Program Guidelines

‚ÄčAn outline of health, safety and security protocols as they relate to COVID-19 Academic Year 2020-2021

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We’re excited to begin the process of re-opening the study abroad world and continue our mission of international education and exchange that began over 70 years ago when students crossed the Atlantic on ships returning U.S. troops after World War II.

Initially, the study abroad experience will be different than students have imagined but they should be assured the growth, fulfilment, and enrichment millions of students have found remains. That said, CIEE is committed to helping all students experience the personal transformation and growth that education abroad can provide in a safe and responsible manner as the world continues to guard against the spread of Covid-19.

CIEE’s approach to study abroad for academic year 2020-21 features proactive program modifications designed to enable students to go abroad, experience cultural immersion in a stimulating environment, and partake in enriching learning opportunities while exercising mitigation strategies to reduce the risks of contracting and spreading Covid-19.

Student Health and Safety

CIEE has introduced global requirements for hygiene and social distancing, the details of which are outlined in this page. These standards will be applied consistently at CIEE locations around the world, with all program staff trained and equipped to support student health and safety abroad. These measures meet or exceed local standards, though in some cases local requirements will take precedence. (For example, rules related to face mask compliance, distance between students in the classroom, whether plexiglass shielding in required for instruction, maximum class size capacity etc.). View the Student Program Guidelines

The Study Abroad Term

The most impactful aspects of study abroad – cultural immersion, practice of a foreign language, exploration of a new city, self-exploration and personal transformation – remain the core of all CIEE programs. In the coming academic year, online courses, where available, will facilitate social distancing while enriching co-curricular and extra-curricular activities bring the local culture to life, in living color.

CIEE remains focused on delivering programs that feature activities and events to build community, and staff will create activities that showcase the host city during live, in-person visits, tours, talks, and performances.

Internships and service-learning opportunities will also be available in most locations, providing a valuable opportunity for community integration with lasting benefits.

CIEE Health Risk Indicator

CIEE is committed to health and safety first, and will not run programs in areas our Health, Safety and Security (HSS) experts deem unsafe. The HSS team created the Health Risk Indicator (HRI) to score each country’s ability to adapt and overcome the virus. The index is calculated using multiple metrics (including prevalence of the virus, infection rates, transmission types, slope of new daily cases and mortality rates, health infrastructure ratings, and more) derived from multiple sources (WHO, Johns Hopkins, Worldometer, Department of State, Centers for Disease Control, DOMO, Global Health Survey, paid and open source intelligence services, and our own analytical tools).     The HRI score and on-the-ground intelligence is analyzed weekly to make professional judgements about each program.

Community Code of Conduct

The approach we have designed and outlined is predicated on all students and staff sharing the responsibility for adhering to the standards. Our mutual health and safety depend on each of us adhering to the standards and we will ask each member of the community to sign a “Covid Code of Conduct”. All students will be cautioned that failure to comply could lead to dismissal from the community and all actions and behaviors should reflect the current reality in their location.

Student Health & Safety

Advisory on Prevention Measures

SARS-CoV-2, also known as “coronavirus” or Covid-19, is spread mostly by respiratory droplets released when people talk, cough, or sneeze. The virus may spread to hands from a contaminated surface and then to the nose or mouth, causing infection. Therefore, personal prevention practices (such as wearing a mask, social distancing, handwashing, staying home when sick) and environmental prevention practices (such as cleaning and disinfection) are important principles that are covered in this document.

Social distancing, also called “physical distancing”, means keeping space between oneself and other people outside of their home. To practice social or physical distancing, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends:

  • Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arm’s length) from other people when possible
  • Stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings where people are in close proximity to one another
  • Follow local regulations related to social distancing, group gatherings, and the use of face masks

CIEE will also require:

  • Any student or staff showing possible Covid-19 symptoms or possible exposure to the virus to undergo testing as soon as possible. They must self-isolate until cleared to return to the community.
  • Mandating that all students and staff comply with contact tracing in the event of known exposure to a Covid-positive person(s).

Health and Safety Measures

On Arrival
Health screening will commence upon arrival of students and throughout the program. Staff will instruct students to conduct daily temperature checks and monitor for symptoms. 

Face Coverings
All students must arrive with face masks (or face coverings) and be prepared to use them following local regulations. CIEE staff will have a supply of face masks for staff and students, if needed. Typically, face masks/coverings should be worn when feasible and are most essential when physical distancing is difficult or impossible. Please respect any request to cover your nose and mouth with a mask.

Hand Washing
All staff and students should wash their hands frequently. It is recommended to wash with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.

Health Monitoring
Students must bring their own thermometer and maintain it throughout the duration of their stay. During the first 14 days, students will be required to take and record their temperature daily.

Ventilation systems in CIEE facilities will be inspected to ensure they operate properly.  Circulation of outdoor air should be increased as much as possible by opening windows and doors, using fans, and other methods.  Outdoor seating areas and social distancing are encouraged for any small group activities such as lunches, breaks, meetings, and even classes when possible.

If students are feeling symptomatic, they must self-isolate and notify onsite staff immediately. They will assist the student in securing medical attention. All CIEE staff will maintain a list of healthcare facilities and alternative care sites where students can receive appropriate care, as needed.

Quarantine housing is used when a person has potentially been exposed to an illness and needs to separate from other people to monitor if symptoms develop. Isolation housing is also used when someone has symptoms, in which case they must remain strictly separated from others. In each case, CIEE staff will provide support, also including instructions for ordering in groceries or meals for the duration and will serve as the ultimate backup should there be a need due to local restrictions.

CIEE will work with host institutions on understanding and complying with their testing polices, to include randomized testing.  Students must seek assistance from staff to secure testing if they believe they have symptoms or have been exposed. Throughout the program, CIEE and host institutions may employ varying testing methods as the accuracy and reliability of various techniques evolve.

Contact Tracing
All students and staff will be required to participate with any contract tracing requirements of the local community, which, in some locations may be done using mobile applications as regulated by federal and local government.

Immune Compromised Individuals
If a student is immune compromised, our intent is to support and accommodate them as appropriate. We ask they discuss their specific needs with their CIEE pre-departure advisor to better understand protocols and whether that will comport with their medical requirements. CIEE can likely accommodate needs within our controlled environment but all students will be advised there is a level of assumed risk during the international travel experience.

Students are encouraged to seek a professional medical opinion to understand their likelihood of exposure, overall risk level and any limitations they may face. It is important to make an informed decision and select an enhanced mitigation posture as necessitated by their condition.

Student Life

Single rooms will be provided wherever possible. If infeasible, rooms will be double occupancy (maximum). In double occupancy staff will ensure a six-foot distance between sleepers and create physical barriers, using curtains, sheets, plexiglass, etc.

Staff will limit their entering of residents’ rooms or living quarters unless it is absolutely necessary and will use virtual communications and check-ins (phone or video chat), as appropriate.

Student Cohorts Upon Arrival
For the first 14 days of the program, staff will split any large groups into smaller groups (by cohort) for housing, outdoor programming, dining, and program activities. At all times, students will be asked to maintain physical distancing and use facial coverings as required by local ordinance.

Following an initial 14-day period of quarantine and testing, students will be cleared to go to homestays.

Guest Policy
No guests are permitted in CIEE housing. This includes family members and friends visiting from other locations.

Kitchen/Shared Eating Spaces
Students will be required to sanitize this communal space after each use. Staff will train students on appropriate sanitization practices. In addition, CIEE staff will employ professional cleaning at least once daily; depending upon volume of usage, additional cleaning may be required. Failure of students to adhere to expected cleaning standards may lead to closing of kitchens.

Independent Travel
Independent travel in the fall semester will be strongly discouraged, is optional, and the student will assume all associated risk. Students will be requested to limit travel to within the country of study to minimize exposure brought about by travel as well as travel disruptions.

Academic work missed because of a quarantine or other delay while traveling is the student’s responsibility. CIEE cannot guarantee missed assessments or work can be “made up”.


Before Leaving Home

Health Monitoring

Students will be asked to monitor their health for the 14 days prior to departure and CIEE recommends that Covid-19 testing within the week prior to departure. If test results are acquired, it is highly recommended students bring test results with them to the airport. Be aware some U.S. laboratories are showing delays in processing Covid-19 test results as of July 2020.

If a future participant is exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 prior to their arrival or they have tested positive, CIEE requires that they complete a 14-day self-quarantine at their home of record prior to arriving at their CIEE location. If a future student is experiencing COVID-19 like symptoms (even with a negative COVID-19 test), CIEE requires that they complete a 10-day self-quarantine at their home of record prior to arriving at their CIEE location (and be symptom free for 72-hours prior to departure). For these reasons, we highly recommend that all future participants purchase refundable flights so that changes can be made for the situations listed here. CIEE staff will work with our participants to minimize any program/academic impacts due to a late arrival due to COVID-19 precautions.

Packing List

Students should bring a thermometer for daily temperature monitoring, hand sanitizing gel, and their own supply of face coverings to use for the during of the program.

Mobile Phones

Students must have a functional smart phone with an international data plan. Not only is it needed for emergency alerts, but countries may require visitors to download an application upon entry to the country to monitor exposure to the virus for contract-tracing.


Flipped and Hybrid Learning

Classroom instructors will employ two innovative methods for learning:

  • Flipped Learning – Content, including teaching resources such as presentation slides, is provided to students via a learning management system (LMS) in advance of an in-person teaching session.
  • Blended/Hybrid Learning – Instructional activities that involve online learning activities are combined with in-person learning activities 

Students will have fewer hours in traditional classroom learning to uphold social distance practices. Co- and extra-curricular activities are designed to accommodate social distancing requirements while showcasing the host city and culture as far as practical. 

Classroom Safety

For CIEE-delivered courses, staff will follow all local requirements for education safety, including mandated distancing between desks and seating. Where practical, CIEE will supplement in-person classes with online learning to help reduce the number of in-person attendees. If necessary, CIEE may employ a flexible rotating schedule of live sessions for students to abide to maximum capacity of class size and social distancing measures.

Host institutions will also adhere to local rules regarding risk mitigation and CIEE staff will keep students apprised of these requirements.

The CIEE Global Community

As a member of the CIEE global community, students will be invited to join an online forum to connect with their fellow study abroad peers in locations around the world. Our Global Community features weekly meet-ups with staff and students featuring different relevant topics of the moment; a Spanish-language corner for live conversation practice; a weekly well-being check in, and chat rooms to exchange with other students studying around the world.

Credit Peace of Mind

All programs have been selected – and in some cases modified – based on their ability to guarantee academic completion. If needed, all coursework can be moved to delivery online.

On some programs, students will complete a block of academic coursework before departing the U.S., which further ensures the semester will deliver the normal number of semester credits. 

Student Well-Being

Student well-being is the primary focus of our staff and CIEE has many resources to support them while abroad. This includes a dedicated Well-Being Counselor available for consultation, local mental health professionals, and an online community to support students during their program. Students experiencing distress should at any time reach out to local staff.


The requirements and details within this page are dynamic and not meant to be all-encompassing. CIEE reserves the right to institute additional safeguards as required by local governments or at our discretion to ensure the safety of all staff and students at any study center. If local standards are reduced, CIEE will make its own judgement as to whether it is safe to change the mitigation strategies described in this policy. We are confident the details provided herein reduce the likelihood of Covid-19 exposure and transmittal, but total elimination of risk is unrealistic without effective treatments or a vaccine.

Student well-being will always be a driving factor in the delivery of our programs and appreciate the all institutional support to advise students to make their study abroad experience exciting, life-changing and, above all, safe.

If you have any questions regarding anything contained in this document or have other questions regarding the health and safety of your program experience, please be in touch with CIEE center staff immediately and email CIEE Health, Safety and Security (