| by Carlos Vélez

Schools Abroad

Dear Schools Abroad Students,

I write to you with the disappointing, yet not unexpected news that, effective immediately, the Schools Abroad in France, Germany, Spain, Russia, Morocco, Japan, Jordan, and India are suspending in-country activity.  We are still in discussion about plans for the Schools in Latin America and Cameroon. The number of COVID-19 cases are comparatively low in these countries and regions.  They are also geographically distant from Asia, Europe, and the Middle East where the majority of cases are located.  We feel we have a little more time to make decisions about these programs. 

Several new developments last night and today led us inexorably to the decision to suspend these programs. Last night the Centers for Disease Control elevated its advisory for European countries to a Level 3—Avoid Non-Essential Travel. Today, the U.S. Department of State announced an unprecedented Global Health Advisory of Level 3–Reconsider Travel. In addition, President Trump’s proclamation last night of a travel ban for foreign nationals traveling to the U.S. from a number of European countries represents a new and unexpected level of restriction which makes it difficult to predict what further steps the current administration will take. We believe that additional travel bans may well be implemented. 

To be clear, now that these Schools Abroad have suspended in-country activity, students do not have the option to continue their academic program in country. Remote instruction will be arranged, wherever possible. The situation within our host countries continues to evolve, with some host universities remaining open and others closing. While some universities have committed to providing remote instruction to our students, others have not yet made such offers. We will do our best to arrange for this where we can. Your School Abroad director will be in touch with you directly with more specifics about the course work options available for your program.

For those of you already in your host country, we ask that you make arrangements to leave and return home as soon as possible. If you haven’t yet gone abroad, please cancel your flights as soon as you are able.  We believe airlines may waive change fees and penalties for rebooking and cancelling flights. If this is not the case, please save your receipt and Middlebury will reimburse you for at least a portion of the cost. Anyone who did not purchase a return flight will be responsible for the cost of that flight, as you would have been under normal circumstances.

Given how quickly this is unfolding, we know you will need time to get settled in at home before continuing with the remote course work.  Again, your directors will stay in touch with you about this.

These are unprecedented times. I’m sure you have heard this phrase many times over the span of the last few months, and even more in the last few weeks. It is sadly true. Collectively, the staff in my office have over 120 years of experience in international education. Yet they agree that the scale and impact of COVID-19 on study abroad vastly exceeds other situations, incidents, and emergencies they have had to deal with over their entire careers.  We know how much our students look forward to their time studying abroad. We know how you carefully selected the courses that would allow you to have the level of language proficiency or other requirements to qualify for a program in a particular country. We are deeply sorry that due to the coronavirus crisis some of our students have had to shorten their time in country or, even worse, forgo the entire experience. We also recognize that those of you who are still abroad are having to manage the various restrictions imposed on you because of COVID-19.  We know that this is disruptive and very stressful for you. Under normal circumstances, the study abroad experience can be stressful and challenging. At times it can even fail to live up to our expectations. Given the current situation, we can only imagine how exacerbated those feelings are. 

Finally, I understand that many Middlebury students studying abroad have not been receiving some important emails from the College.  Please know that this has not been intentional and seems to be a technical error that the College’s IT staff is addressing.  We expect that when students are studying abroad, they will receive the same “All Student” messages that students on campus receive. 

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate this uncharted territory. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

Carlos Vélez
Dean of International Programs