Studying abroad this spring? The adventure of a lifetime is right around the corner…only a few more logistics to think about before it begins!
– by Emily Nagle, Director at API
The road leading up to going abroad during Spring 2022 has likely been a bit of an adventure. In addition to navigating seemingly endless uncertainty, the pandemic has also added an extra layer of logistics. I flew to Italy on January 2, 2022, so I wanted to share my experience in hopes that it will help you prepare for what to expect this spring, traveling during covid times.
- Not all Masks are Created Equal
Check the current mask requirements for your host country. Right now, Italy requires an N95 or FFP2 mask on public transportation and in many public spaces. This may even apply to your flight from the US to Italy. When I flew to Rome, they would not allow anyone aboard the airplane without an N95 or FFP2 mask, so be prepared. Most Italians wear FFP2 masks, which you can purchase in the US before you leave home. I got mine on Amazon, but here are some other ways to shop masks: https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/where-to-buy-n95-kn95-masks-online/. If you’re heading to Florence, keep in mind that currently, masks must be worn even while outdoors. Above all, remember how rapidly rules and regulations regarding covid tend to change. Keep close tabs on what is happening in your host country and try to stay flexible.
- Schedule Your Covid Test ASAP
Most countries require you to present a negative covid test result, carried out within 24-72 hours before arrival in your host country. (Confirm the current requirements on the US embassy site for your host country, like this link for Italy: https://it.usembassy.gov/covid-19-information/) Don’t wait until the last minute to determine your testing plan, and definitely don’t rely on walk-in testing at the airport. Since most travelers currently need covid tests, airport testing sites can get extremely busy. When I flew out of Newark, the walk-in testing site had well over 100 people in line, many of whom had been waiting for six to eight hours. The testing site told travelers who arrived as early as 1pm that they would not be seen before the end of the day without an appointment. Make sure to book an appointment in advance with a testing location that guarantees timely results, and double check that the type of test (PCR versus Antigen, etc.) will meet your host country’s requirement. You may also want to factor testing fees into your budget, as rapid tests can be expensive. I made an appointment about two weeks in advance for a rapid PCR test at the Newark airport. It cost $250, but guaranteed results within an hour. They gave me a printed copy of my results so that I could present them at check in with my airline. Your results may also be spot checked upon arrival in your host country.
- Be Prepared to Share Proof of Vaccination
In Italy and the EU in general, the Green Pass is required for entrance into most indoor places, including restaurants, cafe’s, museums, attractions, events, etc. In place of the Green Pass, I have usually been able to show a picture of my CDC vaccination card on my phone. In some cases, I have also had to show additional photo identification to prove that my name matches the one on the vaccination card. So far, only one cafe would not accept the CDC card–they would only accept the Green Pass, but this does not seem to be the norm. While looking at your vaccination card, they verify that your most recent shot was administered within the past 6 months. Try to get your booster before departure if possible!
I truly understand how stressful this may feel, especially on top of all of the other preparation involved in going abroad. With that being said, when you do finally arrive in your host country, it will truly be well worth each and every hurdle. All of the challenges that you overcame in order to go abroad will make your international experience extra rewarding. Traveling internationally during covid times will give you a unique perspective on your host city and extraordinary experiences that you will remember for the rest of your life. Hang in there–only a few more things to cross off your to-do list, and then an unbelievable adventure is ahead!