The reemergence of study abroad is imminent and exciting for all of us, yet the take-off will be turbulent, as evidenced in world news on the virus and seemingly conflicting guidance from government leaders. I write to follow-up on Bill Bull’s recent overview of health and safety guidance in light of recent pronouncements.
The U.S. government guidance continues to evolve. Recently, the Department of State (DOS) implemented a change in the methodology for their advisory level system that moved 80% of the world to Advisory Level 4 – Do Not Travel. Just days later, the Secretary of State announced national interest exceptions to the presidential proclamations barring travel that will allow international students with F-1 visas to travel to U.S. campuses in the fall, including international students from Brazil and China, to name just two countries that are also rated Level 4. Trying to parse the significance of each of these announcements is enough to give whiplash to those of us in international education and exchange who are diligently trying to assess risks of travel to determine when and how our programs will resume. We believe that the opening of the U.S. to international students represents the far more significant development and is likely a stepping stone to increased student mobility in the coming months.
The demand for an international experience remains strong. With the easing of restrictions, thousands of students from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland who have F-1 visas will be back on American campuses this fall. Virtually all of CIEE’s BridgeUSA programs are in high demand, indicating the world is eager to return to the United States. CIEE high school abroad programs for summer 2021 are in high demand with more than 1,000 high school students expected to travel this summer. And applications for CIEE study abroad programs for summer and fall 2021 are above projections, demonstrating that students, parents, and study abroad advisors are ready to embrace international education in large numbers, likely due to the progress in vaccine distribution and growing confidence in safety protocols.
So, what does the DOS Level 4 Advisory mean for American students eager to see the world? In an email sent last week, Bill Bull, CIEE vice president for risk management, shared that the advisory change alone doesn’t significantly change our risk analysis strategy since our current protocols do not rely exclusively on the DOS or CDC advisory levels. Each school and student must make their own decision, but our experience is that the world is opening up to a new dawn and new paradigm of international education and exchange.