COVID-19 and Study Abroad

Last Updated Wed, 16 Mar 2022 5:13 PM

The following information pertains to programs operated through International Services for Students, including SFU's Formal Exchange Program and Field Schools. If you are participating in a university-related activity that is not run through International Services for Students, contact your program organizer.

The ongoing global pandemic continues to create uncertainty for universities worldwide and for the feasibility of international travel. As you decide to apply for a future exchange, you are advised to:

  • Not purchase any flights or make non-refundable arrangements for your proposed exchange or field school due to the possibility of further in-person program cancellations.
  • If applying for exchange, be aware that there may be a higher degree of uncertainty regarding access to courses and to accommodation at your host institution.
  • If applying for a field school, be aware of your program's contingency plan in the event that your program cannot proceed abroad as planned. Also be aware that details of the program may be subject to change based on factors such as travel restrictions or public health protocols.
  • Carefully review this page for additional information and considerations.

What causes SFU to cancel an in-person program? 

The health and safety of students, staff and faculty is paramount. SFU will cancel a program if it is not in compliance with SFU's interim university-related international travel policy. And/or if the location is determined by SFU to be unsuitable for a study abroad program (e.g. due to safety or security issues, border closures etc.). It may also be cancelled or curtailed if SFU faculty/staff or third parties (including SFU’s exchange partner institutions) are no longer able to deliver the program. When making these determinations, SFU consults numerous resources, including the following:

The decision to cancel a program is made with consideration to academic and financial impacts, and measures are taken to mitigate these impacts to the degree possible.

What are the financial considerations of applying for exchange?

  • There is no application fee to apply for an exchange. 

  • Exchange participants will be charged a $150 Formal Exchange Participation fee. This fee is charged after the Opt-Out deadline, which is set as follows:
    • In-person Exchange: Due to continued uncertainty, ISS will not charge this fee until your in-person program is confirmed by SFU. If/Once your in-person program is confirmed, ISS will communicate your Opt-Out deadline.
      • If there are further cancellations to in-person exchange and you pursue a virtual alternative instead, ISS will communicate your Opt-Out deadline while arranging your virtual alternative.
    • Virtual Exchanges: Following your acceptance in the exchange program, ISS will communicate your Opt-Out deadline. 
  • Due to the ongoing uncertainty related to the global pandemic, you are advised to not purchase airfare or make non-refundable arrangements relating to a prospective future in-person exchange program. Any such incurred expenses will be solely your personal responsibility and will not be reimbursed by SFU.

  • If you are enrolled in a fee-paying study abroad program, you would be subject to your host institution’s refund policies (Fee-paying programs include: Beijing Institute of Technology; University of California, Berkeley – Summer Sessions; Korea University International Summer Campus).

To find out more about the funding you may be eligible for, please refer to Funding and Costs for more information.

What happens if my in-person international exchange is cancelled?

If your future in-person exchange is cancelled - either by your host institution or SFU - International Services for Students will work with you and attempt to make one of the following alternate arrangements. The specific options available would depend on the timing of the cancellation and other factors at that time:

  • Consider an alternate destination: ISS will work with you in the event that SFU allows for in-person exchanges, but your destination is determined not to be a suitable location for in-person exchange.

  • Virtual exchange alternative: Some institutions may offer a virtual exchange alternative, however not all institutions may be able to do so.  This may require changing institutions if your host institution does not offer a virtual alternative

  • Cancel your exchange: If you are not interested or able to pursue alternate arrangements, ISS will explain how you can cancel your exchange.

  • Re-Apply for a future term: Check the application website for more information on dates and deadlines. Deferrels across program years are not possible. 

If you are enrolled in a fee-paying program and your exchange is cancelled, you would be subject to your host institution’s refund policies (Fee-paying programs include: Beijing Institute of Technology; University of California, Berkeley – Summer Sessions; Korea University International Summer Campus).

What if my in-person exchange isn't cancelled, but I’m no longer comfortable or able to participate?

Due to the ongoing uncertainty related to the global pandemic, you are advised to not purchase airfare or make non-refundable arrangements relating to a prospective future exchange program.

You may request to make the following changes to your exchange program in relation to COVID-19 concerns. The specific options available would depend on the timing of your request and other factors at that time:

  • Consider an alternate destination: Contact ISS if you wish to explore an alternate destination for your in-person exchange (in the event that SFU is allowing in-person exchanges but you are no longer comfortable with your selected destination).

  • Switch to a virtual exchange alternative: You can request to change your program from an 'in-person' to 'virtual' alternative that can be completed remotely. This may require you to change institutions if your host institution does not offer a virtual program, and cannot be guaranteed.

  • Re-Apply for a future term: There are two rounds of deadlines in January and May for upcoming exchange terms. Please visit our exchange application webiste for more information on dates and deadlines. Deferrels across program years are not possible. 

  • Cancel your exchange: You will be asked to complete an online form to make the cancellation official. Consider the following:
    • Your host institution’s cancellation deadlines (would any fees be charged by your host institution? Have you paid any deposits such as housing that may not be refundable?)
    • Any independent travel arrangements you have made (you are advised against making any non-refundable travel or other arrangements for your prospective future exchange. Any such incurred expenses will be solely your personal responsibility and will not be reimbursed by SFU.)