Below is a collection of the most common questions and answers regarding our reopening and how the Institute is addressing the coronavirus for the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters. Please note that any information on this page can change as the pandemic evolves and updated health & safety guidance is released by Italian and EU public health authorities. All viewers are encouraged to check back frequently, especially as the start of the semester approaches.
PREPARING FOR THE EXPERIENCE
When will I know if the Fall 2020 semester is running?
In mid-July Umbra decided to cancel plans for our regular fall semester. However, plans are still in place to welcome students on a case-by-case basis for custom programs arranged directly with their home institution. As of now, custom programs have various start-dates, with the earliest being November 1.
What about the Spring 2021 Semester?
We are optimistic that much will be back to normal when students are scheduled to start the spring semester at end of January 2021! Our team is working closely with our partner universities in the U.S. to restart study abroad and anticipate that we’ll be welcoming a full contingent of students to Italy at the start of next year. That said, we’ll likely know if the program can run as planned by the end of November 2020.
Are you offering any scholarships or financial support?
Yes! We know that this lockdown may have changed a lot for our students and their families. To help financially, we offered the Viva l’Italia Scholarship ($1,500 USD) to all Fall 2020 students. Fall 2020 students who received the Viva l’Italia Scholarship and choose to defer to the Spring 2021 semester will automatically have their scholarship transfer with them.
Furthermore due to the reduced length (view our academic calendar) of the Spring 2021 semesters:
- you do not have to pay for the visa process (at least $65 USD) and associated travel/shipping;
- you do not have to pay $250 for the permit of stay, typically required upon arrival to Italy when staying for more than 90 days;
- and you do have more time between semesters to seek temporary employment and you have a shorter period abroad for which you would need to budget your personal expenses
What protocols will be in place for the Institute to reopen safely?
Please visit our page on Risk Management for details.
My university cancelled all international programs. Can I still study abroad at Umbra?
Absolutely! If you have already applied and have been accepted to participate in an Umbra program and cannot attend due to cancellation or due to policies imposed by your home university, you can defer your enrollment to a future semester. Should you wish to defer, we ask that you contact us and inform your home institution regarding the deferral process and check if any restrictions apply.
If you had planned to study abroad with a program that has since been cancelled anywhere in the world, but your university is still approving study abroad in Italy, you may still enroll at the Umbra Institute. Click Here to Apply Now. You should contact your study abroad office and notify them of your intentions as restrictions may apply. Our admissions specialists can assist you with the application and course approval processes.
Is there anything special I should pack?
Yes, a laptop if you have one. Should you need to quarantine in Italy or elsewhere, you may need to complete some or all of your coursework online. In addition, our institute uses an online system known as Moodle to supplement in-class learning (covid or no covid). While we have a few desktop computers available for student use, they are nowhere near enough to support the entire student body and cannot be moved from their place within the Institute’s library.
We also suggest you pack some masks. Many airlines currently require passengers to wear a mask for all flights. In addition, depending on the local health regulations, you may need a mask at certain locations when you travel in Italy and Europe.
Though we do not yet know if Italian and EU guidelines will require that people wear masks in enclosed spaces this coming fall or spring, we do want you to be prepared for this possibility both in the Institute and during your independent travel. Our Institute will provide all students with masks upon their initial arrival in Italy (in September or January) but students are responsible for purchasing any further masks or personal protective equipment. You’re welcome to pack any such items as long as they fit all guidelines provided by your airline. You will also find a section called “Suggestions on What to Pack” when you receive your pre-departure handbook.
How is the Institute preparing students for the experience abroad?
Our US office staff is available to answers questions from students, parents, and partnering colleges and universities. Contact us at [email protected] if you have any questions or concerns. For students that have been accepted and enrolled in one of our programs, we provide a pre-departure handbook, virtual pre-departure orientations, and live zoom/skype info sessions prior to departure.
Will I have to quarantine when I arrive in Italy?
At this point, we don’t think so, but there is no way to know for sure. As of now, anyone arriving in Italy from the United States is asked to self-quarantine for 14 days. However, there are plans in place to lift this restriction once international travel fully resumes this summer.
Will I get a refund if the program is suspended due to an outbreak?
If circumstances require that we suspend in-person classroom sessions, we will move to online classes. If the outbreak is not severe and temporary restrictions have been put in place, students can remain in Italy in their apartments; we will only refund the unused course fees for course travel and excursions. Students can complete the semester in Italy online. If students are required to vacate student housing and return home, we will refund all unused housing expenses as well. The academic program will continue online and students will receive full academic credit. See our Dates, Deadlines and Refunds page for details.
If I cannot travel to Italy, can I take Umbra classes online?
We made this option available after our summer session was cancelled, as we recognize that not every student will have a future study abroad opportunity and some students may have needed one or more of our courses for their degree plan. We are currently working on plans to offer some courses online this fall for students who cannot travel. Should this interest you, please contact us at [email protected] and tell us which course(s) you’d need as this may help us establish plans for remote study that could match your needs.
Remote Internships: Some of our local internship placements, as well as other internship opportunities, can be offered remotely on a case-by-case basis. If you are interested, please contact us right away.
WHILE IN ITALY
How will classroom instruction change to reduce the possibility of coronavirus transmission?
Classroom capacity will be reduced to meet the social distancing guidelines established by the local public health and safety authorities, which means students’ desk will be spread out as required. Fortunately, Umbra has a number of large classrooms. Although more open space makes for a more impersonal learning environment, it also decreases the likelihood of transmission. When possible, classroom windows and doors will remain open to maximize airflow.
What adjustments have been made regarding student housing?
All Fall 2020 students will be given their own single room and we will place a maximum of four students per apartment. The apartments will be disinfected according to Italian and EU anti-covid sanitation guidelines prior to arrival and the Institute will provide an initial supply of hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies for each apartment. It is still too early for us to know which of these guidelines will be recommended for the Spring 2021 semester but our Institutes are closely monitoring Italian and EU health recommendations to ensure a safe environment for our students.
With a shorter semester will there be class on Fridays?
No. We know that weekend travel and activities are just as much a part of study abroad as your individual classes. Therefore, our courses will still run from Monday through Thursday (though class will last a little longer than usual) so that your three-day weekends can still be spent either on academic field trips or independent travel, both of which help you learn from and integrate with the Italian community.
Will I be allowed to travel during my free time?
As of now, yes! However, we do ask that you thoroughly research your destinations to make sure you are familiar with any travel restrictions they may impose (for example, currently students are exempt from some European travel restrictions, while other countries are maintaining tight restrictions for US passport holders).
Our staff reserves the right to implement travel restrictions with little warning should an outbreak anywhere in Europe cause serious concern for our students. Should any student deliberately violate that travel restriction, they may be asked to leave the program at their own expense and without a refund.
While you are abroad, our team will work to notify you of common travel destinations that pose significant health risks; so, it is imperative that you submit an independent travel form every time you leave your host city. That said, you should always seek to inform yourself on issues of health and safety, regardless of when or where you travel as health and safety topics can sometimes impact how you navigate your destination and what activities or events are available to you.
If friends or family visit me, can they stay in my apartment?
No, they cannot under any circumstance. Our Institutes have always had a policy in place that prohibits students from hosting overnight guests in their apartments, regardless of where that guest is coming from or how they are related to the student. This policy is especially important in light of covid-19 as it is important that you limit possible exposure of the virus to your roommates. All guests have always been and will continue to be asked to stay in a hotel, hostel, or other accommodation for the duration of their visit to Perugia.
HEALTH AND CRISIS MANAGEMENT
Are the Institute’s staff and faculty following the same health and safety protocols as students?
Absolutely! Health & safety guidelines are of utmost importance to our team, regardless of who they impact.
What is the situation regarding cases in the local region (Umbria)?
Umbria was never among the “hardest hit” regions of Italy, since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. After being among the first countries affected by the pandemic, Italy has – to use the technical term – flattened the curve. The cases still present in Umbria are isolated and heavily monitored through an extensive and accessible testing system. From June 1st – June 24th the region of Umbria has had only 8 new cases. Recovery rates are high and the reopening of the region is going as scheduled, as of this site’s last update.
Will the Institutes engage in contact tracing?
Umbra will not manage any contact tracing. However, the Institute will keep a record of everyone who enters the facility for a minimum of 14 days. Should we receive word from staff, faculty, students, or Italian health authorities that someone in our facilities has been exposed to the coronavirus, we shall support all impacted individuals by following the protocol issued by the Italian authorities.
We will also monitor student travel through our mandatory independent travel forms, required each time a student leaves their host city for anything other than an Institute-sponsored field trip or activity. Our student services team will use this information to see whether students plan to visit outbreak areas (as this is a precautionary, preventive measure).
What accommodations will be made for students in high-risk groups?
While we would love to encourage everyone to study abroad, if you belong to a group that is at high-risk for covid-19 complications, we encourage you to postpone your study abroad experience. While Italy’s medical system is one of the best in the world and our staff would be happy to support you to the extent they are able, we anticipate that it would be very difficult for you and your loved ones should you be high-risk and fall ill while abroad. Fortunately, most students are not in a high-risk group, due to age and other factors. However, we recommend that you check with your doctor before committing to travel, especially if you have any pre-existing conditions.
What health services are available at the Institute?
During orientation and in your welcome packet, you’ll be provided with the contact information for local health and emergency services. Our staff can also provide you with contact information for local English-speaking doctors and other specialists.
Although our staff will not be able to physically accompany students to their appointments due to restrictions, our team can be available by phone or video chat, to assist with any medical visits or health concerns. Our 24/7 emergency phone will also be available, as usual. Rest assured, the Italian healthcare system is among the best in the world and well prepared for any emergencies.
Note: All students studying in Italy are required to have valid emergency health insurance. Most students will get this through their study abroad office as part of their program cost. Please check with your study abroad office to see if insurance is included or if it will be an independent purchase.
While I’m abroad, what tools can I use to monitor the coronavirus?
The Institute will closely and continuously monitor the situation locally and globally and will provide students with updates and guidance. We also ask that all students enroll in the State Department’s STEP Program for the duration of their time abroad and they update their profile with STEP with the travel details for every country they plan to visit. This will ensure that you receive email updates should any major changes take place relevant to covid-19 or the general health & safety situation in your destination or host country.
You can regularly check the CDC, WHO, and State Department websites for coronavirus updates and safety measures. You can also follow these agencies on social media for regular health and travel updates. If following the State Department on Facebook, you should follow their Consular Affairs page and their local Embassy page. Similar pages should be available on Twitter and Instagram.
What will happen if my classmates or I are exposed to covid-19? What if my professor is exposed?
If any students were exposed to covid-19 while abroad, we ask that they immediately notify our Health, Safety and Wellness Coordinator at the Institute. They will ask potentially infected students to stay in their apartment and self-isolate until they can be tested, or until 14 days have passed. Italian testing is very efficient. Health officials will come to the home to perform the test, but if you are asymptomatic your test may not be a priority.
Our Health & Student Life team will notify your roommates that someone in their apartment may have been exposed to the virus and will ask that the entire household to self isolate in line with the same guidance you received. They will also notify you and your roommates’ professors that you’ll be completing your coursework remotely until you are able to leave self-isolation. Our faculty has adopted the use of Moodle; so, transitioning between in-person and remote coursework will not be difficult.
In the unlikely event that your professor is exposed, your class might be asked to self-isolate (this depends on various factors of exposure and Italian health guidelines). Even if you are not asked to self-isolate, that course would be offered with your professor teaching remotely until 14 days have passed since the instance of possible exposure or until the professor receives a negative coronavirus test.
What will the Institute do if Perugia becomes a hot spot?
If the city or local region becomes enough of a risk, students will be required to adhere to the local health and safety regulations including shelter-at-home orders. Classes would take place remotely untill restrictions have been lifted. If the crisis is severe, you may be asked to return to the United States. The reason for this is that if lockdown restrictions are in place, our staff may be legally obligated to stay home and can therefore not offer our usual support services, even those relative to health and safety.
Should our on-site program need to close, our staff would work with you to support your departure and would establish a one to two week buffer period to allow students to arrange their flights without facing academic deadlines. Our faculty is trained in the use of online learning platforms and can allow you to continue your coursework remotely once that buffer period ends. See the section on Dates, Deadlines and Refunds.
What happens if students are required to return home mid-semester?
Once our on-site program begins, our team is there to support you even if the virus causes you to go home early. In such a scenario, we are prepared to provide you with a pro-rated housing refund* and transition all courses online through the learning management system our professors use throughout the semester, called Moodle. If at the time of your departure you’ve paid for any co- or extra-curricular activities, we’ll be sure that you receive a refund for any that were not completed before departure and that your housing fees are prorated and refunded.
Note: Our refund policy is only relevant to fees collected by the Umbra Institute. Students are encouraged to consulate their university’s study abroad office regarding their refund policies for the coming semesters.
I still have questions, who do I contact?
You can contact our team directly through [email protected]. Please specify which semester you plan to attend and what your questions are; our admissions specialist will promptly reply.
Please note that we cannot provide you with information regarding the specific policies of your home university or your program agent. Students should contact them directly.