Skip to main content

COVID-19 Study Abroad FAQs

How is Northwestern University's Global Learning Office (GLO) monitoring the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation worldwide?

The Global Learning Office (GLO) collaborates closely with Northwestern University’s Office of Global Safety and Security (OGSS), which is monitoring guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Department of State, and the World Health Organization. This information is shared with Northwestern’s senior leadership to make decisions that align with institutional efforts to protect the health and safety of our community and our partners.

For more information about Northwestern’s response to COVID-19, please review the University’s latest coronavirus/COVID-19 updates and bookmark related FAQs.

What is the status of students who were studying abroad in winter and spring 2020?

Students who were studying abroad for the 2020 winter and winter-spring quarters are now home. We are making every effort to coordinate academic accommodations that will allow students who have returned early from programs abroad to complete work in cases when in-progress programs were disrupted, but awarding of academic credit will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and is not guaranteed.

How does the Global Learning Office determine if my study abroad program will be canceled?

Northwestern University has policies and procedures that govern whether undergraduate students are permitted to participate in programs in certain locations. These policies are in place to ensure the safety and well-being of students, the broader Northwestern community, and our host communities. Northwestern University continues to monitor the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and has convened a group of senior administrators to manage and lead the University’s response to this outbreak.

What circumstances might result in my study abroad program or University-sponsored travel being canceled?

On March 15, Northwestern began prohibiting all University-related travel without exception until further notice.

How this decision may impact study abroad in future terms remains to be seen. However, there are various circumstances that would cause the University to cancel Northwestern programs or suspend travel to Affiliated, Unaffiliated, or Northwestern Exchange programs. These include but are not limited to:

  • The Global Level 4 Health Advisory – Reconsider Travel, issued by the U.S. Department of State, remaining in effect
  • The U.S. Department of State raising the Travel Advisory to a Level 3 (Reconsider Travel) or Level 4 (Do Not Travel) for program locations
  • The CDC raising the Travel Health Notice to a Warning Level 3: Avoid Non-Essential Travel
  • Host universities or program centers closing and/or suspending courses

Programs may also be canceled at the discretion of Northwestern leadership based on an assessment of associated risks to Northwestern students, the Northwestern campus community, and/or host communities.

What are the implications of the U.S. Department of State issuing a Global Level 4 Advisory - Do Not Travel?

The U.S. Department of State issued a Global Level 4 Health Advisory: Do Not Travel on March 19, advising all U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19. According to the Undergraduate International Travel Policy, undergraduate travel to countries under a Level 4 Do Not Travel designation is prohibited.

Whom will Northwestern contact with updates?

Northwestern will contact students preparing to study abroad directly with updates. All members of the Northwestern community can also find travel-related updates through emergency messages from Northwestern’s Office of Global Safety and Security and Northwestern University’s latest coronavirus/ COVID-19 updates.

Whom can I contact about Northwestern study abroad and the coronavirus situation?

Undergraduate students and their parents can contact their Northwestern Global Learning Office (GLO) adviser with any questions related to their study abroad program. GLO advisers are working remotely, but responding to email and phone calls and taking appointments.

Graduate students and undergraduate non-credit travelers with health or safety questions regarding current or future travel may contact Northwestern's Office of Global Safety and Security

Members of the media should contact Northwestern’s Office of Global Marketing and Communications.

Summer 2020 Study Abroad

What is the current status of Summer study abroad programs?

After many discussions, and in consultation with senior university leaders, Northwestern has made the difficult decision to cancel all undergraduate credit-bearing study abroad for Summer 2020 (June-August) due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Northwestern programs are canceled, and Northwestern will not approve student participation in Affiliated or Unaffiliated programs offered by non-Northwestern study abroad program providers in Summer 2020.

This decision was not made lightly. We are prioritizing the mitigation of potential health and safety risks for Northwestern’s students, as well as our host communities and program partners.

We are deeply saddened to make this decision and look forward to the time when we can send students abroad again. In the meantime, we will be challenged to participate in new forms of intercultural exchange.

Will I be responsible for any Summer 2020 study abroad program fees?

Students who applied to participate in Northwestern Summer study abroad programs will not be charged any study abroad program, withdrawal, or cancellation fees.

Students who applied to participate in Affiliated or Unaffiliated programs will need to contact their study abroad program provider directly to determine whether they will be charged any study abroad program, withdrawal, or cancellation fees and to inquire about their refund policies. Many study abroad program providers are offering flexibility with program confirmation and financial policies in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19), however, different programs will have different policies and plans related to COVID-19.

In accordance with prior communications from the Global Learning Office (GLO), students should not have made any individual travel plans incurring costs related to their summer study abroad. This includes airfare, visa processing payments, and so forth.

What is the withdrawal process for Summer 2020 study abroad?

Northwestern’s Global Learning Office (GLO) will automatically withdraw students’ applications from the Northwestern Study Abroad Application system and update student study abroad records to reflect this decision. Students do not need to take any action to withdraw their Northwestern application directly. 

Students who applied to participate in Affiliated or Unaffiliated programs will also need to contact their study abroad program provider and notify them in writing that they will withdraw from the program due to Northwestern’s decision to cancel all undergraduate study abroad for Summer 2020. Students may wish to include their cancellation email notification from GLO as documentation of Northwestern’s decision.

Can I study abroad in future terms?

We recognize you may have questions about when you may be able to study abroad in the future:

  • Fall 2020: Northwestern has made the difficult decision to cancel all international travel associated with undergraduate credit-bearing study abroad programs slated to begin in Fall 2020 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. This includes Fall 2020, Fall-Winter 2020-21, and Full Year 2020-21 programs. Please see Fall 2020 Study Abroad FAQs below.
  • Winter-Spring 2021: This global pandemic is unpredictable but, at this time, study abroad programs slated to begin in Winter 2021 and beyond are proceeding as planned. We will continue to monitor developments related to the pandemic and reserve the right to extend international travel restrictions if necessary.
  • Future Terms: We recognize that many students might consider deferring travel to Summer 2021 or beyond. We are discussing a modified application process for students who choose to reapply to study abroad in Summer 2021 and will be in touch with more information during the Fall 2020 quarter.

We recognize how much preparation you have put into your study abroad plans, and we hope that we can support you in studying abroad in the future.

What do I do if I was counting on Summer 2020 study abroad to complete a specific academic requirement?

Please see your academic adviser to discuss your options in light of the program cancellation.

What is the status of other summer international activities?

The decision to cancel undergraduate credit-bearing study abroad for Summer 2020 is limited to those activities that fall under the Global Learning Office’s purview. Northwestern will continue to monitor the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic and communicate further information separately in relation to other types of undergraduate international activity, such as non-credit research, internships, athletics, arts, and student organization activities.

What if I want to take remote courses being offered through my Summer 2020 study abroad program provider?

Northwestern and GLO have adjusted policies and procedures related to taking courses remotely through institutions outside of the U.S. Students will be permitted to earn credit for remote courses taken through institutions outside of the U.S. but only under certain circumstances. Refer to Taking Remote Courses Through Institutions Outside of the U.S. for information and procedures.

Fall 2020 Study Abroad

What is the current status of Fall 2020 study abroad programs?

After many discussions, and in consultation with senior university leaders, Northwestern has made the difficult decision to cancel all international travel associated with undergraduate credit-bearing study abroad programs slated to begin during the Fall 2020 quarter, including all Fall 2020, Fall-Winter 2020-21 and Full Year 2020-21 affiliated, unaffiliated, exchange, and Northwestern programs due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. 

Affiliated, Unaffiliated, or Exchange Programs 

Students currently confirmed to participate in affiliated, unaffiliated, or exchange Fall 2020, Fall-Winter 2020-21, or Full Year 2020-21 programs may defer their applications to Winter-Spring 2021. Also note the potential for continued uncertainty around travel and public health safety. If you are interested in this option, please contact your GLO adviser for more information about next steps.

Northwestern Programs

The three Northwestern programs offered in Fall 2020 in Paris, France—Art, Literature, and Contemporary European Thought; European Union Studies; and Public Health in Europe—will be postponed to Spring 2021. Because these programs will be adjusted from a semester-length to a quarter-length along with this term change, updated information about the Spring 2021 programs is available on the GLO website:

Students currently confirmed to participate in one of the three Northwestern programs offered in Fall 2020 in Paris, France may defer their applications to Spring 2021 by submitting a new Program Confirmation Form, preferably by July 20. We recognize that it is not always an option for students to shift Fall plans to another term, and you may need more time to consider this option in consultation with your academic advisers and your family. Also note the potential for continued uncertainty around travel and public health safety. Please email GLO adviser Carmen Hernandez if you have any questions or concerns about this option. 

Will I be responsible for any Fall 2020, Fall-Winter 2020-21 or Full Year 2020-21 study abroad program fees?

Students who applied to participate in Northwestern study abroad programs or Northwestern Exchanges that were slated to begin in Fall 2020 will not be charged any study abroad program, withdrawal, or cancellation fees.

Students who applied to participate in Affiliated or Unaffiliated Fall 2020, Fall-Winter 2020-21 or Full Year 2020-21 programs will need to contact their study abroad program provider directly to determine whether they will be charged any study abroad program, withdrawal, or cancellation fees and to inquire about their refund policies. Many study abroad program providers are offering flexibility with program confirmation and financial policies in light of COVID-19, however different programs will have different policies and plans related to COVID-19.

In accordance with prior communications from the Global Learning Office (GLO), students should not have made any individual travel plans incurring costs related to their fall study abroad. This includes airfare, visa processing payments, and so forth.

What is the withdrawal process for Fall 2020, Fall-Winter 2020-21 and Full Year 2020-21 study abroad programs?

Northwestern’s Global Learning Office will automatically withdraw students’ applications from the Northwestern Study Abroad Application system and update student study abroad records to reflect this decision. Students do not need to take any action to withdraw their Northwestern application directly.

Students who applied to participate in Affiliated or Unaffiliated programs will also need to contact their study abroad program provider and notify them in writing that they will withdraw from the program due to Northwestern’s decision to cancel all undergraduate study abroad programs slated to begin in Fall 2020. Students may wish to include their cancellation email notification from GLO as documentation of Northwestern’s decision.

Can I study abroad in future terms?

We recognize you may have questions about when you may be able to study abroad in the future:

  • Winter-Spring 2021: This global pandemic is unpredictable but, at this time, study abroad in Winter-Spring 2021 is proceeding as planned. If you are interested in deferring your Fall 2020 application to Winter-Spring 2021, please contact your GLO adviser for more information about next steps.
  • Future Terms: We recognize that many students might consider deferring travel to Summer 2021 or beyond. We are discussing a modified application process for students who choose to reapply to study abroad in Fall 2021 and will be in touch with more information during the Fall 2020 quarter. 

We recognize how much preparation you have put into your study abroad plans, and we hope that we can support you in studying abroad in the future.

What should I do if I was counting on a Fall 2020, Fall-Winter 2020-21 or Full-Year 2020-21 study abroad to complete a specific academic requirement?

Please consult with your academic adviser to discuss your options in light of the cancellation of international travel associated with Fall 2020, Fall-Winter 2020-21 or Full-Year 2020-21 study abroad programs.

Have I missed course registration for Fall 2020 Northwestern classes?

Registration for fall on-campus courses in Evanston has been postponed; more information will be coming from the Registrar’s Office this summer. You are encouraged to consult your academic adviser to discuss your fall course registration plans in conjunction with your academic goals and requirements.

What is the status of other fall international activities?

The decision to cancel international travel associated with undergraduate credit-bearing study abroad programs that were slated to begin in Fall 2020 is limited to those activities that fall under the Global Learning Office’s purview. Northwestern will continue to monitor the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic and communicate further information separately in relation to other types of undergraduate international activity, such as non-credit research, internships, athletics, arts and student organization activities.

What if I want to take remote courses being offered through my Fall 2020 study abroad program provider?

Affiliated or Unaffiliated Programs: While some study abroad providers of Affiliated and Unaffiliated programs are offering remote versions of programs as substitutes for in-person study, these are not an option for Northwestern students at this time.

Northwestern Exchange Programs: Northwestern will allow students to participate in remote exchange programs in Fall 2020, if this is offered by the exchange partner. This means that students would enroll in a full-time load of courses offered remotely by the exchange partner. We are awaiting guidance from most exchange partners regarding whether they will offer remote exchange opportunities for Fall 2020. If you would be interested in this option, please let your GLO adviser know.

I am an international student, and I have concerns about returning to campus for Fall 2020. I would prefer to study closer to home. What are my options?

International students on J1/F1 visas, as well as dual citizens not on J1/F1 visas, may be able to earn transfer credit for courses taken independently at foreign institutions in their countries of permanent residence/citizenship as long as transfer credit policies are met. Please refer to the Registrar’s Office website for information about transfer credit processes after enrolling and to the Global Learning Office website for additional guidelines and considerations for international students. For specific questions about this option, contact Karey Fuhs at k-fuhs@northwestern.edu

International students who applied and were confirmed to participate in Northwestern exchange programs in Fall 2020 may take remote courses at these institutions if this option is offered by the exchange partner. International students who applied to study abroad on any other programs beginning during Fall 2020 may consider deferring their application to Winter-Spring 2021 or reapplying to study abroad in a future term.

International students on J1/F1 visas who study independently at institutions outside of Northwestern or their home countries, either in person or remotely, or who are not approved for remote study via Northwestern exchange programs in Fall 2020 will not be eligible to earn transfer credit.

If the U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories and/or CDC Travel Health Notices are lifted or downgraded, can I study abroad in Fall 2020?

No, Northwestern University made the difficult decision in early summer 2020 to cancel all international travel associated with undergraduate credit-bearing study abroad programs slated to begin during the Fall 2020 quarter, including all Fall 2020, Fall-Winter 2020-21 and Full Year 2020-21 affiliated, unaffiliated, exchange, and Northwestern programs due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. 

While Northwestern is closely following information and guidance from the U.S. Department of State and CDC at the worldwide and country-specific levels, study abroad that begins in Fall 2020 will not be allowed, even if there are changes to U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories or CDC Travel Health Notices. This decision is based on consideration of a variety of factors, including the health and safety of students, faculty, staff, and host communities.

Winter, Winter-Spring, and Spring 2021 Study Abroad

What is the current status of Winter, Winter-Spring, and Spring 2021 study abroad programs?

This global pandemic is unpredictable but, at this time, undergraduate, credit-bearing study abroad beginning in Winter 2021, Winter-Spring 2021, and Spring 2021 is proceeding as planned.

Northwestern’s Global Learning Office (GLO) and Office of Global Safety and Security (OGSS) have been meeting regularly with a team of senior leaders to monitor the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation closely and will meet in the coming months to carefully review and finalize plans for all programs beginning in Winter 2021, Winter-Spring 2021, and Spring 2021. 

Students interested in studying abroad during these terms should apply by the appropriate deadline, with the understanding that Northwestern may decide, based on U.S. Department of State and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, as well as other considerations, to extend its limitations on international travel associated with study abroad programs.

GLO advisers will communicate all updates and next steps as they are determined.

I am approved for a Winter 2021, Winter-Spring 2021, or Spring 2021 study abroad program. When do I need to confirm my participation?

Northwestern’s Global Learning Office (GLO) has extended the confirmation deadline to October 1, 2020, for Winter 2021 programs.

The Winter-Spring 2021 confirmation deadline is also October 1, 2020. Students who applied to Fall 2020 programs and chose to defer their applications to Winter-Spring 2021 will also need to communicate this decision to GLO by the October 1 confirmation deadline. 

The confirmation deadline for Spring 2021 programs is still scheduled for December 1, 2020. GLO will inform students if this deadline is extended.

I have applied for a GLO scholarship for a Winter 2021 study abroad program. When will I hear about my scholarship award?

Scholarship applicants will receive scholarship notifications in advance of the extended program confirmation deadline of October 1, 2020.

I have already submitted my program confirmation form for Winter 2021 or Winter-Spring 2021 and I am planning to participate. Can I move forward with booking flights and making other travel plans?

Students should not make any personal travel plans or pay any program-related out-of-pocket costs (such as airfare, visa fees, vaccinations, or housing payments, if applicable) until notified to do so by Northwestern’s Global Learning Office (GLO). In the event of a program cancellation, Northwestern assumes no liability for costs assumed by students in advance of GLO’s approval.

What happens if I pay a program deposit and then my program is canceled before I leave?

For Northwestern study abroad programs and Northwestern Exchanges, students are not required to pay deposits. If a Northwestern program or Northwestern Exchange is canceled, students confirmed to participate in these programs will not be required to pay any study abroad program or cancellation fees that are billed by Northwestern.

For Affiliated and Unaffiliated programs, it is up to the program provider to refund any deposits made. Many study abroad program providers are offering flexibility with program confirmation and financial policies in light of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). However, since different programs will have different policies and plans related to COVID-19, students should contact their study abroad program provider directly to inquire about their refund policies.

Should I register for Winter 2021, Winter-Spring 2021, or Spring 2021 classes on campus in Evanston, in case my study abroad or Exchange program is canceled?

Pre-registration for Winter 2021 courses begins on November 2, 2020, and regular registration begins on November 9, 2020. We hope to have more information about the status of Winter 2021 and Winter-Spring 2021 study abroad programs based on our ongoing assessment of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) developments and consultations with health and travel officials before Winter course registration.

Please see your academic adviser to develop a back-up plan if you have any concerns relating to your ability to enroll in required courses should your study abroad plans fall through.

This page was last updated August 7, 2020.