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SIT has a team of trained duty officers available 24 hours a day to respond to potential threats to student safety and manage emergency situations.
SIT has implemented the following health and safety protocols with the goal of reducing COVID-19 infection and the spread of the virus from one location to another. To achieve this goal, SIT adheres to host country entry regulations, as well as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations for mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
Because SIT operates in a global context, the COVID-19 protocols listed below will serve as a minimum requirement across all SIT programs. For example, if a host country does not have an isolation requirement, our programs will adhere to the SIT isolation protocols. Conversely, if the host country COVID protocols are stricter than SIT’s, SIT will defer to host country protocols.
Regarding SIT Custom Programs: COVID-19 protocols for some Custom Programs may be slightly different or not applicable compared to what is listed below, depending on the requirements of partner schools and the program’s specific structure. Unless otherwise stated in the program-specific risk management plan, all protocols* below will apply to “participants” of Custom Programs. Participants are defined as any individual who attends a Custom Program or similar activity (such as a site visit) supported or run by SIT. They include students, faculty, staff, and program leaders from partner institutions. Throughout these protocols, the term “student” will also refer to Custom Program participants.
*Please note, a) the Independent Travel Policy does not apply to faculty/staff leaders of SIT Custom Programs, and b) payment of fees mentioned below may differ based upon the contract established with the partner institution.
Responding to the dynamic risk horizon caused by COVID-19, and out of an abundance of caution, SIT continuously evaluates and amends many program elements to mitigate risk. These include:
Homestays have always been an integral part the SIT experience. However, due to the elevated health risk posed by COVID-19, they were suspended in most SIT locations during the pandemic. As global vaccination rates continue to increase, homestays are allowed under the following conditions:
- Key COVID-19 indicators are not at elevated levels (e.g. case numbers, vaccination rate, hospitalizations, and hospital capacity).
- COVID-19 testing and treatment is readily available at or near the homestay in the event a student or homestay family member gets sick, and accommodation plans allow for isolation and care of anyone who tests positive.
- In most cases, students in homestays are placed in single rooms. However, in locations where accommodation resources are more limited and may not allow for single rooms, students might be placed in a shared room with the standard homestay safety protocols in place.
To the extent possible, in places where the above conditions cannot be met or in locations where risk has increased after students have entered the homestay and the homestay is considered unsafe, SIT will utilize alternative accommodation such as hotels, guesthouses, apartments or other viable and safe options available in the program country.
2. International Excursions
SIT defines an “international excursion” as a student educational trip planned and led by SIT outside of the program host country.
Due to the elevated health risk posed by COVID-19, international excursions were suspended in most SIT locations during the pandemic. However, as vaccination rates continue to increase globally, most countries have reopened borders and eased entry requirements for international travelers.
SIT has resumed international excursions under the following conditions:
- Key COVID-19 indicators in the excursion country are not at elevated levels (e.g. case numbers, vaccination rate, hospitalizations, and hospital capacity).
- There are no prohibitive entry requirements for the excursion country (e.g. borders are open, testing is readily available, and there is not a long quarantine requirement).
- There are no prohibitive movement restrictions within the excursion country (e.g. limited mobility allowed that would prevent program activities from occurring).
In places where the above conditions cannot be met, SIT will replace the international excursion with in-country excursions that have similar learning outcomes.
3. Independent Travel
SIT defines “independent travel” as travel within the host country that: a) occurs during the program’s defined enrollment period; b) is independently organized by a student; c) is unrelated to program activities; d) does not interfere with scheduled program activities; and e) involves an overnight stay.
All students, regardless of where their program is based, must formally request approval from their academic or program director prior to making any travel plans. All independent travel requests will be considered under the following conditions, as consistent with the Independent Travel Policy:
- Key COVID-19 metrics being monitored by SIT are favorable in the location to which the student is requesting travel.
- There are no movement restrictions imposed by the host country government that would impede travel.
Students participating in Europe-based programs should consult the Independent Travel Request Form provided to them onsite for more detailed restrictions on travel outside of their host country that may apply to their specific program.
Please note: SIT reserves the right to rescind approval for independent travel requests for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to: key COVID metrics in the location to be visited are worsening; the location is deemed unsafe; the student is in poor academic standing; etc. If a student receives approval for independent travel and that approval is rescinded for any reason, SIT is not responsible for any forfeited travel costs (e.g. cancelled flights, lodging, etc.).
Based on evolving conditions of the pandemic including higher vaccination rates, increased protection with many individuals from previous infections, lower rates of serious illness associated with positive cases, and the removal of vaccine mandates in most SIT locations, SIT no longer requires vaccination to participate on programs except for locations where host country governments require it.
However, we strongly encourage students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 per CDC recommendations. SIT continues to closely monitor COVID-19 conditions in each program location and will advise students on any location-specific COVID-19 requirements and regulations prior to and during their program.
The CDC recommends wearing a well-fitted mask to help prevent severe illness and reduce the potential for strain on healthcare systems. SIT requires all students, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask anywhere required by host country laws or in locations where SIT staff and partners on the ground determine it is necessary to mask based on conditions at the time.
SIT recognizes that COVID-19 prevalence varies from one location to another and conditions, while improved in many places, are still very fluid. SIT will outline the masking protocols for each location in the location-specific risk management plans developed prior to each term and will adjust protocols at any point if local government regulations change or conditions warrant it.
6. Testing & Quarantine
The following testing protocols are based on CDC recommendations.
Before Departure to Host Country
Covid testing of students after arrival to the program country, as well as any international excursion locations, is no longer required. However, testing may be used in locations where health conditions warrant it at the time of travel. If testing is conducted based on SIT’s assessment, SIT will arrange and fund the testing.
Please note that certain host countries may have additional testing requirements that are not detailed here, such as testing immediately upon arrival or pre-departure testing for all travelers regardless of vaccination status. In these instances, students are expected to pay for the testing required by host countries.
Traveling on public transportation, including planes, increases the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 as it puts travelers in close contact with each other, often for prolonged periods of time, and exposes them to frequently touched surfaces. While the CDC no longer requires wearing masks on public transport, SIT strongly recommends that students mask while traveling to their host country and while on any form of public transport in their host country, regardless of local masking protocols. This will help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and help protect the local communities in which students are immersed abroad.
Some SIT programs may organize private transport, such as vans or buses, for student groups to travel between program activities. In turn, SIT staff and partners on the ground will determine if it is necessary for students to mask based on local conditions at the time.
Regardless of vaccination status or previous infection, students who have a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 must wear a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days from the “date of last close contact” (the date of last close contact is considered day 0) and should get tested at least 5 days after the date of last close contact. In turn, if students test positive or develop COVID-19 symptoms, they should follow the recommendations in the Isolation section below.
9. Positive Test or Symptomatic
If a person tests positive and/or is experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, SIT will follow CDC guidelines and any host country requirements to care for the individual and conduct appropriate contact tracing. All our program locations have capacity to treat Covid-19 patients.
BEFORE DEPARTING THE PROGRAM
While there is no longer a requirement for travelers to present a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of recovery to enter the U.S., we encourage students who are returning to other countries to confirm the testing requirements for that country. In the event that a student tests positive for COVID at the end of their program and is not able to return home as planned, SIT will assist the student in finding room and board and will extend iSOS insurance coverage during the student’s isolation period. The iSOS insurance policy offers specific coverage that can assist students with some of the housing, meal, and airfare costs associated with quarantine. Please refer to SIT’s student insurance webpage for more details.