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This article was updated on April 4, 2020.
COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, has now sickened more than a million people worldwide and more than a quarter million in the U.S.
When CollegiateParent began covering the story in January, we focused on the impact the epidemic (not yet a pandemic) was having on study abroad programs, and how schools were preparing for the possibility of cases on campus.
At this point, thankfully, most American students who were studying abroad have returned home although a number remain stranded. Meanwhile, most colleges and universities have transitioned to remote learning for the remainder of the spring term.
The majority of states now have "stay at home" orders in place and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommend wearing cloth masks when going out in public in order to protect yourself and others.
Here are good ways to stay informed and connected during this rapidly evolving public health crisis:
COVID-19 is a highly contagious respiratory illness. Virus is shed through exhaled breath as well as when infected people cough or sneeze. Molecules can remain suspended in the air for hours and survive on a variety of surfaces for hours or days.
Practice good hygiene (find more guidance on the CDC website):
Many international students were unable to return to their home countries and have remained on their campuses. Every college and university that enrolls international students has an office to support them. Parents and family members of international students can also be in contact with this department if they have questions or concerns.
The pandemic is likely to interrupt summer and fall travel and study abroad programs. If your student is researching and applying for summer or fall programs at this time, they should be sure to stay on top of breaking news and seek extra guidance from study abroad advisors on campus.
If your student plans to study abroad in the future, their program most likely will require an international insurance plan. Be aware of the coverage for medical emergencies and medical evacuation.
Many college-sponsored programs also partner with businesses like CISI (Cultural Insurance Services International) and provide students abroad with a mobile traveler app to help them stay connected with their program, home campus and family members.
Other global crises and upheavals (like the massive bush fires in Australia and protests in Hong Kong) also impacted college study abroad programs. Chile — a country popular with students seeking a Spanish-language immersion experience as well as outdoor adventure — was a hot spot recently.
Study abroad remains a wonderful, life-enhancing choice for many college students. It's always important for students to have clear goals for their study abroad experience and to thoroughly research programs as they prepare to apply.
To learn more about study abroad at your student's school, visit the study abroad/international education website — they may provide information just for parents and family members. Individual study abroad programs often include a parent handbook on their website (or one will be available after your student has accepted admission to a program).
Be sure to read Study Abroad Safety Tips for College Students.
Help your student take the best possible care of themselves and get support when they need it.