COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and Study Abroad
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-sanctioned activity that is not run through International Services for Students, contact your program organizer.
Restrictions on SFU student travel on exchanges or field schools
- Spring 2020: SFU strongly recommended that all students currently abroad on Spring 2020 Exchanges depart their host / program location as soon as it was safe and feasible for them to do so. If Spring 2020 Exchange Students had not yet departed Canada for their exchange, SFU no longer approved their university-affiliated travel; they were advised to not travel. Impacted students received email messaging and ISS worked to provide support to these students. (March 13, 2020)
- Summer 2020: SFU cancelled all Summer 2020 Exchanges and Field School programs to all locations. Impacted students received email messaging and ISS worked to provide support and alternatives to these students. (March 12/13, 2020)
- Fall 2020: SFU cancelled all Fall 2020 in-person Exchanges to all locations. Impacted students received email messaging and ISS worked to provide support and alternatives to these students. (May 14, 2020)
- Spring 2021: SFU has cancelled all Spring 2021 in-person Exchanges to all locations. Impacted students have received email messaging and ISS continues to work to provide support and alternatives to these students. (Sept 16, 2020)
What would cause SFU to cancel a program?
The health and safety of students, staff and faculty is paramount. SFU would cancel a program if its location was determined by SFU to be no longer suitable for a study abroad program (eg due to safety or security issues), as per SFU's interim university-related international travel policy and in line with SFU's COVID-19 Impact Scale. It may also be cancelled or curtailed should circumstances arise whereby 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:
- Canada’s Global Affairs Travel Advisories (SFU does not send students to programs in locations that have an advisory level of “Avoid Non-Essential Travel” or “Avoid All Travel”)
- Public Health Agency of Canada
- International SOS (member code 27acas593560)
- World Health Organization
- SFU’s partner institutions and providers in impacted regions
The decision to cancel a program is made with consideration to academic and financial impacts, and measures would be taken to mitigate these impacts to the degree possible.
What happens if SFU cancels my exchange program?
If SFU cancels your exchange prior to the start of the program, International Services for Students will work with you and attempt to make alternate arrangements. This may include deferring your exchange term, pursuing a virtual exchange alternative, being placed at a different location (as availability and eligibility allow), or cancelling and studying at SFU for the term. The options available would depend on the timing of the cancellation and other factors at that time.
If SFU cancels your exchange part-way through the term, International Services for Students would work with you and your host institution to mitigate the impact of the situation. The options available would depend on the timing of the cancellation and other factors at that time.
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 SFU doesn’t cancel my future exchange, but I’m no longer comfortable going, or no longer 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 at any time request to make the following changes to your exchange program in relation to COVID-19 concerns:
Cancel your exchange. Email email@example.com to discuss. You will then be asked to complete an online form to make the cancellation official. Consider the following:
- The $150 Exchange Confirmation Fee is not refundable after the Opt-Out Deadline (will be communicated to students selected for 2021/22 exchanges)
- 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 (have you purchased flights? Would your insurance cover cancellation or changes?)
Defer your exchange to a future term: Email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss. (Deferrals can be made up to the Spring term each year. If you wish to delay to a later term you would need to re-apply.)
Request a change in exchange location. Options will be limited, and being placed at an alternate location cannot be guaranteed. Email email@example.com to discuss. Depending on the timing of your request, some of the considerations for cancelling may also apply.
General guidance for the SFU community