FAQ for International Programs

FALL 2021 STUDY ABROAD AND COVID-19 FAQ

USC has extended the suspension of study abroad programs through Spring 2021 and the Maymester 2021 period (see memo).  

Q:  I see that Annenberg International Programs has opened their fall 2021 study abroad applications. Does this mean programs will run next fall?  

A:  Applications for Fall 2021 programs (London and Hong Kong) are open, but this does not guarantee that all programs will run in the fall. The University has not yet made a decision on whether or not the suspension will be extended through Fall 2021. If the suspension is discontinued, there is always the possibility that certain programs will no longer be feasible, given border closures, worsening outbreaks, visa processing issues, travel advisory notices and host institution closures, among other factors. Annenberg International Programs will keep applicants updated throughout this process and will work to notify applicants as soon as possible regarding any changes. Applicants should also monitor the situation in their destination country and should review the resources listed below.

Q:  How will USC determine which programs can run?

A:  U.S. Department of State Travel Alerts and Advisories, U.S. Centers for Disease Control advisories, U.S. embassies' and consulates' Public Announcements, private companies such as International SOS, the travel advice of other governments, news sources, the resident directors and international student offices at the study abroad sites, and other information sources are all instrumental in informing University decisions. 

Decisions by host universities and study abroad program providers (e.g. ACCENT Global Learning) on whether or not a program will run are at the discretion of those institutions.

Q:  Can I apply to a backup study abroad program?

A:  Yes, all students may apply to one backup program. The Annenberg programs offered in the Fall are Annenberg London and Hong Kong (a semester at CUHK).

Q:  If I took a leave of absence in Spring 2021, can I study abroad in Fall 2021?

A:  Typically students on a leave of absence may not apply to study abroad in the following semester. In light of the context of the pandemic, we may allow students on a leave of absence to apply to study abroad. Decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis. Please email  ascintl@usc.edu to discuss further. 

Q:  Which Annenberg programs are most likely to run in Fall 2021?

A:  That is hard to say at this point, considering how rapidly things change in relation to the pandemic. As we learn that host institutions or program providers will not be offering fall programs, we will list any changes in the program pages of our website. 

Q:  Is there a chance that my program could be cancelled at the last minute due to COVID-19?

A:  Although USC will endeavor to notify applicants about the status of fall programs as early as possible to help them plan ahead, there is always the chance that the COVID-19 situation in any given country worsens unexpectedly. As we have all seen, this pandemic can be unpredictable. Border closures, lockdowns and university closures can happen unexpectedly, possibly suspending study abroad programs or delaying their start. For this reason we will require that all students present proof of a flexible, refundable plane ticket booked. 

Q:  Will I need to be vaccinated in order to study abroad?

A:  As COVID-19 vaccines become available, some countries and airlines may start to require traveller vaccinations. Host institutions may also require vaccinations. Students must adhere to the guidelines that their travel providers, host country, and host institution put in place, as well as USC directives.

Q:  How might the COVID-19 pandemic affect my study abroad experience, if programs do run?

A:  Even if USC determines that study abroad programming may resume, students must be prepared for some degree of unpredictability, given the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.   Studying abroad in fall 2021 will be very different from the experience of study abroad in the past. Please consider the following:

General:

  • Students should understand that host institutions, cities or countries may institute travel restrictions at any time and will likely require mask-wearing, social distancing and other precautions. 
  • Students may be required to quarantine, submit results of Covid tests and/or provide proof of vaccination against Covid. 
  • In many locations, rules are strictly enforced, and failure to comply may result in fines, arrest, or visa cancellation.

Academics:

  • Programs and host universities will have rules and guidelines that students must follow.
  • The pandemic may require a shift to distance learning at any time.

Passports/Visas:

  • There may be processing delays for passports and student visas. Plan ahead.
  • Students may have to travel to a consulate in another city or state to apply for a student visa and should be prepared for the related travel expenses. 
  • Travel restrictions or quarantine requirements may complicate your ability to obtain a visa at a consulate in another city or state. 

Housing:

  • You may have to follow special protocols to help keep everyone in your housing safe.
  • There may be restrictions involving visitors.
  • Students may be required to self-quarantine upon arrival or at points during the program. 

Social Life & Travel:

  • Large gatherings may be prohibited, and some public places such as museums may remain closed.
  • Lockdowns, curfews, and stay-at-home orders may restrict your ability to travel. 
  • Countries may close borders with little notice. 
  • There may be travel restrictions with a country or even within a city.
  • Students should plan on staying more local than in a usual semester, getting to know their host city and host country well and making local friends. Extensive travel, especially to other countries, is not recommended as sudden travel restrictions or quarantine requirements may greatly delay students’ return to their host city. Returning from another country involves the chance of having to be quarantined in your host city.
  • Students should understand extensive travel also increases the chance of spreading or contracting the virus.

Health Care:

  • National and local health authorities or host institutions may require in-country Covid testing. Students may need to be vaccinated in the host country.
  • The pandemic may overwhelm local health care facilities and thus limit the ability to access care.

Stay Informed:

  • Students bear the responsibility for gathering information about and following all local safety requirements and guidelines. 
  • Be sure to monitor local media consistently to stay informed.

Q:  When should I book my flights?  Should I buy refundable tickets or get flight cancellation insurance?

A:  We will cover travel planning in the mandatory pre-departure orientation session. Students should not book any flights before then.

Q:  What should I consider in terms of USC housing or off-campus housing in case my program is suspended?   

A:  Students should ensure they have a backup plan in place in case they cannot study abroad.  Students should be aware of the deadlines for applying for university housing and favorable time frames for securing off-campus housing. Students should carefully read all housing contracts and lease agreements.

Q:  Are there any resources that you recommend for updates and further information?  

A: Yes

Q:  Who can I contact with more questions about COVID-19 and my study abroad program?

A:  Please contact ascintl@usc.edu or book a virtual appointment with one of our study abroad advisors here.


WHY SHOULD I STUDY ABROAD? 
Any student, regardless of their career of choice, must learn to account for the effects of global and international dynamics. As methods of communication allow greater and substantial interactions instantly with people and industries around the world, it is especially important for Annenberg majors to gain interpersonal communication skills and cross-cultural competency. The International Programs staff believes that studying abroad is the key to becoming a well-rounded, global-minded citizen. Personal contact—the kind of contact that breaks barriers of attitude, language, religion, and ideology—comes only through experiencing the change of landscapes, senses, and feel of places that is the essence of travel (Irving, 2015).


ELIGIBILITY 
Are Annenberg's programs available only to Communication, Journalism, and Public Relations students?

No, programs located in Auckland, Hong Kong, and Sydney are open to any current USC undergraduate student, regardless of major. Admission to the London and Rome programs are restricted to Communication majors, Journalism majors, and Public Relations majors. However, it should be noted that Annenberg majors and minors will be given admission priority over non-Annenberg majors/minors.

Students who are not matriculated at USC are not allowed to participate in any USC-approved study abroad program.

Are there any academic pre-requisites to go abroad?
Pre-requisites vary by program. For the London and Rome programs Communication majors must have sophomore standing and completed two Theoretical and Foundational courses at the time of application (or have one completed and one in progress). Journalism majors must have junior standing and have completed JOUR 307 and JOUR 320 before the start of the program and Public Relations majors must have junior standing and have completed PR 351A before the start of the program. Please review our individual program pages for specific admissions requirements as they differ from program to program.

When can I go abroad?  
Most students choose to go abroad in the spring semester of their junior year, however, that is not the only option. Communication majors must be of a minimum of sophomore standing upon the start of a program. Journalism and Public Relations majors are typically restricted to the spring semester of their junior year or during their senior year based on class sequencing. Transfer students must have completed one full semester at USC prior to applying to go overseas. 

Do I need to know a foreign language to study abroad? 
There are no language requirements for our programs. However, some programs include a foreign language component (e.g. students in our Rome program take a 'survival Italian' course) and students should be adequately prepared to study and live in a country where English is not the native language.  

Is there a minimum GPA required? 
Yes, a minimum USC cumulative GPA of 3.0 is required for all programs.
Please note that Annenberg International Programs conducts checks on all study abroad applicants with USC Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards. Any academic and non-academic policy violations and sanctions will be taken into consideration in the admission process.


COSTS OF STUDY ABROAD 
How much does it cost?

Program costs vary and range from significantly less than a semester on campus to significantly more. Detailed estimates of program costs can be found on each program page. 

Can I use financial aid to go overseas for a semester? 
Yes, USC financial aid -including loans, grants, and scholarships- may be applied to official semester study abroad programs. When a student is accepted into a study abroad program, an all-inclusive program cost sheet including tuition, housing, health insurance, round-trip airfare, and personal expenses (food, entertainment, travel, etc), is sent to the USC Financial Aid Office (FAO). The FAO then adjusts the student’s financial package accordingly. 

If the costs of the program are more than a semester at USC, FAO may offer the student loans to make up the difference. In cases where a program may be less expensive than an on-campus semester, the estimated family contribution (EFC) may be maintained and the aid package reduced.

Can I use financial aid to go overseas during the summer? 
Maybe. Many forms of USC financial aid are not transferable to summer programs, although the USC Financial Aid Office may be able to facilitate the borrowing of funds by students, parents, or guardians for up to the full program cost. In addition, some merit scholarships may be transferable to help alleviate program costs.

Are there any scholarships for study abroad? 
The USC Financial Aid Office and the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism currently offer a select number of scholarships for semester study abroad programs. We highly encourage students to apply for outside scholarships. Please visit our Funding Opportunities page for a more comprehensive list of available scholarships.


APPLICATION PROCESS 
How early can I start applying? 

For fall programs, applications are due in February; for spring programs, applications are due in August or September. Summer program deadlines vary. Applications are available on our website one to two months before they are due.

What is the application process like? 
All applications come with specific detailed instructions. Please visit our Application Information page for more details. 

SJACS/COMPETITIVE APPLICATION CYCLE WARNING:
During competitive application cycles (when Annenberg International Programs receives more applications than the number of spots in a study abroad program), all factors that negatively impact applications will be taken into consideration when evaluating students for admission. Please click here to read more information about competitive application cycles and factors for possible disqualification.

Can I apply for more than one program? 
No. More information is available here.

If I am not accepted to a study abroad program can I appeal the decision? 
No. All study abroad admission decisions are final and cannot be appealed.


DEGREE PROGRESS 
Will all the courses I take abroad transfer back as USC credit? 

Almost all courses will come back as USC credit. Most courses transfer as upper-division major elective units and will count toward the 64-unit residency requirement. However, if a class that you take overseas does not have an equivalent department at USC (e.g., Intro to Sustainable Eco-Tourism), it will not be accepted for credit at USC. Credit toward major or minor requirements is dependent upon departmental approval.

Can I earn minor credit abroad?
It depends. Students should consult with their academic advisor regarding the feasibility of studying abroad if seeking minor credit. Our programs are designed primarily for majors to earn major credit. As soon as you start thinking about studying abroad you should let your academic advisor know. Your academic advisor can create a course plan to help you fit study abroad into your studies at USC.

How will a semester abroad affect my GPA? 
Students participating in the London and Rome programs are directly enrolled in upper-division USC Annenberg catalog-courses and will earn letter grades, which count towards their GPA. For the Auckland, Hong Kong, and Sydney programs, the grades earned while abroad will not count towards your USC GPA. On your USC transcript, it will show that you received Credit/No Credit (CR/NC) for those courses and not letter grades. 

If my GPA is not affected by a semester abroad, why should I still care about grades? 
If you decide to apply for graduate school or need official transcripts for any reason, you will have to submit your USC transcript AND an official transcript from your host university. If you fail a course during your semester abroad, it will show as "No Credit" (NC) on your USC transcript; however, your host university transcript will indicate that you failed. Do not risk your chances of being admitted into graduate school by mistakenly thinking that a failed course taken overseas will not matter.


HOUSING
What about my housing at USC? 

Students who wish to return to USC housing after their semester abroad need to arrange this before their overseas departure. For students in non-university housing, it is their responsibility to make housing arrangements both before and after studying abroad. Unfortunately, Annenberg International Programs cannot assist study abroad participants who need to find other students to take over their housing leases. When considering studying abroad, you may want to find off campus housing where you can sign a contract on a semester-to-semester basis.

What are the overseas living arrangements?
Accommodations vary among Annenberg's study abroad programs, but in almost all cases students reside in either university housing (dorms or apartments with dining halls or cooking facilities), or shared apartments. 


What can I do to start preparing today? 

  • Let your academic advisor know that you are interested in studying abroad
  • Make connections with professors as they can be potential recommendation letter writers
  • Start researching programs on our website and/or make an appointment with us