Carpe Diem Education: Updates on our COVID-19 Response

During the Fall 2020 semester, Carpe Diem Education chose to offer one program option (Semester in the Borderlands). We are excited to be offering a U.S. based program that addresses many social and environmental issues happening right here at home. We intentionally designed this program to be place-based, operating in 2 counties in Arizona. The decision helped to mitigate any confusion related to state/county guidelines for wearing masks, regional limitations on group size, and reducing the risk of widespread transmission. It was a difficult decision to make, as it objectively reduced our capacity to run multiple programs, though we felt that this was most aligned with best risk management practices during a pandemic.  Combined with our COVID-19 Student Agreement, we are taking proactive measures to keep our students, staff, and host communities healthy. 

We made the decision to close all Fall 2020 international programs in the late summer.

Refund Policy for Spring 2021 Students

We know that many students and families are looking for engaging, educational alternatives to virtual/online learning, and we look forward to working with you! In an effort to support families in the process of determining Spring 2021 plans, we have modified our refund policy so that you have less stress in regard to timelines and financial commitments.

Students who are enrolled in a Spring 2021 Carpe Diem program have until December 7th to cancel their enrollment for any reason and receive a full refund (minus the application fee).

In the event that Carpe Diem should choose to cancel any Spring 2021 programs after December 7th and before the program start date, we will provide all students with a full refund minus $500 and the application fee. The $500.00 we retain will be used to honor our commitments to our local program partners/hosts and our Overseas Educators.

Please contact us directly if you have any questions about this policy and how it impacts your enrollment.

Considerations for International Programs

There will be many factors that will determine our decisions for Spring 2021 international programs. We are consulting numerous sources in our decision-making process, such as the CDC, WHO, Overseas Advisory Council (OSAC), the U.S. State Department, our internal risk management team, fellow industry professionals, and the trusted advice of global health experts. We are in active communication with regional and local partners in determining the viability of hosting student groups in an ethical and responsible way. The health and well-being of students, local partners, Carpe Diem staff, and larger host communities will be a primary concern in our ongoing evaluations. Our decisions for offering international programs will be based on:

  • Travel Advisories and status of international borders: The U.S State Department recently lifted the Level 4 (Do Not Travel) Travel Advisory. The State Department continues to recommend increased caution when traveling abroad and we will continue to monitor country specific conditions and the status of international borders as we evaluate our ability to offer our Spring 2021 programs.
  • National/regional pandemic status: we will be assessing the status of the pandemic specific to the countries/regions that our programs visit. Specific considerations include:
    • Current COVID-19 numbers in the region
    • Social distancing, mask, curfew, restricted movement, etc.
      • Carpe Diem Education programs are immersive experiences that involve a high level of in-person interaction and engagement. In the case that the pandemic is still present to the extent that strict social distancing policies are in place, or freedom of movement is restricted, we will reconsider running programs in that region.
    • Status of medical infrastructure: if local medical facilities and personnel are stressed/overburdened, they may not have the resources or ability to respond to a medical emergency. Traveling in such a region would be irresponsible both to locals as well as to our students and leaders.
  • Partner community needs:There may be cases in which international borders are open, though local communities are not comfortable hosting travelers/groups. In these cases, we trust that local people know what is best for their community and will not travel to those communities.
  • Comprehensive Risk Management: all of the above factors are part of a larger, ongoing risk management assessment.There are many other factors that Carpe Diem Education will be considering, and the situation will remain fluid for the foreseeable future.
    • In order to best support our leaders, students, and local partners, we have developed in-field protocols specific to COVID-19. You can find an abbreviated version here. These will be updated regularly to reflect the most up-to-date “best practices” related to the pandemic.

All of this said, we are cautiously optimistic that conditions will improve and that we will be able to offer some international programming in the Spring. There is a massive global investment in developing a vaccine; medical therapies are improving; social distancing and mask wearing are being implemented on a larger scale; testing accuracy and capacity are increasing and some countries such as Ecuador and Thailand are continuing to to slowly lift international travel bans.

Spring 2021 Itineraries: Works in Progress

Carpe Diem is currently enrolling our traditional 3 month semester programs. We will communicate with all Spring 2021 students and parents on or before December 1st with our final determination regarding our international programming.

As we get closer to departure dates, we expect that the outlook for the Spring 2021 semester will become clear and we may need to make adjustments in order to mitigate travel risks associated with the pandemic. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Adopting single-country itineraries: this may be done to avoid increased changes of mandatory quarantines as international borders, reduce possible transmission in less developed regions, simplify logistics in case of COVID-related evacuation, in response to a border closure, etc. Our Program Directors have already designed single country itineraries and we are prepared to adjust our programs as necessary.
  • Moving departure dates back: this may be done to allow more time for risk assessments, in response to a delayed border opening, in case of active distribution of a vaccine (allowing time for students to receive vaccine), flight schedules/restrictions, etc.
  • Reducing time in the field:we may choose to offer shorter programs (2 months) if we cannot travel to all countries on an itinerary, are unable to work with some of our in-country partners, feel this timeline best meets the needs of stakeholders (students, families, local partners, HQ staff), etc.

We are committed to supporting our Spring 2021 students and their families and have developed a four-tiered approach to our Spring programming options which we have outlined below. 

Plan A:

We will run our 12-week international and 8-week domestic programs as planned.

We anticipate that not all countries will have opened their borders for international travel by mid-February so there is the possibility that we will need to reduce the number of programs we are offering. If you are enrolled in a program that is canceled, we will work with you to choose one of the 3 options:

  • transfer enrollment to another program of your choice (pending availability)
  • transfer enrollment to a future semester
  • cancel your enrollment and issue a full refund (minus the application fee).

Carpe Diem HQ staff will be in touch with all enrolled students and parents on or before December 1st to share our final decision for our international programs. If you have any questions before then, please reach out to us directly anytime.

Our Spring 2021 students have until December 7th to cancel their enrollment for any reason, transfer their enrollment to a different region or move to a future semester. We will communicate with all enrolled families regarding our decisions for Spring 2021 as they are made and it is possible that we will have information prior to December 1st.

Plan B:

In the event that we are not able to offer our 3-month multi-country programs this spring we are prepared to modify our program itineraries to be limited to one country and to adjust program activities to accommodate for COVID-19 restrictions and best practices. Benefits of an itinerary change like this include reducing the number of border crossings and risk of quarantine, simplified flight patterns to allow for faster evacuation (if needed) and limiting the potential for exposure for our students and host communities.

If we determine that we are able to offer any of our international programs in this modified way, we will let students and parents know as soon as possible. If students are not interested in the options available, we will provide a space on one of our domestic programs (pending availability), transfer their enrollment to a future semester OR provide full refunds (minus the application fee).

Plan C:

If we determine we are not able to offer our international programming during the Spring 2021 semester, we anticipate that we will be able to run the Semester in the Borderlands program, which is based in Arizona. We have the capacity for two groups of up to 12 students each for this program.

We also plan to announce another domestic option for this spring in the coming weeks. We will send you information about this program as soon as it is available and we anticipate having capacity for two groups in this region as well.

We will work with all students who are enrolled in our international semester programs to offer them a space on one of our domestic programs (pending availability), transfer their enrollment to a future semester OR provide full refunds (minus the application fee).

Latitudes students will still have the option to complete their Focused Volunteer Placement this summer as long as they participate in a group semester this spring.

Plan D:

In the event that domestic and international travel is not possible during the spring semester, Carpe Diem will provide all students with the opportunity to transfer their enrollment to a future program or cancel their enrollment and receive a full refund (minus the application fee).

Students/families will be notified immediately if any of these changes are made.

Latitudes Year Program: Summer 2021

We are offering Spring 2021 students the opportunity to engage in our Latitudes Year program for the Summer of 2021. The Latitudes Year program combines a group travel semester and an individual volunteer placement and allows for the best of both worlds: a semester spent with like-minded students traveling, learning, and growing together followed by a more self-directed, independent semester.


How has Carpe Diem been monitoring the Coronavirus pandemic?


We are actively monitoring reports from the CDC, the WHO, the US Department of State, the Overseas Advisory Council, and our program partners on the ground in the regions where we work. We are also encouraging all students and parents to do their own research and obtain information from reliable sources such as the CDC and the WHO.

The US Department of State has removed their Global Health Advisory and has updated travel advisories for most countries to Level 3: Reconsider Travel.

We acknowledge this Level 3 advisory and agree that it is not safe or socially responsible to travel internationally right now. We also acknowledge that this situation is ever-changing and we are hopeful that over the next several months the world will have a much better grasp on the COVID-19 pandemic, communities will have access to either an effective vaccine, increased access to rapid and accurate testing, inexpensive and effective medical treatment and other means of mitigating the risks of transmitting the virus.

o one knows when the outbreak will begin to slow but we are cautiously optimistic that new developments in COVID-19 management will allow for some level of international programming this spring. Over the next few months, the Carpe Diem HQ team will continue keeping a close eye on the sources mentioned above and will continue to proactively communicate with all of our enrolled students and parents.

What happens if I sign up for a Spring 2021 program now and I decide later that I’m not comfortable traveling, or the program is canceled?


We recognize that taking a gap year is a significant investment of time and money and we want to do as much as possible to support you in joining us. Please contact us directly if you have any questions about payments or refunds.

Our current refund policy is below: 

  1. All deposits made after December 7th are non-refundable. If a student/family cancels after this date, Carpe Diem will retain the $2,000 deposit, which will be applied to our financial commitments to local partners, group leaders, and administrative costs. Application fees are non-refundable.
  2. In the event that Carpe Diem determines that we are unable to offer any programming this Spring, we will provide all students with a full refund of any deposit/tuition paid minus $500.00, which will be applied to our financial commitments to local partners, group leaders, and administrative costs. Application fees are non-refundable.
    • In the event that Carpe Diem cancels a program, students will also be offered the opportunity to transfer all payments to a future Carpe Diem semester.

What happens if I sign up for a Spring 2021 program and I change my mind or the program is canceled?


All Spring 2021 students have until December 7th to cancel their enrollment for any reason and receive a full refund (minus the application fee). There is no risk to you to enroll in a program now and cancel before December 7th, 2020.

Where can I find more information about Carpe Diem’s response to COVID-19?


Our team is always happy to connect with you to discuss any of your questions or concerns regarding COVID-19 and the impact on our programming. Please call our office (503-285-1800) or send us an email ( anytime and we will respond as soon as possible.