To prepare for your travel experience during a pandemic, we recommend completing the following steps.
- Know what you're signing up. As noted above, traveling during a pandemic does bring some heightened health, logistical, academic, and financial risks. Every traveler has their own level of risk tolerance, but as COVID-19 conditions ebb and flow around the world, our students who are fully vaccinated and willing to adhere to some precautions have found that living and studying abroad does not represent a significant shift in risk relative to the risk of living and studying at home. Carefully review the waiver in your USC Education Abroad Office application that outlines some foreseen risks related to traveling during the pandemic. Additionally, carefully review all cancellation policies associated with your travel, including but not limited to: program provider refund policies, housing refund policies, and airfare policies.
- Compile your COVID-19 travel safety plan. You can use this form to compile this important information.
- Continuously track the impact and trajectory of the pandemic in your destination country. You can use the resources listed on this page. When tracking the impact of the pandemic in your destination country, it is helpful to consider factors like recent case rates relative to the population size, postitivity rate, vaccination rate, and hospital capacity.
- Continuously track the entry requirements of your destination country, as they can change with little warning. The U.S. Embassy in your destination country tracks the entry requirements for U.S. passport holders. You can find this information here.
- Strongly consider getting the vaccine, and check vaccine requirements for your program and destination country. We are strongly recommending that all education abroad students receive the COVID-19 vaccine prior to travel. Getting vaccinated helps mitigate the risk of contracting COVID and will help you be prepared for vaccine-related travel requirements. Similarly, being vaccinated may help you avoid mandatory and lengthy quarantines upon entry into some countries. Finally, we are aware that many of our Global Partner programs now require their participants to be vaccinated. As you think about when to schedule your vaccine, please remember you are not considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after your second Pfizer or Moderna dose. You can find more information about how to obtain a vaccine through Student Health Services. For this reason and depending on how the timing of your travel aligns with your initial vaccination date, you may need to get a booster before travel.
- Consider purchasing trip cancellation insurance. The Education Abroad Office recommends considering a “Interrupt for Any Reason” insurance plan or a “Cancel for Any Reason” insurance plan. Here are some options from our insurance company, CISI. Not all plans will cover all costs associated with a program – please contact CISI or your chosen insurance provider directly for confirmation of what expenses would be covered.
- Consider booking a flexible flight. Maximizing flexibility when you purchase your plane ticket is helpful in case any unexpected circumstances arise that mean you need to change or cancel your flight. When looking at possible flight paths, keep in mind that some countries will require that you have obtained a negative PCR test 48-72 hours prior to departure. Think about this time window if you're booking a flight with a layover.
- Have an academic back-up plan. If your destination country has been quick to shut down its borders and/or slow to reopen its borders, we recommend working with your academic advisor to have an academic back-up plan in place. This is so you have another option if your destination country suddenly changes its entry requirements prior to your program starting. Your academic back-up plan may include enrolling in USC courses for the term you plan to be abroad, those these would need to be dropped at a certain date so we can enroll you in the study abroad placeholder course. As of November 2022, sudden border closures are becoming more rare for most countries, but remain a possibility. Your education abroad advisor can let you know whether or not your destination country has been quick to shut down its borders and/or slow to reopen its borders.
- Enroll in the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).