Last week, we shared our perspective on the global outlook and response to COVID-19, emphasizing that should we receive assessments that indicate elevated COVID-19 risk for our students and staff, we would swiftly respond. Over the past week, while the outbreak in Asia seems to be stabilizing, a positive development and a testament to the strong response for containment, the spread of COVID-19 in Europe and the United States is gaining momentum.
We know you are wondering whether students should stay abroad or whether they should return home. We cannot answer what is best for each student and family. We can only assure you that we are very aware of the gravity of what the world is facing, and we are continually assessing changing circumstances, always putting the health and safety of our students, staff, and host communities above all other concerns.
CIEE will continue to communicate openly and act swiftly in each of our locations, and we are prepared to provide all of our students, staff, and partners with the highest levels of safety, support, and stability as this global health challenge unfolds.
This Past Week – COVID-19 and Response Worldwide
In general, communities across the nation – and around the world – are embracing measures to reduce opportunities for transmission.
In Europe, Italy’s Prime Minister has quarantined the country to contain the disease, while several European cities, including Lisbon, Madrid, and Prague, have moved to suspend in-person classes at schools and universities. Governments are taking action to slow the spread of the coronavirus by reducing opportunities for transmission from person to person. We are also seeing an increase in local meeting and public assembly restrictions in many cities in Europe, and a limiting of some movement within and between cities.
In the United States, at the time of this writing there are more than 1,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Communities across the nation, from Seattle to New Rochelle, have experienced significant numbers of cases. In response, measures are being implemented to reduce opportunities for transmission. Colleges and universities are moving to online learning to cautiously manage returning students from spring breaks or to isolate known cases of student exposure. Even some political leaders in our nation’s capital have imposed self-quarantine for exposure. It’s clear to all that this virus is impacting or has the potential to impact nearly every state and local community in America.
CIEE’s Response – Supporting the Choices of Students, Parents, and Partners
CIEE applauds measures being taken to slow down the spread COVID-19, and is following suit by providing a combination of on-site support and online learning that will support individual student and college preferences.
All CIEE courses will be available in an online delivery format, starting next week, in the following locations:
- Czech Republic (Prague)
- France (Paris, Rennes, Toulouse)
- Germany (Berlin)
- Hungary (Budapest)
- Netherlands (Amsterdam)
- Portugal (Lisbon)
- Spain (Alicante, Barcelona, Madrid, Palma de Mallorca, Seville)
Students who are taking only CIEE classes will, upon consultation with their family and home institutions, be free to decide whether they prefer to stay onsite and continue their coursework, or if they prefer to return home. We are aware that for some students, depending on the particulars of their situation, staying at their program site may well be the best option.
In addition, we will monitor and respond to the availability and caliber of local healthcare, and in the absence of any overriding guidance, CIEE will continue to provide housing and staff support in the above locations.
Courses at Host Institutions
CIEE will do everything in its power to enable students to complete all academic coursework for the term. Online delivery of host institution courses will be on a case-by-case basis, as host institutions establish their own policies. Thus far, our partner universities have been very willing to make accommodations as necessary. Students needing guidance on their specific academic requirements related to an impacted host institution should connect with CIEE academic staff to work through the details.
CIEE Preparedness – Plans for Student Safety and Academic Success in Changing Conditions
If need be, we can deliver nearly all CIEE courses around the world online so that students can earn the academic credits they had planned to this spring. (With the exception of a very small number of field or experience-based courses for which online delivery is not feasible.)
We are prepared to make the shift from in-person classes to online delivery of coursework in any of our locations should a student or staff member be infected with COVID-19, should the local university opt to self-quarantine, or should it be deemed necessary to minimize the instances of bringing large groups into close proximity.
Also, CIEE staff remain in all countries and cities and available to assist students. In addition to our standard preparedness trainings, all staff worldwide have been trained on COVID-19 risk mitigation and enhanced student support. We are currently extending this training by sharing best practices for managing student quarantine and COVID-19 infection and illness should those circumstances arise. As countries move into localized healthcare outbreak management of this disease, we will work with students to follow established guidelines and best practices to limit exposure.
The Question of Returning Home or Staying on Program
The decision about whether to return home or to stay in the study abroad location is a personal one. In some cases, universities have opted to have students return to the United States, while other colleges have permitted students to make the choice. Some students have opted to return to the U.S. while some have chosen to stay on their programs and remain in their host communities. CIEE’s global staff of nearly 500 domestic and international professionals will work hard to support all decisions by students and our partner institutions no matter what they choose.
Next Steps and Reminders
As we all work together to manage this challenge, CIEE will strive to maintain a stable, measured response that seeks to put safety first, followed by our commitment to serve every student and every school in our consortium. Part of that commitment is our Program Assurance Advantage that guarantees that in the event of a program cancellation, we will present all available options to complete academic requirements.
If we receive new information or assessments from the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. State Department, the World Health Organization, and our staff observation of local conditions that indicate elevated COVID-19 risk, we will immediately respond to the changing landscape and notify you of our risk mitigation plans.
Thank you for your ongoing support in this challenging time. We will continue to keep you updated. For more details on CIEE’s COVID-19 response, including answers to FAQs, please visit ciee.org/covid.
To streamline communications, we ask, please, that:
- Students bring questions or concerns to your local CIEE staff
- Parents address questions to your student and their sending institution study abroad office
- Advisors reach out to your Manager of Institutional Relations