The Middlebury Schools Abroad are committed to supporting students in their goals to study abroad. After closing our operations abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020, we opened the following Middlebury Schools Abroad this fall 2021 semester: Cameroon, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Morocco, Spain and the UK. We plan to open our programs in Argentina, Chile, Russia, and Uruguay in spring 2022, and while we also hope to open the Schools in Brazil and Japan, we will wait until mid-December before deciding. Our programs in China and India remain closed.
Because we require our students to be vaccinated, have controls in place surrounding their living situations, and continue to practice all COVID-19 mitigation strategies (increased cleaning, ventilation, masking, distancing, etc.), we feel confident that we can continue to operate the Schools Abroad that we are operating this spring 2022. Still, we know that the situation may change, and we will continue to work to respond to each new challenge.
In our deliberations, we take seriously recommendations from health professionals and our on-site staff who follow local guidance. Nothing about this process has changed in light of the newest variant (Omicron) of the COVID-19 pandemic. We recognize, however, that there are still many unknowns about Omicron given its relatively recent appearance, and we will be paying close attention in the coming weeks, and reassessing, if necessary. While we continue to believe that study abroad is a valuable component of students’ overall academic experience and remain committed to offering it when possible, we also understand students and families will have concerns.
Cancellation of a School Abroad prior to the arrival date. We would only envision cancelling the remaining open Schools Abroad if borders are closed or there are other extenuating circumstances. If we were to cancel a program prior to the arrival date, we would reverse the tuition charges on the student’s bill. Students would be subject to non-recoverable expenses (i.e., housing deposits, visa expenses, airline ticket). We understand that those students would then want to return to Middlebury (or their home institution) and we would advocate for this to happen, understanding that there are space limitations around housing and courses that may not always make this possible.
Students withdrawing from a School Abroad prior to the arrival date. Students who choose to withdraw from a School Abroad prior to the arrival date will have their tuition charges reversed on their bill. They may, however, still be subject to non-recoverable expenses (i.e., housing deposits, visa expenses, airline tickets). The withdrawal fee is waived for the spring 2022 semester. Middlebury students who voluntarily withdraw from study abroad and wish to study on campus for the spring semester will be placed on a waitlist to re-enroll for the spring semester (and J-term, if applicable).
Schools Abroad flexing to accommodate deteriorating conditions after the arrival date. If the situation were to worsen after a program begins, we may need to pivot to remote education, re-organize courses, create replacement courses (not all types of courses would be offered, but some replacement would be available), or offer independent studies. We have done this before during the pandemic, and also have experience with this when partner universities have gone on strike. It is, of course, possible that we would decide to send students home. In any case, we are committed to academic continuity for our students, and students would be able to complete the semester. Students will need to remain flexible during this transition. Supporting our students in the completion of their academic work is second only in importance to us as their health and safety. It is possible that countries may close their borders during the semester. In this case, assuming the border closing is in place to protect those in the country, we would not automatically send students home. Students who choose to withdraw from the program once in country will be subject to the Schools Abroad Withdrawal Policy.
We understand, for some of you, that the arrival of Omicron may influence your plans to study abroad. We will not deny that studying abroad during a pandemic can be challenging; however, students can face similar challenges on their home campuses during this time. We hope that this information will be useful as you continue your planning. Please feel free to be in touch with your Middlebury study abroad advisor if you have any questions.
Dean of International Programs