SFS Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The SFS Safety and Student Life team continues to closely monitor the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) both globally and locally. The health and safety of our students and staff is of paramount importance to SFS, which is why SFS has made the difficult decision to suspend our Spring 2020 programs and bring students home. You can find more details about program suspensions below.
 
SFS has comprehensive risk management plans in place and our safety systems are a guiding principle for all decisions about programming. We closely follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and U.S. Department of State recommendations. There are many logistical and academic considerations, including travel restrictions, that we will be taking into account if/when evaluating potential program changes. We will continue to make updates to this page with relevant information.
 
Learn more about SFS Health and Safety.
 


 

Contact Information

In compliance with Massachusetts Governor Baker’s Stay-at-Home order, please note that all U.S.-based SFS staff are currently working remotely. Email is the best way to reach us at this time; however, you can also leave us a message at 978.219.5113.


 
SFS operates in 10+ countries outside of the U.S. and continues to closely monitor the circumstances in the regions where our programs operate. As the COVID-19 outbreak is continually evolving, we are committed to keeping our students, staff, sending institutions, and emergency contacts updated on any changes to our future programs.
 


CURRENT SFS PROGRAM CHANGES AND SUSPENSION NOTICES

All Spring 2020 programs have been suspended.
 
Our decision was informed by the following considerations:

  • COVID-19 cases have been identified in all of the countries in which we operate. Based on information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) anticipates exponential growth of confirmed cases and difficulty controlling the spread.
  • SFS considered that local health systems in the areas in which we operate may have become overwhelmed and not have the resources to effectively test and treat COVID-19. We were further concerned that this stress on local medical facilities would interrupt our ability for treatment of unrelated medical issues. In addition, we did not want to add to the strain of local health care systems.
  • Home schools were actively recalling students with varying mandated return dates.
  • Increasingly limited flight availability due to the surge of flight cancellations and re-bookings resulting from travel bans and border closures.

 


 

FAQs

COVID-19, a novel coronavirus, is a new disease that causes respiratory illness and can range from mild symptoms to critical illness.

Two of the leading resources for accurate information and updates are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO). Learn more about COVID-19 at the following links:

As SFS has suspended the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester programs, we currently have no students in the field. However, SFS is still actively assessing the health and safety risks from COVID-19 at all of our global locations. The decision to resume operations of our international study abroad programs will be determined by many factors, including guidance from the U.S. Department of State, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), current international levels of risk, and our ability to mitigate and manage those potential risks for our participants and staff in the field.
SFS is an industry leader in risk management. We have a structured risk management approach that enables us to adapt to the dynamic changes of the natural and political world to both prevent and respond to risk quickly and soundly. SFS adheres to the Forum on Education Abroad Standards of Good Practice and continually monitors global risk and security using a variety of external resources, including the U.S. State Department, Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and partner health and safety professionals in higher education (PULSE).

Each SFS Center has a Risk Assessment and Management Plan (RAMP) that comprehensively documents emergency response protocols and contingency plans. The protocols list the locations and contact details for nearby medical clinics, advanced medical care, and emergency evacuation services while also providing our staff, who are trained in wilderness medicine, with guidance on how to respond to incidents or emergencies.

Yes, however, SFS is considering running an amended summer schedule. We are assessing the feasibility of and options for summer programming and should be releasing our updated schedule by early April. We continue to actively monitor updates regarding COVID-19 in the countries where we operate summer programs as well as conditions here in the U.S. We are reviewing information released by the U.S. Department of State, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and our local contacts. As always, the health, safety, and well-being of our students and staff is our top priority.
Yes. At this time, SFS is planning to run all upcoming semester programs. We will continue to actively assess the global outlook for this fall and closely monitor COVID-19 developments from the U.S. Department of State, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and our local contacts. As always, the health, safety, and well-being of our students and staff is our top priority.
If SFS determines that we need to temporarily suspend operations on a currently running program, we will immediately notify students, their home institutions, and their emergency contacts. Our site staff will oversee the safety and well-being of the students by assessing the situation and taking appropriate precautions.

For students enrolled for an upcoming program at a suspended location, we will notify students and their home institutions. We will work with students to determine if there is an alternative SFS program that would meet their academic needs and interests.

In consideration of COVID-19, SFS has amended the refund policy for Summer and Fall 2020 programs. This amended policy applies to Summer 2020 and Fall 2020 programs only. The standard SFS refund policy applies to all other programs at this time.
 

SFS refund policies for Summer 2020

SFS can only refund payments including the Program Commitment Deposit, tuition, and room & board. SFS cannot offer refunds for any personal costs incurred associated with the program, including but not limited to, flights, other transportation, visas, immunizations, etc.
 
In the event that SFS cancels the program

  • If program cancellation occurs before the start of the program, SFS will issue a full refund including deposit, or a student may apply amount paid to a different SFS program, dependent on available capacity.
  • If program cancellation occurs after the start of the program, SFS will issue a partial refund prorated based on the week of cancellation (refund amount is dependent on the itinerary specific to that program).

In the event that a student chooses to withdraw from the program of their own accord or because their home institution requires it:

  • If withdrawal occurs 15 or more days prior to the start of the program, SFS will issue a full refund including deposit, or a student may apply amount paid to a different SFS program, dependent on available capacity.
  • If withdrawal occurs up to 14 days prior to the start of the program, SFS will issue a 50% refund including deposit.
  • If withdrawal occurs after the start of the program, SFS will not issue a refund.

 

SFS refund policies for Fall 2020

SFS can only refund payments including the Program Commitment Deposit, tuition, and room & board. SFS cannot offer refunds for any personal costs incurred associated with the program, including but not limited to flights, other transportation, visas, immunizations, etc.
 
In the event that SFS cancels the program

  • If program cancellation occurs before the start of the program, SFS will issue a full refund including deposit, or a student may apply amount paid to a different SFS program, dependent on available capacity.
  • If program cancellation occurs after the start of the program, SFS will issue a partial refund prorated based on the week of cancellation (refund amount is dependent on the itinerary specific to that program).

In the event that a student chooses to withdraw from the program of their own accord or because their home institution requires it:

  • If withdrawal occurs 20 or more days prior to the start of the program, SFS will issue a full refund including deposit, or a student may apply amount paid to a different SFS program, dependent on available capacity.
  • If withdrawal occurs up to 19 days prior to the start of the program, SFS will issue a 50% refund including deposit.
  • If withdrawal occurs after the start of the program, SFS will not issue a refund.

*Updated March 26, 2020.

SFS maintains a blanket accident insurance policy through AIG insurance administered by AIG’s Travel Guard program. The policy includes coverage for accidental medical expenses, emergency medical evacuation, and security evacuation. At this time, the existence of COVID-19 in a country where SFS operates does not meet AIG criteria to initiate emergency or security evacuation. However, in the event a student receives a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, then SFS and AIG Travel Guard will assist and advise on best options for medical care, and evacuation to home of record at the appropriate time. Coverage is determined by AIG at its sole discretion via a review process based on the specific facts of each submitted claim.

A summary of coverage connected to this policy can be found here.