In light of the continuing global pandemic of COVID-19, we have compiled the following guidance for students and families considering studying abroad in 2021.
To learn about the university's full response to the pandemic, visit the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information Center.
Travel abroad risk management and review for abroad programming in 2021
Updated September 24, 2020
Lehigh University senior leadership and medical professionals in the Health and Wellness Center have been monitoring the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak since it emerged, and they continue to do so.
The International Travel Advisory Committee (ITAC) is a group of Lehigh staff and faculty from across the university that reviews all undergraduate international travel. This committee, along with other university leadership, made the decisions about when Lehigh's spring students abroad were called home as COVID-19 spread worldwide. The committee suspended study abroad programming through mid-summer 2021.
In reviewing abroad programming, ITAC will reference a broad range of domestic and international resources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization, International SOS (ISOS), and our partners abroad. ITAC will review a number of factors, such as: CDC and U.S. Department of State Travel Alerts, availability of flights, partner program response planning regarding COVID19, guarantee that courses can be taken remotely should a student not be able to travel or must return to the states early. In order to consider allowing travel to a particular country, in conjunction with other logistical considerations, Lehigh will be looking for the CDC travel health notice to be no higher than 2 and State Department travel advisory no higher than 3.
The following is a partial list of resources that may be consulted by ITAC as part of the program review.
- U.S. Department of State (assigns a travel advisory to every country on a scale of 1 to 4 in addition to providing detailed advice regarding in-country safety and security concerns for U.S. travelers)
- U.S. Department of State country-specific information
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) (promotes security cooperation between American private sector interests worldwide and the U.S. Department of State)
- Forum on Education Abroad (sets the "Standards of Good Practice" for education abroad programs)
- NAFSA - Association of International Educators
- Governments of United Kingdom, Canada, Australia
Considerations for Abroad Programming DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Updated September 24, 2020
The global coronavirus pandemic is ongoing. No travel is risk-free, and disruption is still possible. While Lehigh carefully reviews the locations and academics of our approved study abroad programs, the university cannot guarantee the safety of our students while they are abroad. Travel of any kind during the unpredictable circumstances of COVID-19 carries additional risks.
In addition to following Lehigh’s guidance, students and families must determine their own comfort level regarding international travel. We list below some factors to consider when determining your individual level of risk tolerance for any academic, financial, or other impacts traveling abroad this fall may entail.
- Are passport/visas services available in the United States? Abroad? Do I have passport/visa documents needed to travel?
- When are deposits/payments due and what is the refund/withdrawal policy, including related to housing if I am forced to depart before the end of the semester?
- Am I comfortable with the housing options offered by my program? (Many programs are switching to all single accommodation and avoiding homestays.)
- Do I accept any policies my program has that might restrict my ability to travel independently?
- Am I knowledgeable about and comfortable with the healthcare facilities in my destination country should I need them?
- Will my airline allow me to change my return flight without penalty, or am I comfortable with the change fee/paying for a new flight?
- Do I still want to go abroad if there is a possibility my host institution overseas might switch to all online classes?
- In the event that my program must close mid-semester, what would the impact be on my ability to graduate if I can't complete all my credits in the fall semester?
- Do I recognize the possibility of new travel restrictions that would affect my ability to access flights to/from the United States and/or host country?
Please also note that if you experience an emergency while abroad, family and friends may not be able to travel to visit or assist you due to travel limitations and restrictions.
ABROAD PROGRAM OPTIONS: SUMMER 2021, FALL 2021, SPRING 2022
Lehigh student international travel programs remain limited through late summer. Most Lehigh international travel programs are not being offered for summer 2021. Some limited programming may be able to resume in late August, if the conditions listed above are met. Most funding available from Lehigh departments will be directed to virtual programs only; any Lehigh funded or Lehigh organized travel must be reviewed by the Lehigh International Travel Advisory committee. A list of virtual programming offered by Lehigh partners this summer is available here, and your study abroad advisor can help review these options with you.
Lehigh's Global Social Impact Fellows are scheduled to travel to Sierra Leonne in August 2021.
We anticipate some travel will be possible for the fall 2021 semester. Our semester program options for fall 2021 have been modified based on program withdrawal policy and Covid-19 response planning. All programming remains under ongoing review based on ever-changing conditions worldwide. Study Abroad advisors will work closely with all fall 2021 study abroad applicants. Students with a compelling academic need that cannot be met in a future semester or by an approved program may submit a special request to participate in a program that is not on our Fall 2021 approved list. The program location must still meet the criteria described above. The request will be reviewed by Study Abroad and the LU International Travel Advisory Committee. Before beginning this process, students must discuss their plan and program with their study abroad advisor, who can provide additional details about the process and the factors under consideration.
We anticipate spring 2022 semester abroad programming to be widely available. While conditions are improving, the pandemic continues to be a factor that will impact the spring 2022 semester. At this time, per the recommendation of the International Travel Advisory Committee, we will continue to limit our program list to select partners. Lehigh is monitoring worldwide conditions and will keep students and families informed of updates. Please search for a program using this list of approved options. Programs may be added or removed as we review health, safety and risk considerations. We highly recommend that students begin the planning and application process early, ideally during summer 2021. We anticipate that a larger number of students from across the US will be studying abroad than a typical spring, and we anticipate some programs may reach capacity proir to stated deadlines.
Communications with Students
- Update: June 18, 2021
- Update to Parents/Guardians: April 20, 2021
- Update to Students: April 20, 2021
- Update: February 8, 2021