COVID-19 + Fall 2020 Updates

Last updated August 6, 2020 — Quick heads up! If you’ve visited this page before, clear your cookies and cache before viewing to see the most updated version of this website.

When are ILP programs opening back up? Are volunteers abroad right now? Are you taking applications?


If you’re asking these things, you’re not alone! While there are still things that we’re waiting on, we want to keep you in the loop on what we know right now. There are several factors we’re watching that all need to line up before we officially reopen a semester — maybe borders just opened, but we have to wait a bit longer for visas. Or maybe reported cases of COVID-19 have been quite low, but the schools where our volunteers teach at aren’t back just yet. In several cases, we’re just waiting on one or two things.

Don’t worry if a country isn’t green yet. These country colors aren’t the final decision for Fall 2020. It’s just a way for you to quickly visualize where we’re at today. Things can change day to day, and we’ve moved countries from Blue to Green in a span of three weeks. Many times, obstacles or restrictions we’re waiting on are removed without much (or any) notice, so our goal is to update this page weekly for you. Keep checking back for updates. Make sure you hover over each country and click to read more because we have a behind-the-scenes look at everything on a separate, country-specific page. You’ll find tons of info about the factors we’re watching for that particular country. 

Get Each Country’s Details
Play around with the map to get a quick overview, or you can click on these links to go directly to each country’s page to find specifics on that location.
Asia + The South Pacific — China, Thailand, Vanuatu
Europe — Montenegro, Ukraine, Lithuania, Romania, Russia
Africa — Uganda
Latin America — Dominican Republic, Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica



Country Color Key
Green — Everything is looking really good to fall into place for the Fall 2020 semester
Blue — Things aren’t set yet but we’re getting closer and optimistic that things will be ready before Fall
Yellow — There are still a couple of things holding us up but we’re hopeful they’ll happen by Fall



Updates + Announcements
Did you know we relay news articles about things happening around the world that may affect our programs? Check it out here!

Big Updates

Way back in March, the State Department had a blanket Level 4 travel restriction on every country, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Travel 4 advisory came with the warning that US citizens should avoid international travel due to the impact of the virus. We are very happy to see that that Department has returned to evaluating the situation on a country-by-country basis.

In a recent press release, the State Department outlines the following: “With health and safety conditions improving in some countries and potentially deteriorating in others, the Department is returning to our previous system of country-specific levels of travel advice (with Levels from 1-4 depending on country-specific conditions), in order to give travelers detailed and actionable information to make informed travel decisions”.

The department also reminded travelers to closely monitor the health and safety conditions of the country you’re wishing to visit.

As a reminder, the State Department makes their evaluations on a whole host of elements completely independent of the virus situation. For example, China is rated at Level 4, but not due to the spread of the virus (visa and flight restrictions account for that evaluation, with additional factors). China currently has very low and limited number of virus cases.

Something else to keep in mind? There are additional factors that contribute to the State Department rating. A country may have a higher number due to a certain area of the country which is off-limits for our ILP volunteers. See how that works?

Because so many countries are handling the impact of the virus in different ways, we’re happy to see the State Department considering those factors to help make their evaluations on a country-specific level. It’s certainly a step forward for the world of international travel.

Back in March, US passport operations were significantly reduced (basically emergency applications only). You could send an application in, but there wasn’t much of a timeline for when your passport would be processed. But on July 6th, we were pretty stoked because they announced that they were moving into Phase 2 of reopening! (There are only 3 phases, so this was a pretty big step).

So what does that mean? Four passport offices have reopened, allowing for more staff to start processing all passport applications. We think there still may be delays and we’re not sure yet how long it will really take to get your passport, but just the fact that things are moving along now is really exciting. If you’re planning to travel this fall (or any time in 2021, really), the sooner you send in your application, the better. We have links and directions on how to apply for a passport during Phase 2 right here. 

We have loved seeing international travel slowly open up again — and having some passport offices move to Phase 2 feels like a pretty good sign they’re getting ready for US citizens to start traveling again.

FAQ

Yep, we are! We’re currently accepting applications for Fall 2020, as well as all semesters in 2021 (Spring, Summer, and Fall). On September 1st, we’ll open up applications for Spring 2022 as well.

Oh, and remember that the country colors on the map above are only showing where we’re at right now, and are geared towards the Fall semester and September departures. All countries are fair game for applications and there’s a chance you’ll still get in for Fall, but for some countries, things are looking particularly good if you’re thinking about 2021 semesters.

Head here to start your application online.
We’re also accepting applications for Head Teachers!

No, not right now. Back in March when news of the pandemic was fresh, we helped our Spring 2020 volunteers return home. With the progress since that time, we anticipate that we’ll have volunteers back out for the Fall 2020 semester on a country-by-country basis.

There are full-time teachers in both Taiwan and Thailand though, as part of the Professional Teaching program. It’s similar to our volunteer program because you’re helping children learn English using the ILP method, but you’re employed by the schools and there are certain requirements (like having a degree). Because the full-time teachers plan on being abroad for a longer period of time (at least 6 months, but often longer), they ended up staying and adjusting alongside the locals. Taiwan and Thailand both had their own parameters for quarantining and taking a break with school, but those teachers have been able to remain in-country and as of July 2020 are able to travel a bit again and resume teaching in-person classes as well.

We’re as close to saying yes as we can … but the map doesn’t show any official decisions we’ve made. We’re still going to watch things right up until the moment of departure (and of course, throughout the semester while you’re there as well!). So it’s a tentative yes.

This pandemic has been fluid. We’ve seen countries who have done very well at minimizing the spread of the virus have another outbreak (and then work quickly to contain it again). We’re never done evaluating things. We’re actively watching how our countries are doing every day and it’s been a huge focus for us since March. Countries are marked Green because if all goes as expected, we’ll be able to send those ILP groups out right on schedule for a Fall 2020 semester. (Yeah, you can go ahead and do a happy dance!)

On August 3rd, we sent an email out to Fall 2020 volunteers letting them know the status of their countries they’re assigned to (or on the waiting list for).

Nope, it definitely doesn’t mean that. It just means that we’re still waiting on a couple of things that are out of our control, but we’re really hopeful based on the progress that’s been happening over the summer.

Countries can change from Blue to Green overnight and even from Yellow to Green in a matter of days. Because things can change so quickly, we’ll be making weekly updates to this page (and we’re hopeful we will have lots of changes to make — there are lots of signs that travel is opening up again).

The pandemic has really taken its toll on many countries, including the US as you know, and everyone is anxious to get to a point where life gets back to “normal”. Every country is different, so definitely go take a look at the country’s page for more (just hover over the map and click on the link). We’re going into a lot more detail there on what progress has happened and what’s holding us back right now.

We sent an email out to all of our Fall 2020 volunteers on August 3rd with more info and updates about that upcoming semester. We relayed all of their options, like switching to a country that is happening this Fall, potentially leaving at a delayed date (for a shorter Fall semester), or switching to another semester are all things to consider. If none of those things work out for Fall 2020 volunteers, they can opt for a full refund on their program fee (including the deposit).

Sorry for sounding like a broken record, but it’s still too far out to say. There’s still quite a bit of time before Spring 2021 and future semesters, so you have that in your favor. All signs point towards changes (hopefully for the better) before that time.

Right now, this page is focused on Fall 2020. Around September, we’ll switch things over to Spring 2021. And then around February, we’ll switch over to Summer 2021. The closer we get to your semester, the more information we can give you.

Head here — we put together the number of active cases (per 100,000 people) for each of our ILP countries, as well as numbers for the US so that you can get a feel for what those numbers mean in comparison. We’ll keep updating this as frequently as reports come out so that it’s fairly up to date.

Oh and just a heads up, these numbers are according to the country’s estimate. Yes, we realize this depends on accurate testing and reporting, and the numbers for many countries are not particularly reliable. Reported cases are just one of the factors we’re considering when it comes to opening a country for a semester. Some of these country numbers are more reliable than others, but actions like closing borders right away have proved to be an important factor in keeping numbers as low as possible. We’re also in close communication with our in-country contacts who are able to provide some perspective and insight for us on a local level.

The pandemic has taken its toll all across the world and no country has been immune, they’ve just seen the affects in different ways. Many countries have done very well at slowing the spread of the virus and reported cases have been low. We have loved seeing them slowly (and successfully) open up over the summer.

In some areas where we have Humanitarian Programs, businesses temporarily closing has been particularly hard on the economy. Some governments are able to provide assistance (sort of like those stimulus checks we got in the US) but it’s very minimal. We’re seeing communities band together and really step up to help each other — it’s been so inspiring. Our Local Coordinator in the Dominican Republic is known in her neighborhood as the go-to person when you need help, and does so much, particularly through this pandemic. She’s been an incredible resource, just one of many. There have been fundraisers going on since May to help provide food to families in the neighborhood but on-going support is still needed. Check that out here if you’re interested in learning more and helping out.

And that’s just one example. The same can be said about so many of the Coordinators we work with. We talk to our Coordinators often to see how things are going in their country and we keep hearing that everyone is so anxious for the ILP volunteers to come back.  The kids you help all across the world are saying things like, “When are we having the fun classes again?” “When are my teachers coming back?” “I miss my ILP teachers!”

Having ILP teachers abroad creates jobs and income for so many people in every country. We work with many locals to help us manage the program on a local level, and volunteers patronize so many businesses by shopping at markets, going to their favorite smoothie stand on the daily, and going on safari tours. Everyone is in agreement that travel needs to happen in a way to keep everyone safe, but trust us, they are all so excited for the time you can come back.