As many students prepare to depart for spring break adventures abroad, Penn Abroad’s Global Assistance Services and International Risk Management has tips to protect students from COVID-19.
Director of International Risk Management, Jaime Molyneux, recommends that students and faculty members who will be traveling, especially overseas, take several precautions: ensure you are vaccinated and boosted, do not travel with symptoms, pack an extra two weeks of medication, bring a laptop and course materials in case circumstances prevent a quick return to Philadelphia when classes resume March 14, and bring rapid COVID-19 tests.
After several students on a January class trip to the Galápagos Islands were forced to self-quarantine in Ecuador after testing positive, Molyneux said Penn Global’s guidelines for travel are “kind of” lessons learned from “winter holidays”.
Molyneux added that she encourages students to familiarize themselves with their destination’s travel guidelines and testing requirements, as many countries continue to update their requirements as the public health situation changes. She added that the testing requirements to return to the United States will likely pose the most problems for travelers.
“All travelers must take a COVID-19 test to re-enter the United States, and that is where the majority will be stuck. Because many of our travelers during the winter break didn’t even have symptoms, they were shocked,” Molyneux said. “It is therefore important for travelers to remember that while mask mandates may be relaxed, even if you are traveling in a group or socializing in crowded tourist areas, take extra precautions. Because, unlike the locals, you have to go back to your country.
In addition to managing COVID-19, Penn Abroad also continues to monitor the situation in Ukraine. A group of Penn was originally scheduled to travel to Ukraine during the break, but prior to the Russian invasion he made the decision not to travel there. Molyneux said she is currently coordinating with the University’s private security provider, the US State Department, and contacts in the field.
The 530 people traveling through Penn-affiliated programs include groups from the School of Design, the Lauder Institute, Wharton Leadership Ventures, Global Modular Courses and a Global Immersion Program. One Penn Global Seminar will also travel to Greece during the break.
College and Wharton Senior Niteesh Vemuri will travel to Athens for the Global Seminar. While Greece only requires travelers to show proof of vaccination, Penn still requires all 13 students and two travel administrators to receive a negative PCR test before departure, he said. The group will also test for COVID-19 before returning to the United States.
Vemuri, who is thrilled to have special access to the Parthenon and Acropolis through the seminar, said he was “really optimistic” about the course’s journey.
“The administration has been very direct with us about the risks. Overall, I’m very confident that they’re doing everything they can to keep us in good hands,” he said.
“Travel isn’t as easy as it used to be,” wellness director Benoit Dubé told the Daily Pennsylvanian, “especially if people are traveling outside of the United States.”
Dubé also recommends that students prepare for the unexpected and develop a contingency plan in case they get stuck off campus.
If students make a prepared plan before traveling, Dubé said “students might have better fun than having to scramble at the end and make a plan after participating in school break activities.”