Studying Abroad In 2021: Is It Even Possible?

The pandemic derailed everyone’s plans in one way or another in 2020. Some lost their jobs, some had to put off their dream vacation – and some had their study abroad plans scrapped. Most universities either canceled their classes for foreign students or held them online.

With most spring and fall 2020 programs ending up canceled or taking place online, it raises the question: Will this year’s programs follow suit?

Short Answer: It Depends

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to say “yes” or “no” with 100% certainty. Like with everything coronavirus-related, different countries have varying policies, and so do universities and colleges. Besides, if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the situation may change drastically within a week.

That said, it’s more likely than not that the study abroad program you dreamed of will take place in the fall of 2021.

For instance, ISEP currently has a number of programs open for applications. Most universities are open to the idea, too. The likes of Yale and Oxford are planning to both accept international students and send theirs abroad.

However, there’s a chance some study abroad programs will end up being held 100% online or canceled, while others may be disapproved by your current alma mater.

4 Things to Check to Study Abroad in the Pandemic Times

Before you rush to get help with custom writing on EssayPro and submitting your application, there are 4 things you need to do your research on.

1. Available Programs & University Requirements

Your best bet here is to visit your alma mater’s Study Abroad Office website and see what they say about the fall 2021 programs. Most likely, there will be an approval process and applications will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Every university is likely to have its own requirements for applications. For example, Yale requires its students who wish to study abroad to follow the Travel Policy. Under this policy, Yale won’t accept applications for destinations labeled high-risk by the U.S. State Department, International SOS, or CDC.

Next, it’s always a good idea to either write an email to the Study Abroad Office or set an appointment for a (virtual) meeting. This way, you can ask about specific programs (or at least destinations) that are on the table.

2. Online vs In-Person Classes

Once you have a shortlist of available programs, the hardest part is choosing one. Most decision-making criteria remain the same as before the pandemic – location, language, learning objectives, etc. However, there could be one hiccup in 2021: some or all classes may be held online.

If all classes take place online, it’s unlikely you will be cleared to go abroad for the program’s duration. Some universities may offer a hybrid studying experience, with a mix of online and in-person classes.

Make sure that the percentage of in-person classes meets your alma mater’s requirements if there are any. For example, Yale won’t accept applications if more than 50% of classes are held online.

3. Travel Restrictions

Now, it’s time to ensure you’ll be able to enter the destination country. The most convenient way to do it is on the IATA website. However, make sure to double-check this information using official sources.

The good news is, most countries allow students to enter their territory. The not-so-good news is that it’s going to be more complicated (and expensive) than in the before-the-pandemic times. Chances are, you may need to:

  • Provide negative PCR or antigen test results – or proof you’ve been vaccinated;
  • Self-isolate for up to two weeks;
  • Do a PCR test one or several times shortly after arrival;
  • Fill in a health declaration stating that you don’t experience any COVID-19 symptoms;
  • Provide insurance for the duration of your stay.

Remember: travel restrictions may evolve rapidly. Make sure to check in on them every now and then to stay up-to-date. The best places to do it are the websites of your origin country’s embassy in the destination country (e.g., the U.S. Embassy in France) and vice versa (e.g., the French Embassy in the U.S.).

4. COVID-19 Measures

Apart from the new traveling experience, foreign students’ life abroad will be a far cry from their counterparts in 2019, too. Know what exactly to expect and what rules you’ll have to follow while staying there. Here are just some questions worth asking:

  • What are the guidelines on wearing face masks and social distancing?
  • Is there a curfew? Or weekend lockdowns?
  • Are there any limits on public gatherings?
  • Would you be able to use public transport?
  • Which businesses remain open and in what capacity?
  • What events are allowed to take place?

All of this will directly impact your social life, leisure, and chances to find a part-time job should you need to. Going abroad to study probably isn’t worth it if you have to spend most of your free time holed up in the room.

In Conclusion: 3 Tips to Make It Less Stressful

Taking off to study in a foreign country wasn’t an easy feat before the pandemic. Now, it’s even more stressful.

To deal with the anxiety, accept one thing: these are uncertain times, and nothing can be set in stone. So, prepare mentally that you may need to adjust your plans right before departure.

Here are 3 final tips to make the process a bit less anxiety-inducing:

  • Buy fully refundable tickets. Yes, they’ll cost more. But there’s always a possibility your program will get canceled a week before departure. This way, you’ll get your money back, at least.
  • Enroll in classes at your university, too (just in case). This will be your backup plan. Just remember to check how long you can stay enrolled without paying the tuition fees.
  • Prepare for delays in application processing. This is especially true for visa applications. Avoid waiting until the deadline to apply – always have at least a couple of weeks in reserve.