Our response to COVID-19
At EF Gap Year, we are excited to help re-open international gap opportunities for our students.
We are fortunate to have the experience, the partners, and the staff worldwide to be able to navigate these uncertain times and give you the opportunity to see the world.
Here are some of the measures we’re taking to provide peace of mind.
As the EF Gap Year team helps students travel in 2021 and 2022, the well-being of our travelers and staff is our top priority. Long before students begin their journey, we tap into our EF Global Safety Network of industry experts and consider guidelines released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, and the U.S. Department of State. Plus, our 24/7 Emergency Service team and Safety & Incident Response Team closely monitor each destination to identify potential risks, infection rates, healthcare accessibility, and local regulations.
We then review each country we visit on our programs to assess any border restrictions and confirm flights are operating not just between the U.S. and that destination, but also between countries that we visit on the program, as many of our programs are multi-country or even multi-continent.
Finally, we want to make sure we are providing our students with immersive, impactful experiences, so we also carefully assess whether local policies and standards will detract from the outcomes we want to provide for our students.
Of course, each of these variables is continually evolving. That’s why our Gap Advisors stay in close contact with students before their program updating them on any necessary changes. Should a program need to change, we not only provide alternate options, but we also give families the flexibility to change their minds about travel. If we do change an itinerary before departure such that one of the countries in the original program is no longer possible, students have a 2-week window to decide to join the altered program or receive a full refund of all monies paid. And similarly, if a program changes in this way while a student is already on the road they can decide to continue on an altered version of their program or come home with a prorated discount based on how much time is left.
Families can feel confident partnering with EF Gap Year to navigate these changing circumstances and provide amazing opportunities for students.
While on the program, EF Gap Year utilizes our global network and experience to create policies and procedures to help our students, as well as the communities and places they visit.
It is important that our travelers are healthy before they begin their programs and take the best possible precautions to stay healthy during the program. Travelers are expected to sign our Safe Traveler agreement 14 days prior to departure and comply with both those guidelines as well as all local guidelines and regulations throughout the program. See the current version of the agreement here.
We also provide information to all our travelers about local COVID-19 guidelines and regulations expected to be in place during their program before departure. We recommend travelers bring their own personal hand sanitizer and multiple reusable face masks for use throughout their gap program. We require all travelers to wear a mask on tour when required by local law, other relevant authorities, or at the direction of their Tour Director or EF staff. Currently, travelers who have been vaccinated and/or recently recovered from COVID are not exempt from wearing masks. All EF Gap participants should closely self-monitor their health throughout their program. Should you feel ill on the program, your Tour Director, Gap Advisor, and EF Global Emergency Support team are trained to support you.
Finally, to comply with local regulations and ensure a smooth experience traveling between countries, travelers on any EF Gap Year program must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, defined as at least two weeks since either the second dose of a two-dose vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) or two weeks since one dose of a single-dose vaccine (Johnson and Johnson).
While specific measures vary across program modules and locations, all accommodations and learning environments will have enhanced protocols. When you are touring, your hotels will practice enhanced cleaning measures, such as frequent cleaning of common areas and guest rooms between customers. If you are in a homestay, your hosts will follow mandatory local hygiene guidelines. In both homestays and student residences, we will prioritize assigning you another EF Gap student as your roommate. EF student residences will follow enhanced hygiene, cleaning, and social distancing protocols. Apartment accommodations will be thoroughly cleaned between guests. Note that an important part of your program is the opportunity to live independently, especially during your internship module. All of these enhanced protocols should be coupled with common sense personal hygiene and social distancing practices.
At our language schools, cleaning protocols will be enhanced, protective plexiglass barriers are being installed in key customer service areas, and hand sanitizing stations and disinfecting surface wipes will be located throughout campus. Students and staff will be encouraged to wear masks and practice social distancing, class sizes will be closely monitored, and there may be daily temperature checks, depending on the location.
We are also working closely with our NGO partners to offer enhanced cleaning and social distancing guidelines in our Service-Learning locations.
Throughout the program, EF Gap students use a range of public trains, subways, coaches, or other local transport. As you would at home, we encourage you to take common-sense precautions to avoid crowded areas, wear face masks, and practice social distancing. When touring as a group, adjustments will be made so that transportation is in accordance with safety guidelines. This will include adjusting times of excursions as needed to avoid crowded forms of transportation, training our bus drivers in best practices, and ensuring that private coaches are thoroughly cleaned daily with high-touch areas wiped down throughout the day.
Activities on the program or specific excursions may be adjusted based on local conditions and developments. We continuously work with our local partners such as tourist sites, hotels, restaurants, schools, NGOs, conservation habitats, and internship host companies to prioritize our travelers’ safety. Examples of program adjustments may include itinerary changes, smaller group sizes, avoiding crowded locations at peak times, alternate excursions or activities, special precautions when working with children at our service locations, and modified internship responsibilities in order to follow local guidance and recommendations.
If a traveler is either diagnosed with COVID-19 while on tour or required to quarantine on account of COVID-19 while on program, EF will provide or arrange for the following, consistent with local requirements, at no additional expense to the traveler throughout the duration of any on-tour quarantine period:
EF has the largest worldwide network of support teams and in-country experts to assist you in times of need with EF staff on the ground, 365 days a year, in over 50 countries. Our Safety & Incident Response team is available 24/7 and we have a resource network of industry experts, healthcare professionals, and government personnel who liaise with local embassies, government authorities, and health providers. Your Tour Director, Gap Year Advisor, and EF’s Global Emergency Support Team are trained to support travelers should you feel ill during your trip.
What this means for you is that you can travel once again, knowing that you have the support of a global network working diligently to assess destinations before you depart, create a safe environment when you are there, and ready to help whenever needed.
In March of 2020, we were able to bring our EF Gap Year students around the globe home quickly and safely, working through the night to secure last minute flight reservations during a time when many others could not. We were able to do this without charging our students for these costly last-minute flights, while also giving them a refund for the portion of their program they weren’t able to experience.
We are similarly committed this year to helping our students whenever they need us. And while our goal is always to keep our students on the road, where safety or regulations demand it, we will always bring them home promptly and work to give them the best possible refund for any part of the program they weren’t able to experience.
If you have any additional questions about how EF Gap Year is navigating travel in 2021 and 2022, please don’t hesitate to reach out at email@example.com or give us a call at 800-726-9746.