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Announcements : Study Abroad during COVID-19 FAQ

Announcement: Study Abroad during COVID-19 FAQ

Updates and FAQ about Travel and COVID-19
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Study Abroad during COVID-19 FAQ

Latest Update: August 10, 2021

What is the current status of study abroad and travel at Mason?

In accordance with University Policy 1134, all education abroad programs to countries with current U.S. government travel advisories of Level 3 or 4 (Dept. of State/CDC) will need to be reviewed by the University Travel Advisory Committee, who will make decisions on a case-by-case basis. Program administrators will inform students when a decision has been made for individual programs.
 
Approved programs to countries with Level 1 or Level 2 advisories are permitted to proceed as planned.
 
Department of State Travel Advisories Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Travel Health Notices

What are the criteria used by Mason when making decisions on its Study Abroad programs?

When evaluating the health and safety of our programs, the Global Education Office takes guidance from an array of resources, including travel advisories issued by the U.S. Department of State and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, annual crime and safety reports posted by the Overseas Security Advisory Council, peer higher education institutions, independent international security providers, and U.S. Embassy information pages.
 
In assessing the impact of COVID-19 on our programs, we look at a number of metrics:
  • Entry restrictions
  • Quarantine and on-site support
  • Testing requirements and availability
  • Government mandates and restrictions
  • Percentage of population fully vaccinated
  • COVID-19 trends
  • Quality and capacity of overall health care system  

How do surges attributed to the Delta variant affect programs?

Based on current evidence, people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, especially from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, have some protection against the Delta variant, now the dominant strain in the U.S. Though it appears to have been shown that it can be spread by and among vaccinated people, the highest rates of spread and severe outcomes have occurred in places with low vaccination rates. Nearly all hospitalizations and deaths have been among the unvaccinated.
Government restrictions, mandates, and requirements are subject to change at any time, though especially when a country is experiencing a spike in cases and hospitalizations, which could affect host institutions and your experience abroad in general.

Do I need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to study abroad?

All George Mason University students are required to submit proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to participate in education abroad programs. This policy does not apply to individuals who have an approved medical or religious exemption from the University. Exempted students are still subject to restrictions or requirements placed on unvaccinated travelers by foreign governments and host institutions and partners abroad. Accommodations for students with an approved medical or religious exemption will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

What are the current entry restrictions?

Current entry restrictions can usually be found on the COVID-19 information page of the in-country U.S. embassy.
 
Embassy COVID-19 Pages

Will I need to be tested for COVID-19 before I travel?

Maybe. This will depend on your individual host country’s entry restrictions and the restrictions and policies of your airline.
 
Entry Restrictions by Country

Am I covered by health insurance when studying abroad?

Yes. Travelers on university-sponsored programs are automatically enrolled in our blanket international emergency health insurance policy. This comprehensive policy covers nearly all accidents and sicknesses while on your abroad program, up to $500,000. Other limits apply.

See our Health & Safety page for more information.

Important Notes

  • Coverage begins one day prior to departure from the U.S. and extends one day following your scheduled return home. There is an additional 14-day deviation period covering 14 days prior to or following the dates on the official program itinerary. GEO recommends that students purchase supplemental emergency health insurance if there stay abroad extends past this 14-day window.
  • Reimbursement for covered medical expenses usually takes 3 to 4 weeks to process fully.
  • Pre-existing conditions are covered as any other unforeseen treatment.
  • Treatment of mental illnesses is also covered.
  • COVID-19 is treated as any other illness covered in this policy, along with associated medical tests and exams.
  • Payment and associated costs related to a government-mandated quarantine is not covered by Mason's international health insurance plan. The student is responsible for all charges related to imposed quarantines or self-isolation periods.
  • Payment for PCR tests required to travel to or from the United States is also not covered in this policy. Students are responsible for the cost of travel-related testing.
  • Medical benefits do not apply if you are traveling to your home country.
 Any questions on our International Emergency Insurance policy? You can email Paul Locascio, Global Health and Safety Specialist at plocasci@gmu.edu

How do I access the health insurance when abroad?

In your program portal, you will find the International Insurance ID Card, which lists the important telephone numbers and email addresses to connect with Mercer Travel Assistance Service, our insurance provider. Following treatment, you will submit a claim form along with any documentation and/or receipts related to your medical expenses paid to the listed email or address for the claims administrators (ACI) through this policy.

Does the policy include travel insurance?

Mason's international insurance does not include personal liability, lost property insurance and the trip cancellation insurance that is included is very limited. Students are encouraged to look into supplemental insurance for these additional benefits. Note that some credit cards have benefit packages that includes personal property and trip cancellation insurance.

Does the health insurance cover COVID-19?

Yes. Mason's international health insurance covers treatment of COVID-19 infections as though they were any other illness.
 

What the insurance does NOT cover:

  • Costs related to government mandated quarantine or self-isolation periods.
  • Travel-related COVID-19 tests
  • Preventative vaccinations of any kind, including COVID-19.

Should I still register for courses here in Fairfax?

Students are highly encouraged to register for Fairfax courses even if they plan to spend the semester abroad. It’s easier to un-enroll from courses, than it is to secure a spot in the courses you would need after most other students have signed up.

What should I expect when traveling abroad during a global pandemic?

For many of the students on our abroad programs, this is the first time that they will be traveling abroad, and it can be difficult to know what to expect from the experience, much more so during a global pandemic. Students should keep in mind the following as they set expectations for their experience abroad this year:
 
  • Enhanced health screenings at airports and other transportation centers can mean additional time. Make sure that you build in an increased buffer into travel days to account for delays.
  • Independent side trip travel while abroad is a lot more difficult to navigate than it was before the pandemic. National immigration policies change often, and sometimes are not accompanied with a lot of news coverage. This can make inter-country travel a long and, at times, contradictory process. Students are highly discouraged from planning travel outside of their host country during their program.
  • You will have to abide by restrictions and mandates by host governments. This could mean limits on inter-city travel, curfews, face-covering mandates, stay-at-home orders, among others.
  • Be prepared to self-isolate or quarantine upon arrival, along with the costs associated with this. There are rarer instances of symptomatic travelers being required to quarantine even with a recent negative test. Keep informed on the current entry restrictions for your host country.

Do I need to take my CDC card with me?

Yes. Students are encouraged, and on some programs required, to bring their CDC vaccination certificate with them abroad. Students are also advised to make photocopies (front/back) of these certificates for both ease of access and in case a replacement is needed.

Can I go ahead and book my flight?

For faculty-led programs, students should wait until after their program administrator has given the “green-light” to purchase flights.
 
For semester programs, it is advisable to wait until after your study visa has been granted, unless purchase of a round-trip flight is required prior to a visa appointment.
 
In both cases, students are highly encouraged to purchase fully refundable tickets.

If my program is cancelled prior to departure, will I be refunded?

As we continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation around the world, we hope that all scheduled programs will run, but the reality is that select programs may have to be postponed or canceled. See above for the criteria GEO considers when making these incredibly difficult decisions.
 
If your program is canceled by GEO for any reason, including issues related to COVID-19, students will be fully refunded all fees paid to the university, including the application deposit. Refer to our Withdrawal and Refund Policy for more details.
 
GEO encourages students to safeguard themselves academically and financially in the event of program cancellation.
  • Register for Fall 2021 courses at Mason in addition to study abroad courses
  • Wait for the green light from your program administrator on purchasing flights, and we encourage purchasing refundable airline tickets and supplemental travel insurance.
GEO will continue to support students through the cancellation process, notifying students of any changes related to program status or refund policies, and coordinating with on-campus colleagues should students have to transition to an on-campus semester following cancellation.

What if I voluntary decide not to go after committing to a program?

Once you commit to a program, the Global Education Office does not guarantee that any portion of the program fee will be credited to your student account should you withdraw from the program for any reason. Read more about GEO’s withdrawal and refund policy here.

Will there be any further changes before the start of the semester?

All programs are subject to change. If in-country conditions deteriorate or if students are not permitted to enter certain countries, it may be necessary to cancel programs going forward. Government restrictions and policies can change without much notice. We will continue to monitor the situation globally and within each program location.