FAQ’S – Frequently Asked Questions
What happens now?
All students are requested to make immediate arrangements to return home and adhere to the following procedures:
- All students must first submit the PROGRAM WITHDRAWAL FORM;
- All students are asked to evidence their departure plans and provide their travel details, departure dates, etc.
- All students are requested to vacate student housing, withdraw and depart by March 9th. This is mandatory for some and optional for others, yet we urge students to leave Italy immediately if possible. If you are unable to leave, or choose not to vacate the student housing, please contact us immediately.
- All courses will be suspended for the next two weeks and re-commence remotely (via email/internet) on or before March 16th. All courses will continue and be completed online.
- The end of the semester date (for remote classes only) will be extended by one week, to May 8, 2020. All coursework must be completed by then unless arranged in advance with your professor.
If students have any questions or concerns, they should visit the Student Services Office or write to us at [email protected].org. As always, the E-Phone is for emergencies only. DO NOT CALL THE E-PHONE FOR GENERAL INFORMATION.
Can I return to Florence to Retrieve my Luggage?
Since many students are currently traveling for the semester break (Feb. 28th – March 8th), they may need to return to Florence to retrieve their personal belongings. Although there is an elevated travel advisory, students should be able to return to their apartments to retrieve belongings. Please note that this poses a tremendous risk and there is no guarantee that you will not be exposed to the virus upon re-entry into Italy and may have difficulty traveling due to delays, cancellations or quarantine policies.
What if I am unable or choose not to Return to Florence to retrieve my belongings?
We are here to help! If students choose not to, or are unable to return to Florence, our housing office team will assist in retrieving their belongings and storing luggage and personal items at the Institute until arrangements can be made to have it sent home. ISI can arrange for luggage to be shipped home from Florence at the student’s expense. We will find the most economical options possible but it could be very expensive. In addition, it may take us a number of days to organize and process the shipments. However, since the crisis began more stringent travel restrictions have been imposed on flights from Italy. We recommend avoiding return if you are able. Check the airlines for updates.
Is there a deadline to depart or an official closure date?
Yes, we have been asked by our academic partners to ensure that students return home immediately. To allow students ample time to make arrangements we have established an official deadline of Monday, March 9th.
What if I cannot depart by the program deadline?
If for any reason students find it difficult to find an affordable flight back to the United States prior to March 9th, we ask that they inform us immediately. We will see if we can find a solution to ensure they are able to leave by that date or shortly thereafter.
What about my classes, grades, and credits?
ISI Florence has gone to great lengths to ensure that despite this crisis, classes may continue remotely. By successfully completing the courses online, students will receive a final grade and transcript. All courses will count for the same ISI academic credit had they been completed in the classroom. Depending on the policies of their home university students may choose to continue some or all of their courses. Students must complete the withdrawal form, and make arrangements to prepare their courses for remote study. Check with your home university on its policies on courses.
Why do I have to complete the Withdrawal Info Form?
As a study abroad program provider for your home university, ISI Florence has been tasked to ensure that all students have a safe and rewarding experience in Italy. Given that your home institution or provider has cancelled all programming in Italy, and requested students return home or leave the country, we must account for all student’s whereabouts, confirm departure dates, and arrange for courses to continue online. All students must complete the form by the deadline or be considered to have abandoned the semester program and forfeited all academic credit and all travel/lab fee refunds. If you have not done so already, please complete THE WITHDRAWAL INFO FORM immediately.
I have received urgent notice that I am to return home, what about ticket change fees, vouchers, refunds?
Students should contact their home university or provider for their policies regarding reimbursement for costs associated with the early departure by the deadline, including any airfare change fees, airline tickets, and all other refunds. Some universities are offering financial assistance to help students arrange their timely return.
What about field trips, activities and studio fees?
ISI will refund pro-rated studio fees, as well as all field trips, excursions, and activities that students cannot attend as a result of this semester’s suspended programming. Refunds will be processed within 30 days.
Can I stay in my apartment for the remainder of the semester?
Student housing is provided as part of the “program” in partnership with your home university. Once the decision was made by your home institution to close the program, the status as a traditionally-matriculated student in the ISI Florence program was rescinded. As such, after March 9th any student left in Florence, in student apartments or not, will have access to limited resources.
That said, any student that is having issues with lodging, or insists on remaining, can come see us and we will assess each situation and arrange to extend your stay up to the scheduled end of the spring semester. Any student that remains in Florence after the closure date may not have access to the full complement of ISI student services (i.e. emergency services) and must sign a waiver and hold harmless agreement, but the school will remain open some hours each day. Although this is your choice as adults, we fervently advise against this scenario; especially since this crisis is worsening.
Can I get a refund for the remainder of my housing?
Unfortunately NO. It is and always has been the ISI refund policy that once a semester program begins, in the event of withdrawal and/or cancellation, unrecoverable housing fees are not refundable. If you do not plan to return home, are unable, or prefer not to leave your student apartment, please see or contact Student Services immediately.
What if I don’t want to leave Florence?
Reconsider! As adults, you are free to remain in Italy if you wish, but we strongly advise against it.
This situation has evolved rapidly with just 15 cases less than 12 days ago, there are now over 3,000 cases reported in Italy. The State Department has now placed the initially infected areas (Lombardy and Veneto) at a Level 4 alert and new travel restrictions are being imposed. We strongly advise that you return to the United States. There are serious risks to choosing to stay in Italy for an extended period including health risks, quarantines, travel restrictions, limited access to medical services, and more.
If things get better can I come back?
We do not believe there will be a scenario that will allow us to re-commence the spring 2020 semester program in Florence and have students return. But for all spring 2020 semester students inconvenienced by this crisis, ISI Florence will offer incentives for students that want to return for the summer session or fall semester program.
Will I be quarantined when I arrive home?
ISI cannot answer this question for you and your family. We have received word that passengers on all flights from Italy are being screened. We also cannot predict what the student may encounter during their flight from Italy but we have seen the travel alert for hotspots Northern Italy elevated to Level 4 (same as China). We cannot predict if US authorities will update their guidance on this matter further but as things have developed seems more likely each day that a quarantine policy may be enacted for Italy.
What we do know:
Many universities are asking students that return home from Italy to wait at least 2 weeks before returning to campus to ensure they are not carrying covid-19. US Health Officials may or may not offer further guidance at the student’s port of entry. We recommend that each student check with their home institution, should the student plan to return to campus, to see if any policy is in place.
If any families have doubts, we recommend that they speak with their family doctor or similar health professional for advice.
I have more questions, who do I contact?
You may contact ISI Florence directly should you require further information. We cannot provide information regarding the specific policies of your home university or your program agent. Students should contact them directly.
What about Summer Programs?
At this time, the Institute does not plan to cancel its summer programs or customized Maymesters. The Institute understands that current unknowns surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, worldwide, may cause difficulties for international students seeking a short-term study visa or it may cause students and parents to hesitate spending 6 to 8 weeks in Italy. As of February 26th, ISI Florence is therefore prepared to:
- Extend summer application deadlines to April 25th
- Delay invoicing until May 1st
- Handle Maymester application deadlines and invoices on a case-by-case basis
- Push back the deadline for withdrawal penalties, allowing students to withdraw from the program without incurring fees until May 1st.
Should the Institute decide it is in the best interest of our students, staff, and faculty to close for the remainder of the spring semester, our team will continuously monitor the situation in close collaboration with Italy’s Health Ministry, AACUPI, and other relevant authorities. Should concerns stretch into April, we will update all partners with plans for the summer session.
If the crisis continues a decision will be made at least 30 days prior to the start of the summer session to either cancel the academic program and events or remain open.