March 10, 2020
GEO is committed to the health and safety of every student during their education abroad experience. As news updates about COVID-19 (the coronavirus) continue to arrive at an accelerated pace, we’d like to share an update and provide details about how we are actively monitoring this global health situation. Whether your students are currently abroad on a GEO program, or have an application for a 2020-21 GEO study abroad program, please know that our students’ health is GEO’s primary concern.
At this time, GEO has suspended all spring term programs in countries with CDC Level 3 travel advisories: China, South Korea and Italy. Students who were abroad have returned home, and students who planned to travel abroad in the spring term are being supported in exploring possible alternatives, including programs in alternative locations or later terms, that will offer them academic continuity. Programs continue at GEO centers in Spain and the UK. Our partner students currently abroad receive regular communications from GEO which provide general updates about health precautions and where to go for the most up-to-date information on the global health situation. Students have been told not to undertake personal travel to any country with a Level 3 travel advisory, and are strongly encouraged to limit independent travel for the foreseeable future. GEO site directors also actively monitor local networks and, in collaboration with GEO’s Health, Safety and Risk manager, have identified resources and protocols on the ground to support student welfare. They remain, as always, a valued source of information and reassurance for your students.
At this time, there are no plans to suspend any summer program. Naturally, GEO will continue to keep our partners informed as the global situation continues to evolve. In the meantime, we are advising that all students purchase trip cancellation insurance (covering cancellations for any reason) when booking travel. Finally, to ease decision making in these times, GEO study abroad program fees and deposits for any Summer 2020 program is fully refundable.
To ensure a proportionate and correct response, GEO is tracking daily updates from federal government agencies including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), U.S. Department of State travel advisories, and the Department of State Overseas Security Advisory Council, as well as many local news sources in countries where GEO has programs. As a campus-based provider, we work closely with the University of Oregon Travel Advisory Group, University Health Center, and Incident Management Team. We also maintain open channels of communication with our peers in Health, Safety and Risk Management at other institutions of higher education, and across national and international Global Education networks.
GEO program cancellations are triggered by the U.S. Department of State and CDC advisories. Both advisory systems are taken into account when assessing program status. The policy for the University of Oregon is to cancel any study abroad program that reaches a CDC Level 3 warning: Avoid All Non-Essential Travel. A list of updated CDC notices is provided here. U.S. Department of State advisory Levels 3 and 4 trigger a mandatory review not only by GEO, but also by the UO units referenced above.
Students with plans to study abroad in geographic areas more broadly affected by COVID-19 will continue to receive additional communications from GEO. In the meantime, the University of Oregon Academic Council has begun to discuss additional measures that could be implemented, in the event it becomes necessary, to ensure academic continuity for students. We encourage you to stay informed about this evolving global situation through trusted sources and to monitor your email for future updates from GEO. To learn more about COVID-19, please visit the UO’s coronavirus website.