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December 2021 International Travel Update  

Ahead of the Spring 2022 semester, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is providing information for students to consider before departure.

VACCINATION AND BOOSTER SHOTS: CRITICAL FOR SPRING 2022 STUDY ABROAD

In addition to complying with the university’s policy on vaccination, you are strongly encouraged to receive a booster before departing the United States. This will help mitigate future issues with the evolving definition of “fully vaccinated,” vaccine eligibility, and potential costs incurred from seeking vaccination abroad.

Host countries may change their definition of “fully vaccinated.” Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, and the United Kingdom may limit the validity of vaccinations to nine (9) months, or even six (6) months. More countries are likely to follow. After “expiration,” residents will be considered “unvaccinated” and likely subject to additional restriction unless they receive a booster. Austria recently locked down unvaccinated residents.

During initial vaccination efforts in 2021, short-term residents and visitors were not immediately eligible in many countries. If repeated for booster shots, students may be excluded from receiving the booster for weeks or months.

Once eligible during early vaccination efforts, short-term residents and visitors in some countries had to pay the national health service and/or private clinics for vaccination. While the cost was not high, immunization is free in the U.S. Additionally, the university’s international insurance will not pay or reimburse for vaccination or boosters.

 Find more information about COVID-19 boosters in Champaign-Urbana. CDC guidelines and information for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots can be found on the CDC website.

INTERNATIONAL INSURANCE GUIDE: UNDERSTANDING COVID-19 BENEFITS

The university’s international insurance is a critical resource. It provides substantial coverage for COVID-19 and general medical care, including tele-health and tele-counseling, some testing, hospital care, and benefits for quarantine in specific conditions. All students are automatically enrolled for semester study abroad programs.

If you become sick with COVID-19, the international insurance provides coverage as if it is any other sickness. It will pay or reimburse you for a healthcare visit to obtain a diagnosis based on having symptoms. If you are further treated for COVID-19, to include hospitalization, benefits will cover those costs. A healthcare visit due to suspected exposure or close proximity to someone who is sick is not covered.

A new international insurance benefit is tele-health and tele-counseling. If travelers are unsure about their symptoms and considering seeking local care, the international insurance offers tele-health consults to review and discuss symptoms with a medical professional. They can advise on seeking local care.

The international insurance will pay or reimburse travelers for the cost of a COVID-19 test if ordered by a medical professional because COVID-19 symptoms are present. The international insurance will not pay for mandatory tests related to travel (before departure or after arrival) nor for other voluntary tests to determine one's status. The requirement to test must come from a medical provider and be documented for insurance reimbursement.

The international insurance will not pay for vaccinations or boosters, whether in the U.S. or abroad. This applies to all vaccinations, not just COVID-19.

The quarantine benefit covers reasonable lodging and meal expenses due to an unexpected quarantine, as well as limited travel rearrangements. Reimbursement for documented expenses is up to $2000 or 14 days of quarantine, whichever comes first. The quarantine must be required (and documented) by a recognized government authority or medical staff due to having, or being suspected of having, a contagious disease or infection while abroad.

Mandatory arrival quarantine is not covered. If required, this is a known cost that should be included in the travel budget.

Read the full Student Insurance Guide here and download a mobile version here.

RESUMING STUDY ABROAD

The decision to resume study abroad is not made lightly. While the university values the study abroad experience, student well-being remains the university’s foremost concern.

Factors Mitigating COVID-19 Risk

Risk associated with COVID-19 will remain indefinitely. However, developments continue to mitigate the level of risk. Positive developments and university efforts include: 

The University of Illinois expects all participants to be fully vaccinated, and, if more than six months between vaccination and departure, to receive a booster. These simple actions can reduce the chance of infection while abroad. The severity of symptoms in those vaccinated (and now boosted) against COVID-19 are significantly reduced, lowering the risk of serious infection.

Students and the general public are now more accustomed to wearing masks, practicing social distancing, increased sanitation, and potential government interventions. We also benefit from situational experience in making decisions. These simple steps can reduce transmission of infection, protecting travelers and the local community.

The university’s International Insurance has improved benefits, including access to tele-health, financial reimbursement of some quarantine costs, and coverage for care.

University staff reviewed partner plans and provisions to mitigate risk. Partner plans vary but demonstrate commitment to student well-being. Likewise, students completed an assessment and action plan to demonstrate a basic understanding of concerns and plan for possible interruptions.

Impact of University Cancellation of Study Abroad

The university values the study abroad experience and seeks it for students. The university, though, will not accept unreasonable risk to well-being. The university retains the right to suspend study abroad programs at any time. If factors discussed below require the difficult but necessary decision to cancel study abroad programs, the university will do so. In this event, staff will diligently work with study abroad partners to recoup all possible costs but students are responsible for costs that cannot be recovered, including personal costs for airfare and lodging. This applies to suspension before and during program dates. If students have questions, they can check their Confirmation of Participation in My Study Abroad and/or their program refund policies.

Potential Factors for University Cancellation

Vaccination, planning, and healthy habits can mitigate some risk, the remaining risk can still be significant. In deciding to suspend a program, Illinois will consider factors that may affect well-being and/or the overall study abroad experience:

COVID-19 surges from evolving variants and resulting high infection rates can significantly limit medical capacity in a city or country. Participants must have access to health care for routine and emergency illness and injury beyond COVID-19 to maintain total well-being.

As experienced recently with the Omicron variant, government measures prohibiting travel to and from the United States are a source of risk. Likewise, the imposition of severe local movement restrictions that potentially impact physical and mental well-being can be cause for cancellation. The university expects that students will have access to flights to their home country at all times.

Partner institutions returning to long-term remote instruction is another consideration for cancellation. This measure, implemented long-term, suggests an unsuitable host environment for students. If the experience is relegated to virtual learning for an extended period, the university will suspend programs.

Find more information about planning and preparations for Spring 2022 study abroad in Frequently Asked Questions.

CONTINUE CHECKING REQUIREMENTS

The information above presents a baseline understanding of the changing realities of study abroad and COVID-19 in Spring 2022. Requirements and best practices evolve continuously with the pandemic. Students need to remain informed as their departure date approaches.

As your departure approaches, it is critical to check the State Department’s COVID-19 Country Specific Information page for your destination. Entry requirements can change at any time.

Students should check their university email for program updates from program staff and college study abroad offices. In the event of a significant update, International Safety and Security will also communicate by email. If you have questions, proactively communicate with appropriate staff.