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Santa Clara University

Study Abroad COVID 19 FAQs

Undergraduate Study Abroad COVID-19 FAQs

For information on SCU’s response to COVID-19, see the main University webpage

Updated: 03/18/2020

Santa Clara University’s number one priority is to protect the health and safety of our students and provide them with quality study abroad programs that are free from academic disruption.   To guide the University in making decisions about all university-sponsored international travel SCU maintains an International Travel Policy that applies to study abroad programs as well as all international programs and activities throughout the university.  

The University International Travel Policy gives primary importance to the US Department of State (DOS), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO) in evaluating decisions about international travel.  On March 7 the University suspended all international programs taking place over spring break 2020. On March 13, the University suspended all international programs taking place during summer 2020. These decisions result from advisories that trigger decision-making points in the University International Travel Policy on an on-going basis.  Recent advisories include:  

In addition to these advisories, countries have closed their borders to non-citizens who are not already in the country and travel is not possible for US citizens.   

Students need time to prepare for programs abroad including time to complete pre-departure orientation, obtain visas, immunizations, purchase plane tickets and manage other preparations that typically take six to twelve weeks prior to departure.  In addition, delaying critical decisions related to COVID-19 creates greater challenges for students that could have long-term impacts, such as: 

  • Difficulty securing first choice on-campus or off-campus housing
  • Limited SCU course offerings for Fall 2020 which may impact a student’s academic progress
  • Owing money to a program provider/host institution due to unrecoverable costs even if the students don’t attend the program
  • Not being able to secure full or partial course credit if a program is cancelled after departure and remote accommodations cannot be made
  • Inability to receive refunds for airfare, visas, or other travel arrangement costs

SCU will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation in all locations and make any cancellations only after in-depth review and assessment of the health, safety, and academic integrity of a program.

All SCU study abroad participants should be aware of the following, given the dynamic and changing situation with COVID-19:

  • The U.S government and/or local host governments can enact travel restrictions, institute quarantines, and activate additional border screening processes at any time;
  • Flight carriers can announce the suspension of travel routes into and out of a country at any time;
  • Students who choose to continue with SCU Study Abroad for Fall 2020 should understand that their program may be cancelled at any time if it is deemed unsafe or academically compromised due to the spread of COVID-19;
  • If a student’s program is cancelled by SCU, prior to or after their departure for study abroad, SCU cannot guarantee: 
    1. placement on an alternative program;
    2. full or partial course credit from the program abroad;
    3. placement in first choice SCU courses or housing.

March 19, the Department of State released a Global Health Advisory Level 4: Do Not Travel.  This supercedes individual country/area travel advisories.  In addition, March 17, the Centers for Disease Control updated travel advisories to  Level 3: Avoid Nonessential Travel for:

    • United Kingdom and Ireland
    • Europe
    • China
    • Japan
    • South Korea
    • Iran
    • Malaysia

In keeping with the current University International Travel Policy no programs will move forward while these advisories are in place.  It is unclear when or if the Department of State and Centers for Disease Control will lift these advisories. The University will continue to monitor the advisories and make any changes and cancellations as necessary.


Programs that have a DOS or CDC Travel Advisory of 3 or higher will not be allowed to continue for the term they are scheduled to go abroad and no new applications will be accepted for that country. Official cancellations of any program will be communicated by SCU Study Abroad directly to students.

Reassessment of programs is unlikely due to the uncertainty surrounding the spread of the COVID-19. While it is possible that the CDC could "lift" travel notification levels for affected countries prior to fall term start dates, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible for students to complete necessary orientation, immunizations, visa applications, housing applications and other important requirements for their program abroad in time.

Students who decide to withdraw now should complete the SCU Study Abroad - Request to Withdraw Form. The Study Abroad Office will notify the Registrar’s Office, Bursar’s Office and Financial Aid Office that the student has withdrawn, normally within three business days.

Students who decide to withdraw after fall enrollment commences need to know that their first choice courses at SCU or housing may not be available. Study Abroad cannot assist with courses or housing placements, or make exceptions to Registrar or Housing policies.

Students can choose to defer their Fall 2020 study abroad participation to Spring 2021, if available. Please be aware that most Spring 2021 programs are a semester-length, thus students would be missing Winter 2021 and Spring 2021. Students should also be aware that with the unforeseen and rapidly evolving situation of COVID-19, a student’s ability to participate in Spring 2021 may be impacted as well.

While we cannot predict how this situation will continue to unfold and affect students and programs, Study Abroad is committed to assisting students to determine their best course of action and, when able to, providing our resources in support.

  • Students may choose to voluntarily withdraw from their unaffected program by completing the SCU Study Abroad - Request to Withdraw form and Study Abroad will waive the SCU Withdrawal Fee. Students will need to work with their specific program about any program withdrawal fees. 
  • If the program is cancelled at any point prior to departure by SCU, Study Abroad will work with the program to identify recoverable expenses related to the program tuition or program fee.
  • Alternative programs after cancellation will be dependent on current travel advisories, SCU enrollment capacity and program-specific deadlines. Study Abroad cannot extend any program-specific deadlines or guarantee alternative programs. 
  • Study Abroad will reschedule mandatory pre-departure orientations to accommodate shifting enrollment and withdrawals.

SCU will continue to monitor programs after departure and may cancel programs while students are abroad if the safety or academic integrity of the program is compromised due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. 

  • Examples of situations that may result in closure include:
    • Significant disruptions to the instructional continuity
    • Program/university/health infrastructures/transportation/housing limitations or closures  
    • Acute incidents that directly impact a program's geographical location
  • If a program is cancelled after departure, SCU will determine any recoverable costs related to the program tuition or program fee.  
  • Depending on the point of withdrawal, partial, full, or no credit from the program abroad may be possible. SCU will assist in assessing the options available to a student however, SCU cannot guarantee any completion of credit attempted abroad. Students may need to prepare for other possibilities such as repeating courses during another term at SCU. 
  • SCU will provide information on available options regarding SCU registration and housing at the time of cancellation however SCU cannot guarantee placement in courses or housing for the Fall or Winter quarter at SCU. Students may need to consider other alternatives such as off-campus housing or Leave of Absence.