Skip to content

Education Abroad & COVID-19

While the COVID-19 pandemic has posed a multitude of challenges in all aspects of our lives, it has also demonstrated just how connected the world is and highlighted the importance of cross-cultural experiences. We believe your time abroad will help you develop the skills necessary to become a global leader and to grow academically, personally, and professionally well beyond the end of your program. Remain flexible, informed, respectful, and ready to comply with program and local regulations.

Being successful during your program will require you to prepare in advance of your departure and being adaptable as conditions continue to shift.  Our goal is to give every student a global experience, but as there are many factors outside of our control, we ask that you stay flexible and be prepared for bumps in the road. 
Between now and your program start, be sure to routinely refer to these resources and monitor your email for updates from Education Abroad, your program, and/or host university. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out to your Education Abroad program manager

Pre-Departure Preparations

There are a lot of steps that have to happen between when a student decides to apply for an EA program and when you actually arrive on-site. You should plan to monitor your MyCUAbroad checklist, your CU email address, and any information or checklists provided by your program directly. But below are some of the pre-departure tasks related to COVID-19 specifically that you should be thinking about.

EA requires students to be fully vaccinated, including boosters, against COVID-19 before the start of their program and maintains all vaccine mandate policy decisions put forth by the University of Colorado. This requirement applies to all international and domestic programs. Note that different countries have different definitions for being fully vaccinated, so make sure you are researching your host country's requirements. EA cannot guarantee you will be able to access a COVID-19 vaccine while abroad.

You should make a digital and second physical copy of your vaccination card. Border agents may require persons entering a country to show proof of vaccination in lieu of other COVID-related entry requirements; consult your host country entry requirements for information specific to your destination.

If you have received a CU exemption to the vaccine requirement
We cannot guarantee that your exemption can be accommodated on your program. This is the case in situations where your host university, program, and/or country entry requirements vary from CU’s guidelines. You are required to abide by any vaccine requirements and associated exemption protocols imposed through your program and/or entry requirements. Review your program information carefully. Failure to comply with program policies could result in dismissal, which could have financial repercussions. If you are unvaccinated, reach out to your Education Abroad program manager and they will double-check your program/host country’s policies and verify your eligibility for your program. If there are any concerns about your program eligibility based on your vaccination status, your program manager will connect with you to discuss your options.

Please note that, depending on your destination, your vaccination status may impact your experience, including (but not limited to) the following:
  • Reduced risk for contracting COVID-19 
  • Local governments may decide travelers must be vaccinated in order to enter the country (often with little warning)
  • Certain countries are exempting vaccinated individuals from mandatory quarantines
  • Vaccination may be required by local governments to engage in social activities such as going to the movies, the theater, museums, restaurants, nightclubs, concerts, sporting events, gyms, or to utilize public transportation.
  • Airline travel requirements may shift and require proof of vaccination to travel
  • Vaccinated individuals will likely have increased ability for independent travel both during and after their program 
  • Unvaccinated individuals generally are required to test much more frequently, the cost of which is at the student's expense
Familiarize yourself with the teaching modalities (in person, hybrid, fully remote, etc.) employed by your selected program, and be prepared to shift between modalities should on-site conditions require it. See the What to Expect On-Site section below for more information.

Review the Registering for Education Abroad courses for details and timelines on registering for classes within your program and what registration processes occur at CU Boulder during your term abroad. Most students will not need to enroll themselves into CU Boulder classes as a backup to study abroad, with the following exceptions: 
  • You have been accepted with a condition. (See the acceptance email you received from your program manager if you are unsure if you were accepted with a condition.) 
  • You want to enroll in CU Boulder classes as a backup option for your own peace of mind.  
Other students are not required to enroll in CU Boulder classes as a backup.  

Booking Flights

The dynamic nature of both the pandemic and subsequent governmental responses creates the potential for unforeseen disruptions. For these reasons, it is important to understand and mitigate these risks as much as possible. Consider the following:
  • Book direct flights wherever possible. Avoid layovers in countries other than your departure and host country. 
  • Carefully review the airline's cancellation and change policies and book flights with flexible change/cancellation policies whenever possible.
  • Refer to our Booking Your Flights page for more resources on how to book your flight.


Entry Requirements for your Destination

Different countries will have different COVID-related entry requirements. You may be required to complete one or more of the following COVID-19 measures, depending on your destination:
  • Taking a COVID-19 test pre-departure
  • Completion of a health form
  • Providing proof of vaccination
  • Downloading an app
  • Taking a COVID-19 test upon arrival or within a certain number of days after arrival
  • Completion of a mandatory quarantine upon arrival
You can review travel regulations for each country, including the United States, using Tripsguard or this IATA map. U.S. embassies also update entry and quarantine requirements on their relevant webpages. Note that this information is frequently changing and may not always be accurate. You should routinely check for updates now and until you depart. Check these resources and follow guidance from Education Abroad and your provider or host university. If you are unsure of the entry or quarantine requirements for your host country, reach out to your Education Abroad program manager or program. 

Testing for COVID-19: If you are required to present a negative COVID-19 test before you depart and/or upon arrival, check what type of test is required and the timeframe for the test's validity (for example: a negative PCR COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure). Make sure you pay close attention to the validity period to ensure your negative test result doesn't expire too early, as this could result in you being denied entry to your host country. Consult your local public health website for a list of COVID-19 test sites near you. For testing in Boulder County, review the Boulder County COVID-19 Testing webpage

Departing Healthy & Prepared

  • Research the COVID-19 response in your host country or domestic location: As you prepare for your program, familiarize yourself with local guidelines. You will adjust more readily if you arrive already knowing when and where masks are required, local guidelines with public transportation, etc.
  • Check mask requirements for your flight: Masking may be mandatory during your flight depending on your airline/destination. Even if it is not mandatory, it is still strongly recommended. For long flights consider bringing spare masks that you can change into. 
  • Bring back your COVID bubble: In the 2 weeks prior to departure, we recommend limiting your social circle in order to minimize the risk of contracting COVID right before departure. This is especially important if you are traveling to a country that requires a pre-departure COVID test, as a positive test result would delay your arrival to your program. 
  • Follow: CDC guidelines on international travel, or CDC Domestic Travel During Covid-19
  • If traveling internationally, continue monitoring entry requirements: These routinely change to reflect on-site conditions (see section above).
  • Monitor your health: Know the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 before you depart and throughout your program. Not feeling well on the morning or days leading up to your flight? It's important to protect yourself and others, especially as COVID-19 can take many days to develop. If you aren't feeling well the day of, or days leading up to your planned travel, it's important to prioritize your health! Take a COVID-19 test, contact your airline to consider changing your flight, and contact your program and Education Abroad program manager to let them know.
  • Testing positive prior to departure: If you test positive for COVID-19 in the weeks leading up to your departure, self-isolate and follow instructions from local public health authorities. Next, notify your study abroad program and CU Education Abroad.  You may need to contact your airlines and explore delaying or canceling your flight. 

Pro Tip: Pack a COVID-19 Travel Kit

  • For COVID-19 essentials, don't forget to pack: 
    • Supply of face masks 
    • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol)
    • Disinfectant wipes (at least 70% alcohol) for surfaces
    • Thermometer
    • Any additional medications
  • COVID-19 documentation, keep these in your carry-on and make a copy:
    • Negative COVID-19 test results (when applicable) 
    • COVID-19 vaccination card 
  • For non-COVID related packing list items, check out our Packing tips section

Consider Additional Insurance

Students may want to consider purchasing additional insurance, such as Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR/IFAR) Insurance, to help safeguard their investment in an education abroad experience. 

Per the CU Boulder Education Abroad Participant Contract, Education Abroad is not responsible for any out-of-pocket expenses incurred in preparing for the program, such as, but not limited to, advance purchase airfare, equipment, passport fees, visa fees, and medical expenses.

What to Expect On-Site

Your program will be providing a lot of program-specific information about what you should expect for your time on-site, including housing information, commute expectations, class schedules, cultural differences, health & safety measures, and much more. COVID does continue to impact the student experience in various ways, so make sure you are familiar with what you should expect for your specific destination and program (and know that it may differ from the experiences of past students - whether they were there one month ago or four years ago!).
Arriving in your host country is always a unique and different experience, and given these current conditions, it's even more important to be prepared. Ask yourself and talk to your program about what you should expect for the first few days and weeks of your program as you get settled in. 

Continue to monitor for symptoms and reach out to on-site staff if you need any additional support.

Quarantines & Arrival Tests
A few countries still require travelers to quarantine upon arrival. Some countries may also test travelers upon arrival (and require quarantine if the traveler tests positive, even if you previously tested negative). There is also the possibility you may need to quarantine midway through your program because you are not feeling well, and/or you test positive for COVID-19. So it is good to be prepared for any of these scenarios. Check with your program or host university to see what support they will provide in case you do have to quarantine. Will they organize meal drop-offs? Will you be able to remain in your housing or will you move into another housing assignment? Is there an emergency number you can call 24/7 if your condition worsens?
The opportunity to live in a completely new place and experience a new culture requires adjusting to a new (possibly different) academic setting. It may take time to adjust, but know others are likely having a similar experience! In many respects, the keys to a successful program during COVID-19 are similar to a successful semester at CU, or even a pre-COVID program abroad. As you prepare for your program, during your program, and even after you return, keep the following in mind:
  • Be flexible! Conditions, regulations, and recommendations are constantly changing. Have a backup plan for everything, and be open to changing circumstances and adjusted expectations. 

  • Academics: While many host universities and programs have resumed in-person classes, most are also prepared to move courses to a hybrid or remote format if conditions require.

  • Follow COVID-19 guidelines: There are local laws and guidelines, as well as your program's or host university's rules and requirements, that you will be required to comply with. Guidelines may include wearing masks, refraining from independent travel, and cooperating with recommended COVID-19 testing and contract tracing processes. Many programs will require you to sign a behavioral contract agreeing to these rules. Failure to comply with these rules and guidelines will not only put your health at risk but also the health and wellness of your entire host community. 

  • Testing for COVID-19: Testing availability will differ based on your home community and/or host country. Contact your program and/or host university to determine where and when you can get a COVID-19 test on site if necessary. COVID-19 tests may incur out-of-pocket expenses. We also recommend bringing a few rapid tests with you.

  • What to do if you test positive for COVID-19: This will depend on your program, current location, and host country requirements. Isolate, continue to monitor your health, follow local country (and state/county) COVID-19 protocols, and inform your program and Education Abroad. 

Independent Travel While Abroad

When talking to those who have studied abroad in the past, they almost always wish they explored their host city more and didn't leave every weekend. This is your chance. Explore your host city, immerse yourself in the culture, and live like a local. You won't regret it! 

Independent travel opportunities before, during, and after your program - especially outside of your host country - could be more limited and will likely involve increased hurdles than pre-COVID. This could be for a variety of reasons, including: 
  • Your program may limit you from traveling outside of your host city and/or country
  • Countries' entry requirements - including who can enter, who needs to quarantine, etc. - are changing frequently, and you are responsible for monitoring these as you make any independent travel plans.
  • Independent travel could result in unexpected interruptions - such as a positive test requiring completion of a quarantine in another country - which could impact your ability to complete your courses
If you’ve started thinking about independent travel plans (including staying in your host country after your program) start by researching relevant entry requirements and program policies. Be sure to talk to your on-site staff before making any travel plans - not only will they have great, insider recommendations, but you will also be able to ensure that what you plan on doing is aligned with the local/program guidance and regulations. 
  • Follow the CDC guidelines for international travelers when returning to the U.S. 
  • If you test positive prior to departure, follow public health guidance and inform your program and Education Abroad.
  • When travelingwear a mask, watch your health for signs of illness while traveling, and follow the guidelines of your host country/community. If you have symptoms or are concerned you were exposed to COVID-19, contact your medical provider. 
  • There's a lot that could change between the time you're reading this and the end of your program. In the last few weeks of your program, check the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and state and local county guidance/regulations for the most up-to-date information.    

Decision Making FAQs

Education Abroad (EA) has been successfully operating programs throughout the pandemic. Refer to our Health & Safety page and the information below for more details on our decision making processes and how it may impact your plans and personal decision making processes.

Should EA make the difficult decision to suspend any program prior to departure, students will have three options:

  1. Defer their participation to a future term
  2. Switch their application to another available program that fits their academic and personal interests
  3. Withdraw their application.

EA is committed to providing students with study abroad opportunities and will work with each student to find a program that promotes academic, personal, and professional growth in a safe environment, whether it is for their initially intended term or a future term.

EA will refund recoverable costs paid directly to CU Boulder should a program be suspended. EA is not responsible for any out-of-pocket expenses incurred in preparing for the program, such as, but not limited to, advance purchase airfare, equipment, passport fees, visa fees, and medical expenses.


EA understands that personal tolerance for risk may vary, and that final decisions will be made between a student and their family. Upon signing the Participant Contract in the MyCUAbroad account post-acceptance, students become responsible for program fees and their program's withdrawal policy as outlined on the program cost pages. Students should review this information carefully before signing their contracts, and reach out to their program managers if they have any questions or concerns.

Withdrawal schedules can vary significantly across programs. Students looking for more flexibility in their decision making timelines should connect with EA about what program options may work best for them.