OSAC released a series of questions for study abroad hosting institutions in preparation for a safe and secure resumption of international education activity. ISI Florence is happy to share its response to each question to help colleges and universities, as well as students and their families, understand which aspects of our offerings have and have not changed.
Q&A: PROGRAM LOGISTICS, SUPPORT & CONTINGENCY PLAN
As members of the AACUPI steering committee, we contributed to writing the COVID-19 protocols for US study abroad programs in Italy. This means that our team is promptly and actively informed of all changes (local and national) that could impact our students.
Before the beginning of the program, students receive a detailed Pre-Departure handbook listing all requirements and preventive measures put in place by the host Institute. Any further changes will be immediately communicated to the students and the study abroad office by email, through the Institute website and APP.
In compliance with Italian laws, we require that all university students, faculty, and personnel be fully vaccinated in order to participate in the program and access the university premises. Therefore, students must have a CDC White Card that is valid at the time of their arrival in Italy, to avoid quarantine, and for the entire duration of the program. The CDC White Card’s legal validity is 6 months from the last dose of the vaccine. If they have already received the booster shot in the US, then the CDC Card doesn’t expire.
All incoming students are responsible for acquiring an insurance policy independently or through their home university. In addition to those US insurance policies, AACUPI and the Tuscan Region have signed an agreement on various forms of medical assistance specifically for international students in this part of Italy.
Our Student Services Office will inform the student’s home university through its Study Abroad Office and reach out to the ISI Florence Health and Safety Coordinator. The latter will outline the steps to be taken in accordance with Italian and EU anti-Covid guidelines. Finally, should the student need immediate medical attention, the host Institute will intervene by contacting the proper medical institutions: either through the AACUPI/Misericordia agreement or by relying on the private medical clinics that our Institute always works with.
ISI Florence requires all its students to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 prior to their arrival in Italy. This requirement ensures that Institute students are free of any quarantine obligation upon arrival, as long as they can show proof of their completed vaccination cycle.
Both Rapid and PCR tests are available at local pharmacies and testing facilities. The staff at our Institutes monitor students’ conditions on a daily basis by applying Italian and EU anti-covid guidelines including temperature checks when students, faculty, and staff access our facilities.
Students showing symptoms or who may have been exposed to the virus will be isolated from their peers and, if necessary, they will be moved to different private apartments, to a covid Hotel, or to a hospital. Time to get tests and results may vary (24-48 hours) depending on the kind of test and the number of local COVID cases at that time.
Students will have to download and use the Contact Tracing App (called “Immuni”) developed by the Italian Ministry of Health. All external visitors to the Institute (repair personnel, guest speakers, etc.) will be screened prior to entry and are required to sign in and out for institutional contact tracing purposes.
A different private apartment, a COVID hotel or a local hospital, if necessary, are the solutions considered by our institutions and can be made available in accordance with situational needs.
In the event, a student is quarantined or the host country is put in lockdown, our Institutes guarantee academic continuity through online courses. Quarantined/isolated students can rely on our 24/7 Emergency Service for health and safety reasons. During office hours, our Student Services and the Health, Safety, and Wellness Coordinators are available for any emergencies the students may have, including issues with housing, food delivery, WIFI support, and related matters. If students are placed in quarantine/isolation during the semester, our team will provide them with a list of local food and grocery delivery services and a reminder of procedures to be followed should symptoms appear. Finally, ISI Florence works with local, professional psychological counselors that can schedule zoom/skype sessions with isolating students.
Our Health and Safety Coordinators serve as liaison between our Institutes on one hand and Italy’s public service on the other. Their tasks include making sure that all Italian/EU anti-Covid preventive measures are enforced and respected both in students’ apartments and on our Institutes’ premises. Obviously, this includes such basic measures as social distancing, contact tracing systems, sanitization of spaces, and the like.
In compliance with the guidelines issued by the Italian Ministry of Health, our Health and Safety Coordinator will contact the local public health entities in charge of the related procedures to report positive Covid-19 cases.
In keeping with guidelines that may be issued by the local health authorities, our administration would close ISI Florence facilities if necessary.
Our staff have been duly informed by our Health and Safety Coordinators on all the necessary COVID-19 procedures to be enforced both in our facilities and in the students’ apartments. This training is also extended to Institute faculty. It should also be noted that this training is ongoing and coordinated by both the ISI Florence Director and the Health and Safety Coordinator, ensuring that our team responds to various COVID-related scenarios in line with the latest government directives.
In case of another significant COVID-19 wave, our Institutes will follow and enforce all restrictions and guidelines issued by the local health authorities. This may include the transfer of all academic courses online and canceling course-related field trips and museum visits. We host students from various private and public institutions in the United States and are prepared to support their students’ return back home, should such action be required by an individual school’s internal risk management requirements. In doing so, the Institute will work closely with all students and professors involved to ensure academic continuity and any potential refunds in line with our refund policy.
As we did halfway through the 2020 Spring semester, and again for a small group of students during the 2020 Fall semester, all courses will be transferred online if necessary. Remote learning/teaching will continue also in case students must repatriate, as happened in Spring 2020. Our remote learning/teaching tools are the best-known software available for this educational purpose, such as Moodle and Zoom meetings. Our professors have all integrated the use of an online platform (Moodle, etc.) with their course, where possible, even when on-site learning is active. This allows students to become familiar with the platform so that they can easily transition entirely to online learning, should that be required.
Q & A: STUDENT & PARENT/GUARDIAN RESPONSIBILITY AND CONDUCT
Students are expected to comply with all COVID-related policies in the same way that they have always been required to comply with health & safety rules and guidance. All new COVID-related responsibilities are spelled out in all of our informational materials both online and on paper, thus including the pre-departure handbook, the student handbook, Covid-19 Protocols Document (inside student Welcome Folder), and the slides we provide during orientation (which are then sent to all students by email from our Student Services Offices within 48 hours of their arrival). In addition, a considerable number of clear infographics on COVID preventive measures are available on our premises.
We always notify the home institution in case of student conduct violations. The host Institute’s disciplinary action will comply with the policies and procedures of the student’s home university if so requested.
No, not if the student attending our program is of legal age.
Q & A: COMMUNICATIONS
All Covid related information is shared by our Institutes in compliance with GDPR and specific guidelines issued by the local Italian authorities.
Since all of our students are of legal age, information of this nature is always shared by our Institutes directly with the student’s home university (Study Abroad Offices). Information deemed to be urgent in nature will be communicated to a student’s emergency contact(s) in line with standard procedure and the student’s consent, as provided in pre-departure forms.
Q & A: HOUSING/ACCOMMODATIONS
All students will receive housing placements in apartments.
In addition to all the COVID prevention measures listed above, we have increased the number of apartments with larger, more open living spaces and made more single rooms available. However, not every student can be guaranteed a single room. Additional costs may be applied now that requests for single rooms are more common. Furthermore, all students receive information on covid preventive measures inside Institute apartments, visitor restrictions will be fully enforced at all times, and we will make regular cleaning and sanitization services available upon request.
For safety reasons, students are not allowed to live in a whole apartment on their own. However, single rooms are available at an additional fee. Priority is given to students with certified medical reasons for making this request.
Q & A: LOCAL TRAVEL & CO-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES AND EXCURSIONS
Field trips and excursions are limited for the most part to the host city and surrounding region and mainly for outdoor activities. In addition, the participation allowance for extracurricular activities offered through the Student Services Office has been reduced, and an emphasis has been placed on outdoor activities.
All students are expected to fill out the travel information form no later than Wednesday at 5pm every week. If they fail to do so, they will receive an official reminder from ISI Florence the following morning. Failing to complete the independent travel form will result in disciplinary action.
Students can always rely on the support of our Student Services offices for any need they have regarding their independent travels.
Students are strongly discouraged by our Institute from traveling to unsafe areas either because of a spike in Covid cases or any other reason. To this purpose our Institute notifies them if new travel alerts are issued, or if restrictions are imposed between Italian regions/EU countries. . Should a student be unable to return to our program as expected, they will receive immediate support from our 24/7 Emergency Service. Students will be individually responsible for completing coursework during their absence. Professors and staff will work with the absent student to ensure that they can complete their coursework remotely or in a timely manner upon their return to Florence.
In this case, too our students must immediately inform our 24/7 Emergency Service who will provide them with instructions together with the host program’s Health, Safety, and Wellness Coordinator. Accommodations will be made with the student’s professors in order to ensure academic continuity from quarantine or should the student need to take time off from their studies for treatment.
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 specialists 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.