Planning Short-Term Programs

Short-term programs are a popular avenue for gaining education abroad experience. These programs are usually of a limited duration (frequently less than four weeks) and focused on some aspect of international exposure.

Various travel and trips may fall under the rubric of a short-term program abroad, including:

  • Faculty-led program;
  • Field research or study;
  • Conference and symposium attendance, or
  • Service, intern, or volunteer opportunities.

For study abroad, short-term (faculty-led) programs approval resides at the college level. Faculty or staff interested in designing and leading a program must work with their college study abroad office. For those colleges or schools without a study abroad office, interested faculty or staff should work with Illinois Abroad and Global Exchange (IAGE), who will coordinate with relevant academic unit administrators for sign-off/approvals.

Should you lead a short-term program?

Leading a short-term program abroad can be very rewarding as students are exposed to new ideas, cultures, languages, geographic environments, and memories that will have a lasting impact. However, experienced faculty comment that leading a short-term program often requires more work than teaching a semester course on campus. We have outlined some of the increased responsibilities that first-time leaders should be aware of below.

In addition to normal class requirements and planning for academic content, program leaders are expected to devote considerable time coordinating all aspects of the program. This includes planning all aspects of logistics (travel, lodging, meals, activities), effectively marketing the trip, providing pre-departure orientations, making personal travel preparations, monitoring student preparations, and constantly communicating with various stakeholders.

Program Leaders are required to attend a two-hour Program Leader Safety & Best Practices Orientation once a year. Learn more about Program Leader Orientation.

While abroad, leaders perform many roles and accrue responsibilities that normally do not apply while on campus. Leaders are expected to continually coordinate requirements, serve as a student advocate, and be accessible to students at all hours and in unique circumstances.

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 program leaders are still expected to exercise responsibilities on behalf of the university.

When traveling abroad with students, program leaders regardless of campus position (faculty, staff, or students) assume more responsibility for program participants. Some of those responsibilities are clearly identified, such as a Clery Act Campus Security Authority; other responsibilities are inherited by virtue of being the university representative and the best person to advocate on behalf of students.

Next: Considerations

If you are ready to lead a short-term program, review these Considerations before you begin planning your program.