Greater Mental Health Support and Healthcare Access On-Site
The discussion surrounding mental health and supporting students is ever-expanding. While a study abroad experience can be incredibly exciting, rewarding, and enlightening, there can be times when it can also be stressful. Students may find themselves outside of their comfort zones and potentially in settings that are unfamiliar, which may require an increase in healthcare and mental health resources while abroad.
At AIFS, we are pleased to offer students enhanced medical support, including a multi-lingual global teleconsultation service, which provides students with access to mental health and healthcare professionals 24/7. This service publishes doctor’s notes within the student’s patient profile to allow ease of access. Prescriptions are provided in a PDF format through an app and online portal or can be sent to the nearest pharmacy.
4. Added Insurance Options
Insurance is not always on the top of the list of priorities for students who are going to study abroad, but parents, family members, and a your university tend to make it a top concern. With AIFS’ all-inclusive study abroad programs, insurance is included as part of the program fee, providing peace of mind.
In response to the current pandemic, AIFS Study Abroad is excited to offer a new insurance coverage option called Worldwide Trip Protector Plus, helping limit personal risk and providing financial security for your study abroad program.
The new coverage features Cancel for Any Reason/Interrupt for Any Reason (CFAR/IFAR) protection allowing you to protect your study abroad program if situations like COVID-19 happen in the future.
“In terms of choosing a program, definitely pay attention to the insurance information now more than ever,” said Seton Hall University senior, Alyssa Tolentino who studied abroad with AIFS in Grenoble, France. “…While I didn’t need to see a doctor, I knew that was always an option and that the process would be seamless with our insurance.”
5. Caring and Understanding Staff
As a student abroad, it can be overwhelming at times. Knowing that you have an on-site staff member or members — like AIFS Resident Directors — who can provide support and care for you during your time abroad can be a relief when you’re concerned about health and safety (or just being overseas in general). Our Resident Directors are there to answer any and all questions students have while abroad, including things like travel advice, assistance with seeing a healthcare professional, and more. We’ve found that students can develop long-lasting bonds with the AIFS on-site staff, making a huge impact on their experience.
“The people that work for AIFS truly care about the students and it shows. The willingness to help and really go out of their way to assist the students with what we needed was just astounding to me – I have really never seen any kind of support from any institution I’ve ever belonged to in my life,” said Catherine Wheatley, a senior from Adelphi University who studied abroad in Prague, Czech Republic during the spring 2020 semester.
Many of our Spring 2020 alumni indicated that their relationship with time has changed and they have come to realize that tomorrow is never guaranteed. This viewpoint has helped many students focus on their future plans differently and prioritize more meaningfully! Senior Laurel Tollison from Mississippi State University who studied abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia said, “Just because we live in a time of uncertainty doesn’t mean [students] shouldn’t take the chance to study abroad. They should hope for the best and plan to study abroad, because some things in life are always uncertain. If they just wait around for things to become more clear, they might miss some great opportunities.”
Considering study abroad? Contact us via phone, chat, web, social – whichever is easiest for you – and we’ll be happy to help!