Although Registered Student Organization (RSO) trips are not official university activities, university policy establishes requirements for RSO travel abroad.
The same considerations apply to RSO trip leaders as those planning short-term programs abroad. Trip leaders should carefully consider all the requirements before and during planning group travel. We are available to consult with students planning such trips.
Should you lead a short-term program?
Leading a short-term program abroad can be very rewarding. However, experienced program leaders comment that leading a short-term program often requires more work than teaching a semester course on campus. The level of attention given by RSO Trip Leaders should be the same, if not more. We have outlined some of the increased responsibilities that first-time leaders should consider below.
- Time commitment before travel. RSO trip leaders are expected to devote considerable time coordinating all aspects of the program. This includes all aspects of logistics (travel, lodging, meals, activities), provide pre-departure orientations, make personal travel preparations, monitor other student preparations, and constantly communicate with various stakeholders, to include any national chapters or organizations.
- Time commitment during travel. While abroad, leaders perform many roles and accrue responsibilities that normally do not apply while on campus or as regular student. Leaders are expected to continually coordinate requirements, serve as an advocate for others, and be accessible to students at all hours and in unique circumstances.
- Regional knowledge. While regional knowledge or expertise is not required to successfully lead a short-term program abroad, it is extremely beneficial. Leaders should consider their comfort level traveling and interacting with different cultures, as well as their knowledge of the local culture and language. One method to mitigate this issue is incorporating additional chaperones or assistants with the requisite background; local providers can also be employed to guide programs but RSO trip leaders are still expected to exercise responsibilities on behalf of the university. National chapters or organizations may be able to link or provide access to additional support in the destination country.
Health, Safety, & Security Considerations
If you are ready to lead a RSO trip, consider the health, safety, and security factors that may impact your program. International travel will always entail a degree of risk. However, incorporating risk management strategies can reduce the likelihood of negative occurrences and/or mitigate the resulting impact. We encourage RSO trip leaders to incorporate risk management ideas in planning all aspects of short-term program abroad to develop the safest program possible.
Consider the purpose for the trip and the intended location(s). In considering the academic outcome, what makes the intended location special or unique? Can other locations abroad be used to obtain similar results? What is the program’s intended audience? How important are particular student skills or knowledge? What levels of maturity or responsibility are important considering the location or academic content? Consider program accessibility (see the DRES website for additional resources).
Consider general information regarding the program location using the various references found on the Resource Library page. Two critical resources are the U.S. Department of State Country Advisory Level and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Traveler Information. Aspects for consideration include political and socio-economic conditions, the physical environment, entry requirements, and other identified risks.
International air travel is safer today than ever before while ground transportation remains as dangerous in many parts of the world. Carefully consider transportation requirements and arrangements. The U.S. Department of State Driving and Road Safety Abroad website provides information and additional resources to research transportation abroad. Do not assume public or third-party vendor transportation is safe or reliable; always research transportation modes and plan for alternate means as a backup. When traveling over road, always plan for travel during daylight hours.
Consider whether the program will require support from third-party providers, including academic institutions, vendors, or other organizations. How are those providers selected and vetted? Consider the support they can and will provide and the type of agreement required to secure the support. It is recommended to have contingency ideas or plans in case arrangements do not materialize. Consult your national chapters or organizations for support and guidance for contracting or purchasing mechanisms to ensure you support in case of discrepancies.
Consider the accommodations that will be used for the program. Multiple aspects of lodging should be considered: location; physical layout; building and room security features; amenities; and availability of safe and reliable transportation.
Considerations for academic facilities are similar to those for accommodations. Aspects for evaluation include: location; physical layout; safety and security measures and attributes; logistic support (meals, restrooms, transportation); and any special requirements, such as laboratories.
Consider the emergency services that will be available during travel abroad. Services in many parts of the world are not equivalent to those in the United States. Considerations should include: the level of available medical care; the nearest location of immediate and advanced medical care; public health concerns and mitigation techniques; and the general reputation of police and security services.
Note: By university policy, all students must register for the university-approved international insurance for short-term programs abroad. Visit the International Insurance page for more information.
Consider the impact of language and culture on the program. A key aspect of education abroad is exposure to new languages and culture; students grow and develop when exposed to new ideas and worldviews. However, cultural considerations also play a role in traveler well-being and safety. Consider differences in culture and how students will interact with local populations; determine if the program will require unique rules or expectations for students that need to be communicated before departure.
Consider the activities that are planned for the program or may be available in the vicinity of the program location. Leaders should review the Exclusions and Limitations from international insurance. We strongly encourage programs not to participate in excluded activities; if such activities will be undertaken, participation must be voluntary, require a special waiver, and purchase additional insurance. Learn more about Other Insurance Products.
Planning & Review
Now it is time to plan your program. Follow our guide for planning your program.