COVID-19 and Study Abroad

Last Updated Mon, 11 Jan 2021 4:30 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-sanctioned 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 Fall 2021, and/or Spring 2022 in-person exchange term (January 2021 deadlines), you are advised to:

  • Be aware that there may be a higher degree of uncertainty regarding access to courses and to accommodation at your host institution.
  • Not purchase any flights or make non-refundable arrangements for your proposed exchange due to the possibility of further in-person exchange cancellations.
  • Carefully review this page for additional information and considerations.

In-Person Exchange and field school cancellations/curtailments

  • Summer 2021: SFU cancelled all Summer 2021 in-person Exchanges to all locations. This includes short-term Summer programs and full-time programs taking place, or beginning, during SFU's Summer term. (Jan 11, 2021)
  • Spring 2021: SFU cancelled all Spring 2021 in-person Exchanges to all locations. (Sept 16, 2020)
  • Fall 2020: SFU cancelled all Fall 2020 in-person Exchanges to all locations. (May 14, 2020)
  • Summer 2020: SFU cancelled all Summer 2020 Exchanges and Field School programs to all locations. (March 12/13, 2020)
  • Spring 2020: SFU cancelled or strongly recommended early departure from all in-person Exchanges in all locations. (March 13, 2020)

What causes SFU to cancel a program? 

The health and safety of students, staff and faculty is paramount. SFU will cancel a program if its location is 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:

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.

When will in-person exchanges be possible again?

Due to the long planning timelines and continued uncertainty, ISS is accepting applications for in-person (and virtual) exchanges for Fall 2021 and Spring 2022. Applicants are encouraged to apply for the programs they are interested in, though should consider that future in-person cancellations remain possible. Applicants are encouraged to remain informed through reliable sources (see above question for list of resources that SFU consults); to review this page for an overview of the scenarios that may arise; and to connect with an advisor about their options or questions. 

What are the financial considerations of applying for 2021/2022 exchanges?

  • 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 exchange program. Any such incurred expenses will be solely your personal responsibility and will not be reimbursed by SFU.

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 future in-person exchange is cancelled in 2021/22?

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:

  • 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.
  • Defer your exchange: You can request to defer your exchange as far as Spring 2022 (if you wish to delay to a later term you would need to re-apply). Deferrals are not guaranteed and may require changing institutions.

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

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 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 at any time request to make the following changes to your exchange program in relation to COVID-19 concerns:

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.

Defer your exchange to a future term: You can request to defer your exchange as far as Spring 2022. If you wish to delay to a later term you would need to re-apply. Deferrals are not guaranteed and may require changing institutions.

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.)

General guidance for the SFU community