Education Abroad & COVID-19

 updated: October 16, 2020 Education Abroad & COVID-19

airplane wing in the sky
Is the Education Abroad Office still open? Yes! Our office in Love Library South 110 is open if you would like to drop by with a quick question. The Education Abroad staff is offering remote advising and Huskers Abroad 101 workshops, so we welcome you to connect with us virtually.
When will I be able to go abroad? The Education Abroad Office, the Director of Global Safety and Security, and University leadership are continually assessing the feasibility of international travel for our students. Health and safety risks continue to fluctuate with the COVID-19 pandemic. We remain hopeful that in the not-too-distant future, following a stabilization in travel logistics and a reduction in risks, you and your fellow Huskers will be able to study abroad again.
What is the status of the term I’m interested in?

Fall 2020: The University cancelled all education abroad programming through December 31, 2020. There are many new ways to engage with the world virtually through a three- to six-credit Virtual International Program (VIP).

Spring 2021: The University cancelled all international travel for students, including education abroad programs, through the end of the Spring 2021 semester. There are many new ways to engage with the world virtually through a three- to six-credit Virtual International Program (VIP).

Summer 2021: Applications are currently open for Summer 2021 programs. We are adding UNL faculty-led programs to MyWorld throughout the Fall semester. Most program deadlines fall between February 1 and March 1, and the scholarship deadline is February 1.

  • The University intends to make a decision regarding Summer 2021 programs in February/March 2021, or approximately 90 days prior to program start dates.
  • Please refrain from purchasing flights, paying non-refundable program deposits, or making other purchases or financial commitments (visa fees, vaccinations, housing payments, etc.) until a decision is made by the University. UNL will not be responsible for costs assumed by students in advance of UNL’s approval.

Fall 2021 and Academic Year 2021-2022: Applications are currently open for Fall 2021 and Academic Year 2021-2022 programs. The program and scholarship deadline is March 1. (Eligible students may also apply for the Early Abroad Scholarship in MyWorld on February 1). It is too soon to determine whether COVID-19 will affect these academic terms, but students should refrain from making any purchases or financial commitments until further notice.

How does UNL decide whether to cancel education abroad programs/participation?

In making decisions about the impact of COVID-19 on education abroad programs, UNL analyzes guidance from several resources including: governmental agencies (U.S. Department of State and Center for Disease Control), the World Health Organization, the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), professional health and security organizations, assessments by partners abroad, U.S. Embassy country COVID-19 information, and more. Cancellations by travel dates or by program are generally prompted by considerations such as:

  • CDC travel health notices and DOS travel advisory levels
  • Guidance from local public health agencies
  • Quality and reliability of the local health system
  • Rate of current and forecasted COVID-19 community spread
  • Timeline and intensity of increases in numbers of cases
  • Availability and reliability of COVID-19 harm reduction protocols
  • Impact on transportation networks, including availability of flights
  • Entry and travel restrictions
  • Status of U.S. passport services and visa requirements

If my program is cancelled (or UNL participation not approved), will I owe any money?
  • If your UNL program is cancelled, you will not owe anything to UNL, and will receive a refund of any deposit paid.
  • If your Affiliated or Unlisted program is cancelled, it is up to the program provider to refund any deposits paid. Many study abroad program providers are offering flexibility with financial policies in light of COVID-19. However, since different programs have different policies, you should contact your program provider directly to inquire about their refund policies.

If my program was/is cancelled (or UNL participation not approved), may I defer my program application to a future term?

With most programs, you may defer or reapply to a future term. Some programs are offered once per year, whereas others are offered in multiple terms. We encourage you to meet with an Education Abroad Coordinator and your academic advisor to discuss options, especially if you plan to graduate soon.


If my program was/is cancelled (or UNL participation not approved), may I defer my scholarship?
  • UNL Education Abroad will allow you to defer any scholarships administered through our office, for as long as you remain a degree-seeking student at UNL. (If your scholarship is for undergraduate students, you must still be a degree-seeking undergraduate to be eligible). For scholarships with dollar amounts determined by “year at UNL” and length of program, your award will be based on 1) your year at UNL when you originally planned to go abroad, and 2) the length of the program in which you actually participate. Early Abroad Scholarship recipients will have at least one full year to use their scholarship once international travel resumes.
  • If you received a scholarship administered by another department/organization, please inquire about the possibility and terms of deferral. Many scholarship administrators are being flexible, but policies do vary.

May I use my scholarship for a Virtual International Program (VIP)?
  • While you may not transfer a traditional education abroad scholarship to a VIP, the Education Abroad Office is offering a new scholarship to all undergraduate students in good standing who pursue an approved VIP. When you complete a VIP application in MyWorld, the EAO will confirm your scholarship eligibility and amount ($250-$1,000 depending on program type).
  • If you were selected for a Gilman Scholarship, you may use your award to support a credit-bearing VIP between now and December 31, 2021. Please visit the Gilman website for the most up-to-date information about applying a Gilman Scholarship to a virtual program.
What if my program is not cancelled, but I decide to withdraw out of concern for COVID-19?

UNL understands that personal tolerance for risk may vary, and that final decisions may be made between a student and their family. However, if a student fully commits and then chooses to withdraw from a program that is not cancelled, the program’s stated withdrawal policy will apply. Financial penalties typically increase closer to the program start date. Please review or ask your program contact about financial penalties before officially withdrawing.


May I apply for a U.S. passport now?

In response to COVID-19, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) significantly reduced passport operations in March 2020. DOS temporarily suspended expedited passport processing and restricted service to cases involving life-or-death emergencies. DOS is now resuming passport processing in phases, with the hope of returning to normal process times this fall, but there is a significant backlog of pending applications. The UNL Passport Office suspended its operations and it is unknown at this time when it will resume operations. Some US Postal Service locations are allowing customers to book passport appointments through an online scheduler.


If I am approved to go abroad while COVID-19 is still a risk, what should I expect?
  • Your experience abroad could be different than you originally imagined, so adaptability will be key. Program dates and advertised activities may require alteration due COVID-19.
  • Independent travel outside of the city and/or country you are studying abroad in may be limited.
  • Your time abroad may include a mandated two-week quarantine upon arrival in your host country, or in the event that you either develop symptoms or are exposed to COVID-19. You might also need to quarantine upon return home.
  • Your program may implement a hybrid online/in-person format, and there may be sudden changes to the academic format of your program.
  • You might consider purchasing additional travel insurance that covers potential disruptions, but it is important to read the fine print of these policies to see what exclusions might apply. Many policies do not include coverage for pandemics or global health threats.

What will happen if my program is underway, and then suspended/interrupted?
  • Academics: UNL is committed to supporting your academic success. UNL will work closely with our partners who provide education abroad programs with the goal of mitigating potential impacts on your academic progress. Note that in some instances, the option to continue coursework remotely might not be possible. Education Abroad will work with students whose programs are interrupted on a case-by-case basis to explore all possible solutions.
  • Program Cost: UNL will only be able to refund recoverable costs paid directly to UNL. If your program is interrupted after its official start date, program cost adjustments (partial refunds) will vary significantly, based on a number of factors.
  • Financial Aid: In order to minimize academic disruption and any negative impacts to your financial aid, you will be expected to continue your coursework through your program.

Who will Education Abroad contact with updates?

Education Abroad will contact program applicants/participants directly with updates, using email and the MyWorld application system as the primary means of communication. We will also periodically update this website. All members of the UNL community can find campus-wide updates and resources on the “COVID-19: Nebraska Responds” page.


Who can I contact about education abroad and COVID-19?

Please contact the Education Abroad Office at educationabroad@unl.edu or 402-472-5358. You may also contact the Director of Global Safety and Security at globalsafety@unl.edu.