A letter to SIT Study Abroad students from Dr. Sophia Howlett

Announcement Date: March 11, 2020

Dear SIT Study Abroad Student,

As the COVID-19 situation continues to shift worldwide, I want to personally reassure you that SIT remains hypervigilant in our approach to this rapidly changing global challenge. Around the clock and around the world, our staff and faculty are closely tracking COVID-19 and all related travel restrictions and healthcare advisories. As we navigate this evolving public health situation, please remember that SIT’s top priorities are to ensure the safety, security and well-being of students, faculty and staff; to uphold SIT’s values and mission; and to maintain normal operations globally to the extent that it is safely possible to do so. 

We are doing everything we can to keep our promise to provide you with an extraordinary study abroad experience, while balancing the health and safety needs of all key stakeholders. Our senior leadership meets multiple times each day to evaluate risk and impact on our many programs, considering factors such as current COVID-19 exposure in every geographical area; the local healthcare infrastructure and capacity; your program’s itinerary; and travel restrictions and advisories for your country of study.

We look to the U.S. Department of State and Centers for Disease Control guidelines to make these assessments and, as always, we follow guidance of local public health officials and the regulations and laws of the host government in countries where we operate. SIT’s existing travel protocols continue to apply to this situation. This means that travel in countries with U.S. State Department travel advisory level 4 and CDC level 3 is prohibited. As of today, the level of risk in all SIT Study Abroad locations is ranked as “limited community transmission,” which is the same as the current rating for the U.S. and most of the world. The exceptions include China, where SIT Study Abroad suspended our programming prior to the start of the semester; and Italy, where SIT has cancelled excursions and short-term programming.

We are also preparing for multiple scenarios, including moving programs to alternate locations; limiting ongoing mobility of programs; and updating all contingency plans to reflect the current situation. Our criteria for contingency locations includes availability of program resources, secure accommodations, healthcare facilities, and reliable transportation.  

If you do have to relocate, due to either personal decision, home school policy, or SIT’s determination that a move is necessary, all of our programs are developing and preparing to deliver curricula online. While we recognize that this option cannot replicate the immersive experience you planned for this semester, our aim is to provide meaningful learning opportunities that fulfill your academic credit and financial aid requirements. Fortunately, SIT has extensive experience in providing online learning. Thanks to our low-residency graduate MA programs, we have an online platform in place and faculty with expertise in the development and delivery of online curricula.

I offer these details to emphasize that although this situation is dynamic, SIT is assessing and planning for all possible scenarios with the aim of keeping you safe and healthy. If you have questions specific to your program itinerary, please reach out to your academic or program director, who is in close contact with their academic dean directly and with me, as needed. If you have questions about SIT’s approach, concerns about your health, or any other questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to the SIT Student Affairs team at studentaffairs@sit.edu directly.  There are also FAQs and other resources on our websites: sit.edu and studyabroad.sit.edu.

Finally, I want to emphasize that SIT’s mission is you: We exist to prepare you to be responsible global citizens. So, as you navigate the twist and turns of these next days and weeks, please know that you have a deep bench of advocates who are working around the clock to make sure that you emerge from this challenge strong, resilient, and more informed than ever before.

Thinking of you all,

Dr. Sophia Howlett
President, School for International Training