Pre-Departure Orientations

Prepare yourself and your course participants through these informative orientations.

Pre-Departure for Faculty/Group Leaders

Each semester the study abroad office delivers an orientation for faculty and staff leading groups abroad. In the orientation, topics such as pedagogy, planning and development, health and safety, student management, and financial considerations are covered. Please consult Stacy Billman for further information.

Pre-Departure Orientation for Students

Before embarking on an international experience, students must be prepared with cultural as well as health and safety information. SAO provides a Health and Safety Pre-departure Orientation for students, and the ideas presented should be reinforced by the Faculty Director. Courses abroad are recommended to go above and beyond this general health and safety orientation by conducting an on-campus pre-departure orientation, as well as an on-site orientation upon arrival.

Health and Safety During Pre-Departure Orientation

  1. If the students in your group are to be housed with local families, inform the families that they are required to notify you if there is an emergency involving a student. Also inform the families that you have advised the students about International Insurance, and be sure to share information about International Insurance with the families. If the students are housed in a residence system or rented house, inform the local housing supervisor how to contact you if an emergency occurs. Provide this same information to other individuals who may be in regular contact with your students. 
  2. You should explain to the students that they are required to inform you about any medical emergency, and that you, in turn, are required to contact the Study Abroad Office as soon as possible in order to inform them about any emergency. Inform the students that this information will be treated with the strictest confidentiality, and that it will be shared by you and the appropriate SAO staff on a need to know basis only. Also let them know that if a crisis involving a student is grave enough to jeopardize his or her safety or well-being, the emergency contact they have provided at the time of registration will be informed.
  3. Ensure that students share with you any chronic medical conditions that they have and how you should respond specifically to an emergency related to that condition. Get their physician's name and phone and fax numbers.

Health and Safety During the On-Site Orientation

  1. Provide all students in your group with the local telephone number(s) the students should use to contact emergency services (i.e. the equivalent of "911").
  2. Provide all students in your group with a written list of reputable local medical clinics or hospitals, available through International Insurance.
  3. Inform the students of the exact location of the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Remember to register the students there upon arrival. In order to register, you will need all of the information provided on the information page of their passports. Strongly encourage the students to check the Consular Information Sheet for each country they plan to visit in order to get updated information about each country they plan to visit. SAO gives students a Consular Information Form for them to complete and give to you in preparation for this. For travel warnings, visit the U.S. Department of State website.
  4. Advise the students to avoid travel to or through any location where tensions exist and travel may be dangerous. Experience has shown that students may benefit from a security briefing offered at U.S. Embassies abroad; such briefings assist you in reinforcing your message to the students that travel to dangerous areas should be avoided and the entire experience will be educational.
  5. Work with colleagues and contacts at host institutions for advice/guidelines on ensuring the health and safety of your students.
  6. Whenever possible, have more than one designated leader for your group, or make sure that your students know who to call next, if the Faculty Director is not available.
  7. Have a cellphone with domestic and international capabilities. Not all phones have both, so be sure before purchasing your phone or phone service. Leave the phone ON at all times.
  8. Have a copy of emergency contacts with you at all times, including Illinois' SAO 24-hour emergency line: 217-333-6322. Have an evacuation plan that is appropriate for your group's locale.
  9. Make sure that student and parent phone trees are in place for quick responses to emergency situations or to crisis-related news.

Pre-Departure and On-Site Cultural Orientations

In the pre-departure orientation, as well as in the on-site orientation, specific information about the country(ies) and culture(s) to be visited during the international experience should be addressed and incorporated. Addressing cultural content facilitates expanding the intercultural experiences and competence of program participants. This information is usually integrated into the curriculum and design of the course. See the Pre-Departure Stage and On-Site Stage sections for more information.