International students today are facing perhaps the biggest issue affecting their generation: the uncertainties of the Covid pandemic. When you are planning your academic future and deciding where to study abroad, you need to consider more than just academics and social life. Here is our guide of 10 things every student should know before studying abroad during Covid.
1- The situation is always changing
This may seem obvious, but it is worth thinking about carefully before making the decision to study abroad. As new variants emerge, like Delta and Omicron, countries will inevitably adjust their travel policies in response. Guidelines like mask policies, vaccination efficacy rates, and whether students can live on campus or off are also subject to fluctuation. If you are planning to study abroad during Covid, you will need to keep an eye on the news and anticipate that plans might not go as expected. Start preparing early to get your Covid tests, visa materials, and tickets on time.
You can use our Global Entry Policy Tracker to stay updated on what countries are open and closed to students right now.
2- Europe/North America is generally open
When dealing with Covid, different regions of the world have taken different strategies to deal with the pandemic. See a list of all countries and their entry policies for students here.
You might notice a few trends:
Europe/US/Canada: Countries in this region have mostly adopted a flexible “live with Covid” strategy, choosing not to completely close their borders for the sake of economic and educational exchange.
- Mostly fully open to international students
- Vaccine, Covid-19 test, and quarantine may be required
- Medium risk of contracting Covid when you are in school
3- Asia is generally closed
Asia/Australia/New Zealand: Countries in this region have mostly adopted a “Zero Covid” strategy, choosing to protect the health and safety of current residents by keeping borders partially or completely closed. It is extremely complicated for students to enter these countries to study right now.
- Mostly closed to international students
- Low to no risk of contracting Covid if you are in the country
- Majority of international students have to take classes online
Right now, if you are determined to travel to another country for school, applying to programs in Europe, the US, or Canada seems like the best option.
4- Prioritize mental health
Student mental health has declined during the Covid pandemic. Lack of certainty and limited space to meet friends and do activities together is taking a toll. It is crucial that you prioritize your own health and safety. Do not be afraid to reach out for help if you are struggling. Nobody can get through a difficult time like Covid without support. If you want to study abroad during Covid, make sure you have a good network of friends and family behind you.
- Turn off the news and social media
- Get some fresh air and regular movement
- Invest in your local community
- Have a hobby for yourself
- Make alternate plans
- Ask for help
- Stay connected!
5- Figure out your finances
This goes further than just tuition and study expenses. Due to Covid, you may now have to consider extra expenses as well.
- What is the fee for Covid tests in your region, or are they free?
- If you need to quarantine, who will cover the expense?
- Flight ticket prices are fluctuating–compare multiple airlines if possible
- Can you live on campus, or do you need to find off-campus lodging due to Covid restrictions?
6- Safety procedures are most crucial
To avoid unnecessary health-related expenses, like quarantine hotel fees, medicine, or hospital costs, you should take extra precautions in public spaces like restaurants, train stations, and airports. It is not worth getting Covid right before you fly to your new school, or arriving and having to cover your own medical costs.
Universities and nations around the world are primarily concerned with limiting Covid outbreaks so that their own hospitals are not overwhelmed. Respect and follow the policies, both for entry into a country and on the university campus. These may include wearing masks, practicing social distancing, or limiting your personal off-campus travel to risky areas.
Most of the time, a negative Covid test is required to travel internationally. Protecting your own safety responsibly is the key to passing this test and getting on the plane.
7- Get vaccinated
Vaccinations are also becoming more and more important. Some universities may require that all their students be vaccinated. Some countries may also require incoming travelers to have proof of vaccination. Get a vaccine, if you can! It will definitely increase your mobility in the long run.
8- Always check your email
During such uncertain times, it is important that your university administrators, advisors, or classmates can get in touch with you: both to update you on policies and news, and also to confirm your safety in case there is a Covid outbreak. Frequently check your email, social media, or however else your university can contact you. If you do not have stable internet coverage, it’s a good idea to let your school know right away so communication adjustments can be made.
9- Participate in online events
Given the quickly changing nature of Covid mandates and policies, even if you do attend school on-campus, it is possible that the semester might be shut down to prevent a serious outbreak. To stay in touch with your classmates and get involved in the university community, it is important to participate in online events offered by your university or other student organizations.
Especially if you are attending school entirely online right now, or plan to do so, keeping an active presence in online events and social media groups is the key way to make friends and get the most out of your experience.
10- Have a backup plan
There are many benefits of studying abroad, even during Covid–global experience, change of scenery, learning a new language, meeting new friends, developing adaptability and self-confidence.
The unfortunate reality is that many students have had to delay or cancel their university terms entirely due to unavoidable Covid circumstances. As much as you prepare ahead of time, studying abroad during Covid is inherently risky.
Knowing as much information as you can before you apply will help you develop an effective study plan. However, it is always good to have a backup plan. Here are some things you should consider:
- If you cannot leave your country right away, do you have a study space in your home or community?
- What community activities or volunteering can you do in your community to stay active while you wait?
- How can you improve your CV with relevant skills from home?
- What other countries are available for you to travel to, as a student or a worker?
- What experience have other students from your country faced when studying abroad?
- How has the country you will study in handled past Covid outbreaks, such as Delta? (This can be a good indicator of how they will handle future ones)
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