Earlier, this week the U.S. State Department raised its Travel Advisory levels for Americans for roughly 80% of the countries around the world to Level 4 (the highest level). Per the State Department, this “does not imply a reassessment of the current health situation in a given country, but rather reflects an adjustment in the State Department’s Travel Advisory system to rely more on CDC’s existing epidemiological assessments.”
After much consideration, discussion, and consultation with our Crisis Management Team (along with expert advice from our staff around the world and from health and safety resources), IES Abroad has decided to take a nuanced approach to these updates. We have also heard from many of our Consortium Members and sending schools that they are taking a similar approach. Generally, the State Department changes its travel advisories based upon safety and security in each country, while the CDC is focused on health conditions in each country. In this case, the CDC has not changed its advisory levels, which have been in place for quite some time. As you know firsthand, our focus is on the health, safety, and security of our students and staff in each country, based upon current conditions in locations where we send students.
Therefore, based upon extensive research regarding the current conditions in London and Barcelona, we have decided to run our Summer 2021 programs there. We have decided to suspend our Vienna Summer Pogram due to low enrollment that was driven by the current lockdown within the city. We are in the process of adding a virtual Vienna Psychology course into our London Program to accommodate those students, if they are interested in switching their enrollment to London. At this time, we are also continuing to plan for and evaluate our Fall 2021 programs.
COVID-19 has caused all of us to make changes not only in our daily lives, but it has also prompted IES Abroad to continue to hone our long-standing extensive health and safety protocols as this situation continues to unfold. However, one thread of the conversation is always consistent across all of these discussions: we put the health and safety of our students and staff first. The health and safety of our students, as well as that of our on-site staff and faculty is of paramount importance.
By taking this nuanced approach and driving decision-making with science, data, and conditions on the ground, we are not only putting students first but also helping them make the best decisions for themselves—in consultation with their families and their home schools— based upon current conditions in the city where they are accepted to study with IES Abroad.
In addition to the normal preparations that would be taking place during this time, confirmed students will also be invited to our new online predeparture orientation designed to prepare students for the new (and normal) on-site realities of study abroad before they depart. Once students are on-site, extensive on-the-ground checklists, preparations, and contingency planning has already been underway for months in support of the health and safety of our students, staff, and faculty on-site.
We will continue to closely monitor and regularly discuss on-the-ground conditions, while closely communicating with our students, their parents, and our home schools about our path to sending students abroad again.
You can find up-to-date information such as Travel and Immigration, Health & Safety Policies, and COVID-19 updates that we’re posting for our constituents on our website, as well as up-to-date program-specific information for our Summer 2021 and Fall 2021 program offerings.