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COVID-19 Study Abroad FAQs

General

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.

Winter and Winter-Spring 2021 Study Abroad

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

After many discussions and a thorough review of guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of State, 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 and exchange programs slated to begin during the Winter 2021 quarter, including all Winter 2021 and Winter-Spring 2021 affiliated, unaffiliated, exchange, and Northwestern programs due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.  

  • Affiliated or Unaffiliated Programs 
    We encourage students currently confirmed to participate in affiliated or unaffiliated programs in Winter 2021 or Winter-Spring 2021 to reapply for Fall 2021, Winter 2022, or Winter-Spring 2022 study abroad or exchange programs. If you are interested in this option, please contact your GLO adviser for more information about next steps.

  • Exchange Programs
    Students currently confirmed to participate in exchange programs in Winter-Spring 2021 are encouraged to reapply for Fall 2021 or Winter-Spring 2022.
    Some exchange programs are available for remote study in Winter-Spring 2021. This means that students would enroll in a full-time load of courses offered remotely by the exchange partner. Northwestern will allow students to participate in remote exchange programs in Winter-Spring 2021, if this is offered by the exchange partner. 

If you are interested in either of these options, please contact your GLO adviser for more information about next steps. 

  • Northwestern Study Abroad Programs
    The Global Healthcare Technologies program typically offered in Winter 2021 has been postponed to Spring 2021. Students confirmed to participate in this program may defer their applications to Spring 2021 by submitting a new Program Confirmation Form by the December 1 confirmation deadline for Spring programs. Please email GLO adviser Sara McGuinn (sara.mcguinn@northwestern.edu) if you have any questions or concerns about this option.

    The Journalism Residency Argentina and Journalism Residency Qatar programs will not be offered in Winter 2021. 

Will I be responsible for any Winter 2021 or Winter-Spring 2021 study abroad program fees?

Students who applied to participate in Northwestern study abroad programs or Northwestern Exchanges that were slated to begin in Winter 2021 will not be charged any study abroad program, withdrawal, or cancellation fees.  

Students who applied to participate in Affiliated or Unaffiliated programs for Winter 2021 or Winter-Spring 2021 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. 

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

What is the withdrawal process for Winter 2021 and Winter-Spring 2021 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 Winter 2021. 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. You are encouraged to reapply to your study abroad program for Fall 2021, Winter 2022, or Winter-Spring 2022. GLO will have a new application system and process for study abroad during the 2021-2022 academic year, so all students will have to reapply to study abroad in these future terms. You can be given access to your previous application materials as you are working on any new applications. More information about the new application system and process will be communicated during Fall 2020. 

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 Winter 2021 or Winter-Spring 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 international travel associated with Winter 2021 and Winter-Spring 2021 study abroad programs. 

What is the status of other winter international activities?

The decision to cancel international travel associated with undergraduate credit-bearing study abroad programs that were slated to begin in Winter 2021 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 in Winter 2021 or Winter-Spring 2021 offered by my study abroad program?

  • Affiliated or Unaffiliated Programs: While some providers of Affiliated and Unaffiliated study abroad programs are offering remote versions of their programs as substitutes for in-person study, these are not approved as an option for Northwestern students at this time.
  • Northwestern Exchange Programs: Northwestern will allow students to participate in remote exchange programs in Winter-Spring 2021, 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. If you would be interested in this option, please let your GLO adviser know. 

I am a continuing international student and I have concerns about returning to Northwestern’s campus for the Winter 2021 term. I would prefer to study closer to home. What are my options?

Continuing 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, please contact Karey Fuhs at k-fuhs@northwestern.edu.  

International students who applied for and confirmed their participation in Northwestern exchange programs in Winter-Spring 2021 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 Winter 2021 may consider 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 Winter 2021, will not be eligible to earn transfer credit. 

Spring 2021 Study Abroad

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

After many discussions and a thorough review of guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of State, 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 slated to begin during the Spring 2021 quarter due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.  

Affiliated or Unaffiliated Programs 

We encourage students currently confirmed to participate in affiliated or unaffiliated programs in Spring 2021 to consider reapplying to those programs for Spring 2022 or consider study abroad in other terms. Please refer to application deadlines. 

Northwestern Study Abroad Programs 

The following Northwestern programs, which were scheduled for or postponed to Spring 2021, have been cancelled: 

  • Art, Literature, and Contemporary European Thought (Paris, France) 
  • European Union Studies (Paris, France) 
  • Global Healthcare Technologies (Stellenbosch, South Africa) 
  • Public Health in Europe (Paris, France) 
  • Public Health & Development in South Africa (Stellenbosch, South Africa) 

Students are encouraged to reapply to the Northwestern in Paris programs for Fall 2021, the Global Healthcare Technologies program for Winter 2022, and the Public Health & Development in South Africa program for Spring 2022. 

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

Students who applied to participate in Northwestern study abroad programs that were slated for Spring 2021 will not be charged any study abroad program, withdrawal, or cancellation fees. 

Students who applied to participate in Affiliated or Unaffiliated programs for Spring 2021 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 Hhowever, different programs will have different policies and plans. 

In accordance with prior communications from the Global Learning Office (GLO), students should not have made any individual travel plans related to their spring study abroad programs and therefore should not incur costs such as airfare, visa processing payments, and so forth. 

What is the withdrawal process for Spring 2021 study abroad programs?

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. 

For the students who applied to participate in Affiliated or Unaffiliated programs for Spring 2021, GLO will also notify your study abroad program provider that your program application must be withdrawn due to Northwestern’s decision to cancel all undergraduate study abroad for Spring 2021. 

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. You are encouraged to reapply to your study abroad program for Spring 2022 or consider study abroad in other terms. Northwestern’s Global Learning Office (GLO) will have a new application system and process for study abroad during the 2021-2022 academic year, so all students will have to reapply to study abroad in these future terms. You will have access to your previous application materials as you are working on new applications and more information about the new application system and process will be communicated in the coming weeks. 

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 Spring 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 international travel associated with Spring 2021 study abroad programs. 

What is the status of other spring international activities?

The decision to cancel international travel associated with undergraduate credit-bearing study abroad programs that were slated to begin in Spring 2021 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. Please also refer to the University Travel Guidelines web page for current information regarding other travel.

What if I want to take remote courses in Spring 2021 offered by my study abroad program?

While some providers of Affiliated and Unaffiliated study abroad programs are offering remote versions of their programs as substitutes for in-person study, these are not approved as options for Northwestern students at this time. 

I am a continuing international student and I have concerns about returning to Northwestern’s campus for the Spring 2021 term. I would prefer to study closer to home. What are my options?

Continuing 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, please contact Karey Fuhs at k-fuhs@northwestern.edu.  

Please note that very few universities offer courses that align with Northwestern’s Spring Quarter and students are not permitted to enroll concurrently in courses at Northwestern and another institution. 

International students on J1/F1 visas who study independently at institutions outside of Northwestern or their home countries, either in person or remotely, will not be eligible to earn transfer credit. 

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 rrefer 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. 

Fall 2021 Study Abroad

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

This global pandemic is unpredictable but, at this time, undergraduate, credit-bearing study abroad programs slated to begin in Fall 2021 are proceeding as planned.  

Northwestern’s Global Learning Office and Office of Global Safety and Security have been monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely and will meet in the coming months with Northwestern’s senior leaders to carefully review and finalize plans for all programs slated to begin in Fall 2021.  

Undergraduates interested in studying abroad during this term 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. 

What is the application process for Fall 2021 study abroad programs?

Please cconsult the application resources on the GLO website and in GLObal Gateway 

For most programs, the deadline to submit your Northwestern study abroad application for Fall 2021 in GLObal Gateway has been extended from February 10 to March 1, 2021. If your program has an earlier deadline, it will be reflected in GLObal Gateway. 

As a reminder, exchange programs and affiliated programs require a separate program application in addition to the Northwestern study abroad application, and some of these program applications have early deadlines. Refer to your program page to confirm the application deadline for your program. If you are applying to a Northwestern program or a Consortium for Advanced Studies Abroad (CASA) program, you do not have to complete a separate program application. 

Do I still need to apply to study abroad in Fall 2021 if I was confirmed to participate in Fall 2020 or another term when travel was prohibited?

Yes, all students need to reapply to study abroad in Fall 2021 via GLObal Gateway. If you did not retain your personal statement(s) from your previous application(s), you may contact your GLO aadviser, and they will email this to you for reference as you are working on any new applications. 

If I am interested in Fall 2021 programs that start in July or August, can I still apply?

Yes. The decision to prohibit undergraduate international travel associated with credit-bearing study abroad during the Summer 2021 term (June to August) does not extend to Fall 2021 study abroad programs that are slated to begin in July or August, 2021. 

You may still proceed with an application to a Fall 2021 program slated to begin in July or August. However, you are strongly encouraged to submit a second application to a program with an intended start date of late August or September. 

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 Pprogram 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 will 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. 

You should not make any individual travel plans incurring costs related to Fall 2021 study abroad programs at this time. This includes airfare, visa processing payments, and so forth. 

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 aim to have updated information about the status of Fall 2021 study abroad programs based on our ongoing assessment of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) developments and consultations with health and travel officials before fall course registration opens. 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 relating 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 register for on-campus housing for fall quarter even if they are confirmed to 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 February 10, 2021.

Summer 2020 and Fall 2020 COVID-19 FAQs