Study Abroad Group Programs during COVID-19

NC State Study Abroad is working to resume group programs, when feasible and reasonable, and to create a structure to mitigate risk to the greatest extent possible. The following recommendations are based on research and through consultation with practitioners and experts across the field for 2021-2022 group programs. We will continue to assess and may make changes as needed to support the resumption of programs.


  • Academic Continuity
    • All programs must identify plans for academic continuity, should programs be suspended after departure. Once programs have begun, we want to be able to assure students of the opportunity to complete course credits.
  • Itinerant Program Structures Prohibited
    • Itinerant group programs that move from location to location (either within one country or multiple countries) will not be permitted. Study Abroad has benchmarked with our peers and leaders within education abroad risk management and have found that itinerant programs lead to increased concerns regarding our ability to support student and personnel health and safety, particularly if any emergencies and participant illness should arise.
    • Programs that have been designed with this format could still proceed if a primary location can be identified by which to hold the program.
    • Day trips and some short excursions are still permitted at this time, at the discretion of the program director and in consultation with the Study Abroad Office.
  • On-site Housing
    • To the extent possible, programs should prioritize single rooms, with en-suite bathroom 
    • To the extent possible, programs should prioritize private or en-suite bathrooms. 
    • Hostels or other accommodations with community-style sleeping and/or bathroom facilities are not permitted.
    • Homestays are discouraged
      • Very short-term, weekend or one-night homestays are not permitted
      • Programs that rely on homestays as a critical part of the program’s structure and goals may consider the following: Are students able to be housed in a single or double-occupancy room? Would program participants put homestay families at greater risk? Is alternate housing available?
  • Group Activities: Programs do not engage in known high-risk events and participants will be prohibited from engaging in known high-risk activities during the duration of the program. (See CDC and Texas Medical Association’s risk assessment chart)
  • Meals
    • Avoid large group meals wherever possible (larger programs may split into smaller groups)
    • Prioritize outdoor seating wherever possible
    • Prioritize private room in restaurants wherever possible
    • Buffet meals are not permissible
    • Avoid family-style meals wherever possible; prioritize single-serving meals
  • Transportation
    • Program participants and personnel should utilize the most direct flight paths and fewest layovers, to the extent possible
    • Prioritize airlines that have increased safety precautions, such as:
      • Airlines that require passengers to wear a mask for duration of the flight (wear a mask regardless)
      • Airlines that offer flights with reduced passenger capacity
      • Airlines that provide refunds for flight cancellations/changes due to COVID-19-related illness/quarantine
      • Airlines that require negative COVID tests 
      • “COVID-19 flights” offered by airlines, like Alitalia and Delta, if available
    • Onsite transportation
      • Decrease use of public transportation, if possible, and follow all CDC guidelines for public transportation
      • Wherever possible, private transportation is highly encouraged in lieu of public transportation

  • CDC: All personnel and participants should for 14 days before travel, take everyday precautions like wearing masks, social distancing, and handwashing, and avoid the following activities that put you at higher risk for COVID-19:
    • Going to a large social gathering like a wedding, funeral, or party.
    • Attending a mass gathering like a sporting event, concert, or parade.
    • Being in crowds like in restaurants, bars, fitness centers, or movie theaters.
    • Taking public transportation like planes, trains or buses or being in transportation hubs like airports.
    • Traveling on a cruise ship or riverboat.
  • COVID-19 testing: 
  • Vaccines: vaccines are not required at this time but could be required in the future by NC State, the host country, host institution/program, program provider, and/or airlines. 
    • NC State Study Abroad strongly encourages participants and personnel to obtain the vaccine, if eligible to receive it.
  • Programs where the local government has stay-at-home, shelter-in-place, or similar orders will be canceled
  • Quarantine: if required by the host country, students may be required to quarantine upon arrival
    • Where in-country quarantine is mandated, programs less than 6 weeks long are strongly discouraged and may be canceled if a quarantine mandate of seven or more days exists in host-country and the program structure cannot be adequately accommodated

  • Personal Health & Hygiene: all program participants and personnel are expected to follow CDC recommendations
    • Program participants and personnel must wear a face covering while in any buildings (not required in private accommodations while alone or with a roommate only) and elsewhere outdoors when appropriate physical distancing (6 feet) from other people cannot be maintained
    • Maintain an appropriate physical distance from others
    • Regular hand washing/use of hand sanitizer
  • Participants must notify Study Abroad Office staff or the program director immediately of any symptoms prior to departure and throughout the duration of the program

  • Effective January 26, 2021, all airline passengers (including U.S. citizens) to the United States must provide either:
    • a negative COVID-19 viral test taken within three calendar days of travel, or
    • a positive test result and a letter from your healthcare provider or a public health official that states you have been cleared for travel. The positive test result and letter together are referred to as “documentation of recovery.”
      • A letter from your healthcare provider or a public health official that clears you to end isolation, e.g., to return to work or school, can be used to show you are cleared to travel, even if travel isn’t specifically mentioned in the letter.
  • Passengers must also attest, under penalty of law, to having received a negative qualifying test result or to recovery from COVID-19 and medical clearance to travel.
  • Airlines must deny boarding to passengers who do not meet these requirements.
  • See the CDC Proof of Negative Test Result page to view the order, complete the attestation, and to see FAQs.

Monitoring COVID-19:

NC State’s Restricted Travel Policy governing student international travel remains in effect.

Study Abroad OfficeProgram Director
US DOS AdvisoriesAdapting program to meet SAO recommendations and requirements, and discussing any areas where those might not be met
CDC Travel Health Notices Safety Assessment with COVID-19 relevant details (information forthcoming), due 1 month prior to departure
WHO Epidemic Intelligence from Open Sources (EIOS) dashboard Providing transparent information to students
WorldAware alerts (via AlertTraver app)
Border entry/exit restrictions
Travel restrictions within the host country


Other Announcements

  • Applications will not be accepted on a rolling basis until further announcement; all programs will utilize the final term deadline.
  • Financial Safeguards: 
    • For NC State:
      • Program Development Agreements (vendor contracts) will continue to be used for all primary program vendors, utilizing the NC State template.
      • NC State will delay non-refundable financial commitments prior to application go/no-go dates. See COVID-19 updates by term for exact dates, (e.g., June or July for Fall terms based on program departure dates).
      • Personnel flight arrangements also cannot be made prior to the go/no-go dates.
      • See Program Finances
    • For Students:
  • Safety Assessment will include new COVID-19 specific requirements; details forthcoming.
  • Programmatic adaptations and requirements will be made available to students on the website (see COVID-19 updates), group program brochure pages including a new tab dedicated to health and safety with country-specific details, in Study Abroad 101 informational sessions, 1:1 advising, and pre-departure group orientations.

Spring Break and Summer 2021

The Study Abroad Office made the difficult decision to suspend all NC State-led group programs for spring break and summer 2021. Unfortunately, the challenges and hurdles to mitigate health, safety, and financial risks were too great in the current climate. A very select number of program opportunities with a few of our strategic partners have been made available to students for Summer 2021.