Health and Safety Guidelines

Responsible Study Abroad: Health and Safety Guidelines

Statement of Purpose
Because the health and safety of study abroad participants are primary concerns, these guidelines have been developed to provide useful practical guidance to institutions, participants, and parents / guardians / families. The guidelines are intended to be aspirational in nature. Although no set of guidelines can guarantee the health and safety needs of each individual involved in a study abroad program, these guidelines address issues that merit attention and thoughtful judgment. Although they address general considerations, they cannot possibly account for all the inevitable variations in actual cases that arise. Therefore, as specific situations arise, those involved must also rely upon their collective experience and judgment while considering the unique circumstances of each situation.

A. Guidelines for Program Sponsors
To the extent reasonably possible, all program sponsors should endeavor to implement these guidelines as applicable . At the same time, it must be noted that the structure of study abroad programs varies widely and that study abroad is usually a cooperative venture that can involve multiple sponsors. The term "sponsors" refers to all the entities that together develop, offer, and administer study abroad programs. Sponsors include sending institutions, host institutions, program administrators, and placement organizations. The role of an organization in a study abroad program varies considerably from case to case, and it is not possible to specify a division of efforts that will be applicable to all cases. All entities should apply the guidelines in ways consistent with their respective roles.

In general, guidelines that relate to obtaining information and assessing circumstances apply to all parties involved. Much of the information called for by these guidelines is readily available and can be conveyed to participants by distributing it and referring them to, or utilizing materials from recognized central sources. Guidelines that refer to the provision of information and the preparation of participants refer to parties that advise, refer, nominate, admit, enroll, or place students. Guidelines that suggest operating procedures on site apply to the entities that are directly involved in the operation of the overseas program.

In addition, program sponsors that rely heavily on the collaboration of overseas institutions may exercise less direct control over specific program components. In such cases, sponsors are urged to work with their overseas partners to develop plans and procedures for operating consistently with these guidelines

Program sponsors should:

  1. Conduct periodic assessments of health and safety conditions for the program, and develop and maintain emergency preparedness processes and a crisis response plan.

  2. Provide health and safety information for prospective participants so that they and their parents / guardians / families can make informed decisions concerning preparation, participation and behavior while on the program.

  3. Provide clear information concerning aspects of home campus services and conditions that cannot be replicated at overseas locations.

  4. Provide orientation to participants prior to the program and as needed on site, which includes information on safety, health, legal, environmental, political, cultural, and religious conditions in the host country, dealing with health and safety issues, potential health and safety risks, and appropriate emergency response measures.

  5. Consider health and safety issues in evaluating the appropriateness of an individual's participation in a study abroad program.

  6. Either provide appropriate health and travel accident (emergency evacuation, repatriation) insurance to participants, or provide information about how to obtain appropriate coverage. Require participants to show evidence of appropriate coverage.

  7. Conduct appropriate inquiry regarding the potential health and safety risks of the local environment of the program, including program-sponsored accommodation, events, excursions and other activities, on an ongoing basis and provide information and assistance to participants and their parents / guardians / families as needed.

  8. Conduct appropriate inquiry regarding available medical and professional services, provide information for participants and their parents /guardians / families, and help participants obtain the services they may need.

  9. Provide appropriate and ongoing health and safety training for program directors and staff, including guidelines with respect to intervention and referral, and working within the limitations of their own competencies.

  10. Communicate applicable codes of conduct and the consequences of noncompliance to participants. Take appropriate action when aware that participants are in violation.

  11. Obtain current and reliable information concerning heath and safety risks, and provide that information to program administrators and participants.

  12. In cases of serious health problems, injury, or other significant health and safety circumstances, maintain good communication among all program sponsors and others who need to know.

  13. In the participant screening process, consider factors, such as disciplinary history, that may impact on the safety of the individual or the group.

  14. Provide information for participants and their parents / guardians / families regarding when and where the sponsor's responsibility ends, and the range of aspects of participants' overseas experiences that are beyond the sponsor's control. In particular, program sponsors generally:

    1. Cannot guarantee or assure the safety of participants or eliminate all risks from the study abroad environments.

    2. Cannot monitor or control all of the daily personal decisions, choices, and activities of individual participants.

    3. Cannot prevent participants from engaging in illegal, dangerous or unwise activities.

    4. Cannot assure that U.S. standards of due process apply in overseas legal proceedings or provide or pay for legal representation for participants.

    5. Cannot assume responsibility for the actions of persons not employed or otherwise engaged by the program sponsor, for events that are not part of the program, or that are beyond the control of the sponsor and its subcontractors, or for situations that may arise due to the failure of a participant to disclose pertinent information.

    6. Cannot assure that home-country cultural values and norms will apply in the host country.

B. Responsibilities of Participants
In Study Abroad, as in other settings, participants can have a major impact on their own health and safety abroad through the decisions they make before and during the program and by their day-to-day choices and behaviors.

Participants should:

  1. Read and carefully consider all materials issued by the sponsor that relate to safety, health, legal, environmental, political, cultural, and religious conditions in host countries.

  2. Consider their health and other personal circumstances when applying for or accepting a place in a program.

  3. Make available to the sponsor accurate and complete physical and mental health information and any other personal data that is necessary in planning for a safe and healthy study abroad experience.

  4. Assume responsibility for all the elements necessary for their personal preparation for the program and participate fully in orientations.

  5. Obtain and maintain appropriate insurance coverage and abide by any conditions imposed by the carriers.

  6. Inform parents / guardians / families, and any others who may need to know, about their participation in the study abroad program, provide them with emergency contact information, and keep them informed on an ongoing basis.

  7. Understand and comply with the terms of participation, codes of conduct, and emergency procedures of the program, and obey host-country laws.

  8. Be aware of local conditions and customs that may present health or safety risks when making daily choices and decisions. Promptly express any health or safety concerns to the program staff or other appropriate individuals.

  9. Behave in a manner that is respectful of the rights and well-being of others, and encourage others to behave in a similar manner.

  10. Accept responsibility for their own decisions and actions.

  11. Become familiar with the procedures for obtaining emergency health and law enforcement services in the host country.

  12. Follow the program policies for keeping program staff informed of their whereabouts and well-being.


C. Recommendations to Parents / Guardians / Families.
In Study Abroad as in other settings, parents, guardians, and families can play an important role in the health and safety of participants by helping them make decisions and by influencing their behavior overseas.

When appropriate, parents / guardians / families should:

  1. Obtain and carefully evaluate health and safety information related to the program, as provided by the sponsor and other sources.

  2. Be involved in the decision of the participant to enroll in a particular program.

  3. Engage the participant in a thorough discussion of safety and behavior issues, insurance needs, and emergency procedures related to living abroad.

  4. Be responsive to requests from the program sponsor for information regarding the participant.

  5. Keep in touch with the participant.

  6. Be aware that some information may most appropriately be provided by the participant rather than the program.

Responsible Study Abroad: Health and Safety Guidelines, June 5, 1998, Page 6