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International Office

FAQs incoming students winter semester 20/21

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Last update: July 3, 2020, 11:27 am

Based on a careful evaluation of the situation and the continuing global uncertainties regarding travel restrictions, visa applications and the associated planning challenges for nominated exchange students, WU recommends (incoming and outgoing) students not to pursue their exchange on site in the winter semester 2020/21, but to also consider potential alternatives, if possible.

Students who decide to continue pursuing their exchange semester in winter semester 2020/21 are welcome to do so and we will happily provide support from WU side. We remind students to stay aware of potential risks involved, and especially make themselves familiar with cancellation terms when booking travel and accommodation. Alternatively, we will be happy to work with students and partner universities on finding other options. In case of additional questions, students are invited to contact their WU International Office coordinator.

Why did WU issue the recommendation?

Over the last weeks, we have carefully monitored the situation and been in contact with our partner universities and our international networks. Currently, the bigger picture shows us that the development of the pandemic remains unclear and that this has an impact on travel restrictions, visa processes, as well as on access to proper medical health care. This makes a proper planning of the exchange semester difficult, if not impossible.

Under normal circumstances, we would expect our students to plan their exchange semester as early as possible - always with the aim to make the most out of their exchange and to be prepared for the intercultural learning experience. Unfortunately, the current situation does not allow for proper planning. Housing and travel reservations, for example, are not possible at the moment. Given the fact that the situation is beyond the control of higher education institutions, we cannot give any guarantees that the exchange can take place on a regular basis.

The decision was finally influenced by the situation in spring 2020: Due to the COVID-19 situation, many students had to return home early from their exchange study destinations, which led to several financial, logistical and other issues.

All these considerations resulted in the recommendation issued by WU. This also gives the time and opportunity to discuss and plan alternatives in a timely manner with our students and partner institutions.

Finally, please note that we issued a recommendation, not a cancelation of the exchange programs. If you decide to continue with your exchange study plans, we are happy to support you. However, please be aware of the current uncertainties and risks, which we can unfortunately not influence or avoid.

At this point, we would like to highlight again that for WU, as an internationally oriented institution committed to international exchange, it is disappointing to see that the COVID situation had such an impact on student mobility. It is also bitter for us to give such a recommendation. However, we feel that it is our responsibility to advise students in the best possible way and to work with them on alternatives in a timely manner, if they wish. The final decision is of course up to the students and we will do our best to support.

Why was the recommendation issued early May?

  • We promised all students to give an update about the situation in the beginning of May. Typically, this is the period when students start to plan the details of their exchange semester, including travel and accommodation reservations, visa formalities, and all aspects concerning academics.

  • By issuing the recommendation now, we have the opportunity to work with our students in a timely manner and discuss potential alternatives.

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Does this mean that WU is cancelling the exchange program for the winter semester 20/21? Am I forced to withdraw from the exchange semester?

  • NO, WU does not cancel the exchange activities for the winter semester 2020/21. If you decide (together with your home university) that you still want to pursue a mobility in autumn and if the situation allows you to travel, you will be welcome at WU and we will support you throughout your exchange semester. However, please be aware about the continued uncertainties and potential risks.

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Despite WU’s recommendation, I would still like to spend an exchange semester at WU in winter semester 2020/21? Am I allowed to do so?

  • Yes. WU issued a recommendation because we cannot give guarantees and because there are uncertainties and potential risks involved. If you decide to continue planning your exchange semester, we are happy to support you. In any case, we remind you not to make any binding reservations at this stage. We remind you to carefully monitor the situation and we would like to highlight possible regulations, which might still be in place or come into effect in September/October and beyond. For example, but not limited to: potential 14-day quarantine or COVID testing upon arrival, social distancing, wearing face masks on campus and for other activities like grocery shopping, etc.

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Which risks should I be aware of if I plan to spend my exchange semester?

With the global COVID-19 pandemic, there are several points that you should consider when you plan your exchange in winter semester 2020/21. In the beginning of May, WU issued a recommendation for students not to pursue their exchange semester on site. We want to point out that this was a recommendation and not a cancelation. If you wish to pursue your exchange, you are welcome to do so and WU’s International Office will happily support you, but you should be aware of the risks involved.

The list below is not exhaustive but can give you assistance:

  • Keep in mind that travel restrictions can affect your plans. Further, it is possible that mandatory quarantines and/or airline route cancelations may be implemented.

  • Make yourself familiar with cancelation terms when booking flights and accommodation. Some policies may not cover cancelations due to COVID-19. If possible, we advise to complete such bookings on a short notice and not in advance.

  • Visa: if you need a visa for travelling to your host university, kindly note that currently many consulates do not handle visa applications and/or delays might occur in handling visa applications. Please monitor the travel/entry information published by your home and host country (typically the Ministry of Foreign Affairs).

  • In case of a sudden increase in COVID19 cases be prepared that appropriate measures will be taken in your host country/at your host university (temporary lockdowns and reduction of social/cultural activities, transition of lectures to online/distance learning formats, and similar).

  • Discuss your exchange plans with your family and friends. If you feel unsafe, talk with the exchange coordinator at your home university to find alternative solutions.

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I am still planning to spend my exchange semester at WU in winter semester 20/21. Where can I obtain pre-arrival information?

You should have received an e-mail by our WU International Office coordinator with our pre-arrival guide. In case you do not have this e-mail please do contact us.

Additionally, you may also find pre-arrival information on our website.

Where can I find information on the current visa application process?

Is Covid-19 covered by medical insurance? Will I be able to receive medical treatment even though I’m a foreigner?

  • You can either purchase the Austrian National Health Insurance (ÖGK) or private health insurance for the duration of your stay in Austria. ÖGK covers medical treatments including COVID-19. If you purchase a private health insurance, please get in touch with the insurance provider to make sure it also covers COVID-19 related treatments.

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Does WU offer the pre-semester orientation and cultural program in winter semester?

  • No. Unfortunately, the current situation does not make it possible to offer our preparatory orientation and cultural program. At the moment, we do not know if larger group travels and events as well as other activities will be allowed by September. Never the less, our pre-semester German language courses and a Welcome/Introductory Session will be offered to students joining us in winter semester 2020/21.

  • If there are students who are going to join us in fall and the circumstances allow it (e.g. gatherings are allowed), we wil organize alternative activities for our incoming exchange students.

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Does WU offer online courses/distance learning in winter semester 20/21?

  • We expect to have a mix of course formats in winter semester 2020/21. Formats will ultimately also depend on government regulations and measures that will be in place in fall. Some courses will be held in a distance-learning format in any case. You can find an overview of these classes on the distance learning website. This distance learning program will be open to all nominated incoming exchange students from our partner universities. Primarily, it is intended for those students who cannot join us physically in fall, but who still want to gain some international learning experience from home. However, students who will be present in Vienna and take an interest in these classes are also welcome to register.

  • The full list of classes is available in our course catalog.

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Can I travel around Europe during my exchange semester?

The Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs recommends to avoid travelling unless absolutely necessary. Consider exploring what Vienna has to offer and immersing yourself in Austrian culture and learning German, rather than travelling around Europe. If you decide to travel during your exchange semester, please note that travelling in Europe, while technically still possible, increases the risk of spreading COVID-19, and may require mandatory quarantine and expensive testing before and/or after your trips. Your travel experience may also be impacted by preventative measures affecting public places and tourist attractions.

FAQs Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs (German)

I am considering not to spend my exchange at WU in winter semester 20/21. What are the alternatives?

  • We have outlined the alternatives to all nominated exchange students in the e-mail you have received from your regional coordinator:

  • Deferring the exchange to a later semester, based on a mutual agreement between WU and the home institution. Please note that due to limited capacity it may not be possible to offer this option all nominated winter semester exchange students.

  • Attending our distance learning program for those students who cannot join us physically.

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I would like to defer my exchange semester. What shall I do?

  • Please get in touch with your home university, who will then get in touch with us. Based on the bilateral relationship with your home university, we want to make postponements for incoming and outgoing students possible, when mutually agreed between our institutions.

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WU asked me to get back with my plans by May 31, 2020. What happens if I change my mind afterwards?

  • We kindly ask all students to carefully consider the options (deferring to a later exchange semester, coming to WU Vienna for physical exchange, attending distance learning courses, or withdrawal), discuss them with their home university, and decide which option works out best for them.

  • We ask you to do so by the end of May in order to be able to best support you and work out the best possible solution for you. The sooner you get back to us, the better for everyone. Our aim in proceeding this way is to give some clarity to students despite all uncertainties we are all facing at the moment.

  • Should you communicate a decision and change your mind afterwards, we will of course try to accommodate your needs in the best possible way, however please be aware that the choice of alternatives might be limited then.

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