If you are ready to lead a short-term program, consider the health, safety, and security factors that may impact your program. Risk management requires understanding how different program aspects combine to affect safety and security.

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 often incorporate risk management in our daily activities without conscious thought; when traveling abroad, it is critical to bring “risk management thinking” to the front of our thought process. We encourage leaders to consider the aspects below 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? Who 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 our 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. Always use the proper contracting or purchasing mechanism to ensure you have university 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; accessibility; 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, and faculty or staff traveling with 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 of the university-approved 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.

Next: Planning Your Program

Now it is time to plan your program. Review the university's policies and guidelines.