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COVID-19 Study Abroad FAQs


How is Northwestern University's Global Learning Office (GLO) monitoring the 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.

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, 2020, 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.

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 2021 Study Abroad

What is the current status of Summer 2021 study abroad programs?

After many discussions and a thorough review of guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Department of State (DOS), the World Health Organization, and other sources, Northwestern has made the difficult decision to cancel all international travel associated with undergraduate, credit-bearing study abroad programs during the Summer 2021 quarter due to the global COVID-19 pandemic 

This means that Northwestern will not permit undergraduates to travel internationally to participate in any credit-bearing programs that run during the Summer 2021 term (June-August, 2021). All Northwestern summer study abroad programs offered by the Global Learning Office are canceled, and Northwestern will not approve student participation in Affiliated or Unaffiliated in-person programs offered by non-Northwestern study abroad program providers in Summer 2021.  

This decision does not currently extend to Fall 2021 study abroad programs, including programs slated to begin in July or August, 2021. At this time, undergraduate, credit-bearing study abroad beginning in Fall 2021 is proceeding as planned. 

Will I be responsible for any Summer 2021 study abroad program fees?

In accordance with prior communications from the Northwestern Global Learning Office (GLO), students should not have made any plans related to summer study abroad, and therefore should not have incurred costs such as external application fees, travel costs, airfare, visa processing payments, and so forth. 

Can I study abroad in future terms?

Sstudy abroad programs slated to begin in Fall 2021 and beyond are currently proceeding as planned. However, please keep in mind that Northwestern may decide, based on U.S. DOS and CDC guidelines as well as other considerations, to extend its limitations on international travel associated with study abroad programs. 

Please ccontact a GLO adviser to discuss options for study abroad in future terms. 

What should I do if I was counting on a Summer 2021 study abroad experience to complete a specific academic requirement?

Please consult with your academic advisers to discuss your options in light of the cancellation of undergraduate international travel associated with Summer 2021 study abroad programs. 

What is the status of other summer international activities?

Northwestern continues 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. Please refer to the University Travel Guidelines webpage for current information regarding travel policies for activities outside of GLO. 

What if I want to take remote courses in Summer 2021 offered by a study abroad program partner?

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. Please rrefer to Taking Remote Courses Through Institutions Outside of the U.S.for information and procedures. 

What if I want to participate in a remote international internship in Summer 2021?

The Global Engagement Studies Institute (GESI) plans to offer a virtual rendition of its program in Summer 2021 in lieu of canceled study abroad programs due to COVID-19. This is a unique hybrid opportunity to explore complex questions through coursework while simultaneously engaging in a meaningful internship with an NGO based in one of seven countries—all in a completely virtual online setting. Please refer to the GLO website or contact a GLO adviser for information and updates. 

We also recommend you consult with Northwestern Career Advancement or Chicago Field Studies to learn more about other remote international internship opportunities. 

Outbound Students for Fall 2021 and Full Year 2021-2022

What is the status of Fall 2021, Fall Winter 2021-2022, and Full Year 2021-2022 study abroad programs?

Northwestern’s Global Learning Office (GLO) continues to support students in their plans to participate in study abroad programs slated to begin in Fall 2021. While Northwestern has prohibited international travel for undergraduates through summer, some programs beginning in Fall 2021 have been approved by Northwestern, and confirmed participants in these programs have been notified. Northwestern will continue to review on a program-by-program basis and communicate decisions to students through early July. 

GLO and the Office of Global Safety and Security (OGSS) continue to monitor COVID conditions in the countries to which undergraduates have applied to travel for Fall 2021 study abroad programs. Northwestern is reviewing guidance from the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in its evaluation of programs, as well as taking into consideration a variety of other factors, including local public health and program information. As part of this holistic review process, we are working with Northwestern University leadership and program partners to collect and review information pertaining to program-specific COVID mitigation strategies. 

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

What happens if I pay a program deposit or incur other costs and then my Fall 2021 study abroad 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 COVID-19. Since different programs have different policies and plans related to COVID-19, students will need to contact their study abroad program provider directly to inquire about the program’s refund and other financial policies.  

Decisions regarding whether Northwestern will allow or suspend international travel to program locations in Fall 2021 are expected to be made and communicated to students by early July. Although students should follow any mandatory acceptance steps required by their program, they should not make any non-refundable financial commitments related to study abroad until Northwestern has communicated a final decision regarding whether it will allow travel to fall study abroad locations. Do not pay non-refundable program costs, make 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 the Northwestern Global Learning Office. In the event of a program cancellation, Northwestern assumes no liability for costs assumed by students in advance of GLO’s notification. 

Should I plan and/or register for Fall 2021 classes on campus in Evanston, in case my study abroad or exchange program is canceled?

We plan to have updated information about the status of Fall 2021 study abroad programs before fall course registration opens for returning students in August. More information will be provided in the coming months. 

In the meantime, please reach out to your academic adviser to develop a backup plan if you have any concerns related to your ability to enroll in required courses should your study abroad plans fall through.  

Should I plan and/or register for fall housing on campus, in case my study abroad or exchange program is canceled?

Students are invited to apply for on-campus housing for Fall Quarter even if they are confirmed for study abroad. If the study abroad program proceeds as planned, students must complete a request for cancellation of room contract to be released from their on-campus housing contract. Students can find instructions on this process on the GLO Housing & Storage page.  

This page was last updated June 10, 2021.

Archived 2020-2021 COVID-19 FAQs