American Councils’ May 26 COVID-19 Update

As the cities, states, and countries where American Councils operates begin to reopen, the senior leadership team continues to prioritize the safety of our participants, partners, and staff worldwide. While the coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed our work, American Councils remains committed to continuing to deliver the highest quality programming throughout its global network. Difficult times like these highlight the need to continue to provide access to international education opportunities, which develop the type of skills, perspectives, and professional networks required to create lasting solutions to global problems.

Immediately following the onset of the pandemic, American Councils began working with the US Department of State, foreign governments, and embassies around the world to safely and quickly return participants to their home countries. Operations shifted to remote work in all offices. The organization has remained fully operational throughout the pandemic and staff shifted swiftly and seamlessly to virtual programming where possible.

In this complex environment, American Councils remains committed to continuing to support language acquisition, cultural exchange, and professional development for participants around the world. Applications for a number of our AC Study and Research Abroad intensive summer language programs remain open until June 10. Virtual NSLI-Y will soon open applications for language study in a digital classroom, beginning in the fall. To ensure the continuity of language testing services in a safe environment, the National Examinations in World Languages moved to an at-home administration of language tests, allowing hundreds of language students to secure the test scores they need to seek college credit for their language skills. Extensive support of program alumni continues virtually, managed by our overseas and Washington, DC-based staff.

American Councils’ senior leadership continues to work closely with our overseas staff to carefully plan for a return to our offices. Such a return will only occur when the local health situation allows. We anticipate, however, that the situation will remain fluid. As such, office openings and the requirements under which they reopen will be handled on a case-by-case basis. During our gradual reopening, American Councils’ senior management will always keep the safety and security of our staff, participants, partners, parents, and other stakeholders in the forefront of our decision-making.

We continue to encourage all American Councils participants and stakeholders to closely follow CDC and other US government guidelines for slowing the spread of infection.

Letter from Dr. David P. Patton – The President & CEO of American Councils

As the current global health crisis continues to unfold, I’m reminded of what we often tell exchange participants before they embark on their programs abroad: “It’s not better or worse. It’s just different.” These words encourage them to not spend their time on their programs thinking about what life was before, but to instead be present in the experience as it unfolds. It can be a difficult mindset to maintain under normal circumstances, and even more so while navigating this unprecedented situation.

As we have transitioned to remote work in the regions around the world where American Councils has program activity, our primary concern continues to be focused on the safety and well-being of our participants, staff, partners, and the global American Councils community. Nearly all participants on our higher education and professional programs have returned home safely. Youth programs’ participants are being closely monitored, with staff working diligently to support them, their host families, and natural parents.

While a significant amount of our summer programming has been deferred, we hope to return to a robust slate of activities in fall 2020. Current and prospective participants, partners, and other stakeholders are eager to resume normal exchange activity, and we look forward to restarting mobility programs—but only when it is safe to do so.

In the meantime, we have begun implementing virtual programming models for language learning, alumni activities, and more. We are also working vigorously to support our alumni, who are leading their communities during this challenging time with skills acquired through their programs. Their impact is clear and impressive.

American Councils’ longstanding mission has been to empower individuals and institutions to address challenges in a diverse and interconnected world. Without a doubt, this world is more interconnected than ever, and our mission is even more relevant. So, for now, we will continue to engage in international exchange, language learning, and research in ways that, while definitely different, benefit participants and communities around the world.

Please continue to take good care of yourselves, your families, and those close to you.

Sincerely,

David

American Councils’ COVID-19 Response – March 17 Update

American Councils’ leadership continues to closely monitor the rapidly-developing reports on the COVID-19 pandemic, including the recent recommendations by the White House against all gatherings larger than 10 people.

American Councils’ primary concern during this emergency is the safety and well-being of our participants, partners, and staff worldwide. American Councils’ senior management and program teams have worked diligently to keep our participants, partners, parents, and other stakeholders abreast of all programmatic changes required by this quickly evolving situation.

American Councils continues to fulfill its obligations to participants and partner organizations around the world. However, American Councils has moved aggressively to institute strong prevention strategies to limit the impact of COVID-19 in the communities where we work and live. To this end, effective March 16, 2020, American Councils’ DC headquarters and global offices transitioned to working remotely and canceled all non-essential international and domestic travel for our staff.

While we do not anticipate disruptions to fall 2020 programming, we encourage current and future participants, parents, or other stakeholders with questions to contact program staff. If you do not know your program contact, please contact us directly by phone or email.

We encourage all American Councils participants and stakeholders to closely follow CDC and other US government guidelines for slowing the spread of infection.

American Councils’ Preventive Measures on COVID-19

In the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak 2019 (COVID-19), American Councils is taking preventive measures to safeguard the health and well-being of all participants worldwide. We are coordinating closely with our funders and partners to support participants in affected areas. We will continue to monitor and follow the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US State Department.

To date, American Councils has removed participants from countries where the CDC has recommended travel be deferred. When possible, we are making alternative arrangements for participants scheduled to travel to countries designated by the CDC as level 3 risk category.

“We understand that news like this causes concern. The safety and health of our participants is our top priority, so we are working with our funders and monitoring the advisories of relevant health agencies,” said American Councils President and CEO, Dr. David P. Patton. “This is not the first time we have had to make substantial adjustments to programs due to environmental factors, and our program staff are very adept at modifying programs while maintaining the high quality we are known for.”

Staff members from every affected program are communicating directly with participants. We remain vigilant as the health situation evolves. American Councils will also coordinate with any participants outside of the immediately impacted areas who may elect to end their program early due to larger concerns about international travel or exposure.

As always, we encourage all participants to follow the CDC’s latest recommendations and travel warnings. For the most up-to-date information about COVID-19, visit the CDC website.