Given the U.S. Department of State (DOS)’s updated travel advisories, see updated College policies and student guidelines related to international travel.

In light of the U.S. Department of State (DOS)’s updated travel advisory levels, College leadership, the International Programs Crisis Team and Faculty Advisory Committee reviewed College policy and student travel guidelines. A detailed description of the conditions and considerations follows these updates. See “Background,” below.

Fall 2021 Semester Abroad

Occidental’s Statement of Location Safety  calls for us to consider a complex, nuanced and site-specific set of information about health and safety and our partner’s capacity to deliver student services and academics. When we have site-specific assurances, our policy allows for exceptions to our student Travel Policy. As such, Occidental and our trusted global partners will not unilaterally cancel study abroad programs due to the DOS’ recent recalibration of country advisory levels resulting in Level 4 rating for several fall destinations. See “Background,” below.

  Occidental will make an exception to our current student Travel Policy  to allow for the following:

  • Students and families will have agency in their decision to study abroad.
  • They may follow the standard process to request an exception to policy for level 3 and 4 locations due to COVID only, not other extreme safety conditions. The process will be adapted from the one developed for students abroad now in Iceland, France and Ghana. IPO will follow up with fall abroad students after finals.
  • Occidental reserves the right to cancel a program at any time if conditions warrant.


Here are the factors that informed Occidental’s decision at this time.

This week the DOS announced significant recalibration of its travel advisory system. At the same time, DOS’ Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) has clarified to the higher education community that these new ratings were not designed to target or single out new risks in specific countries and should not be viewed as the sole criteria to evacuate students or cancel programs.

The majority of the world’s countries now rank Level 4 (“do not travel”) due to inclusion of CDC ratings, not due to a change in local conditions.  For example, this change results in Austria at the same rating as Afghanistan, The Netherlands equals North Korea, and Spain matches Syria.

This week, colleges and universities across the country have re-evaluated the impact of this changed rating system. Like many other institutions large and small, Occidental’s established approach considers the new DOS methodology and advisories alongside other indicators and factors. These factors center on our partner’s capacity to deliver a safe and meaningful academic and cultural experience. In line with OSAC advice, our trusted, longstanding global partners will continue to utilize a holistic approach to determining whether they can operate. They will continue to analyze all relevant data and information on a site-specific basis. Just as we are adapting on the Eagle Rock campus for a safe fall, our partners are doing the same in their protocols, practices, policies and standards. Students (and families) must consider this in their decision to participate in fall semester abroad.

Make an advising appointment here

Robin Craggs
Executive Director, International Programs