International Studies & Programs

Implementing and directing a program

Getting Started

Leading a study abroad program can seem overwhelming at times, particularly if you have never led one before. If you have taken over responsibility for an existing program, talk to the previous leaders to learn the various pitfalls and lessons learned in order to make your program as successful as possible. If you are new to leading either an existing or a new program, the Office for Education Abroad will assist you throughout the process.

Program leaders designated as Chief-of-Party for education abroad programs are responsible for developing and finalizing the program budget, for maintaining fiscal records and academic integrity of the courses, for coordinating class activities and for responding to any emergency situations which may arise. Be sure to meet with your Office for Education Abroad Program Coordinator to get acquainted with the areas that will need your attention. They include:

  • Finalizing your budget
  • Creating/updating written information  about your program
  • Using the Study Abroad Faculty Portal to review student applicants and edit your Program Profile
  • Ideas for promoting your study abroad program, including the annual Education Abroad Expo and how to schedule an information meeting
  • Preparing for emergencies and student conduct issues abroad

Planning your Program: 

Academic Preparation

Academic Preparation

Contact Hours

The Education Abroad Advisory Council has asked that the Office for Education Abroad monitor credits to ensure that the students have sufficient contact hours for the number of credits offered for each course. The Office of the Registrar has mandated that courses have 14 instructional contact hours for each credit (for instance, three credits have 42 contact hours). When considering excursions, field trips count as half credits (therefore, for every two hours of a field trip, including travel time, you can count one hour of instruction). Additionally, for every one hour in class, there is expected to be two hours of study time per day. Therefore, the University has set a maximum of six contact hours per day (which assumes 12 hours of study time). The standard guide suggests 1.5 credits per week on site. Program proposals that significantly exceed this amount will be carefully reviewed by the sponsoring college(s) and the Office of Study Abroad. If your program has contact hours before and/or after the on-site dates, specify this in the program Web text. Mandatory instructional contact hours outside of the program dates must be indicated in the syllabus and it is assumed that lack of attendance will impact the final grade. If this is the case, consider how you will implement these pre-departure and post-return class sessions for non-MSU students who cannot come to East Lansing as well as for students who sign up after the sessions have begun.

Ordering Study Abroad Course Sections

It is your responsibility to request that your department "order" the study abroad sections of courses at least six months before your program begins. Summer participants will generally begin enrolling during the second week of March.
It is important to have study abroad sections for your courses because:

  1. It allows you to adjust the dates to fit your academic and program requirements;
  2. When designated as study abroad sections (Sections 750-779 and Sections 850-879), tuition income is captured for education abroad and is therefore available to cover the costs of the program instructional expenses, such as the program leader salary, classroom rental, guest speakers, etc. If the courses are not designated as study abroad sections, tuition income is not marked for education abroad and may not be available for the program expenses; and
  3. By having all study abroad students in study abroad sections, both your college and the Office for Education Abroad can track these students by major and college. The Provost has asked the Office for Education Abroad and the colleges to track the number of Student Credit Hours (SCHs) generated from study abroad as well as the number of college students who participate in education abroad.

Follow the usual on-campus course section scheduling process. To create the section, contact the colleges/departments that offer courses on your program. When ordering these study abroad sections, you will be asked for the course dates. The start date should reflect the first class meeting and the end date must reflect the due date of the final assignment. If you choose to have students submit papers after they return home, this date will be later than the on-site program end date. "Trans-semester courses" with dates that fall into two semesters will be assigned to the semester in which the majority of calendar days occur. A trans-semester course cannot last more than 16 weeks unless it is approved for extended term (ET) grading.

As an example, consider a program in Durban, South Africa that lasts from July 1 to August 15 on site and requires that students submit their final papers by September 15. In this case, the course dates are July 1 - September 15. This is a good choice of an end date since the majority of the calendar days occur during summer. If the final assignment was due October 30, the course would be considered a fall semester course.
To continue with this example: In order to notify the Registrar that you won't be submitting grades until after September 15th, request that your college or department scheduling officer notify the Registrar with wording such as: "Study abroad program takes place in Durban, South Africa, July 1 - August 15. Final assignments are due by September 15th." This notation will be indicated on the Schedule of Courses so that students will clearly understand the dates. As on campus, you will be required to submit grades 72 hours following the course end date.

Special Considerations When Offering Social Science and IAH Courses

Requests for approval to use any social science course number, including ISS courses, in an education abroad program offering, regardless of disciplinary area, must go to the Associate Dean of Social Science who has responsibility for education abroad programs. If you would like to include an IAH course in your new or existing program, please remember that the syllabus must be received and reviewed by the CISAH office prior to opening the section for enrollment. Additionally, the Office for Education Abroad cannot include IAH offerings in any marketing materials unless CISAH approval has been obtained in advance. Check the Guidelines for IAH courses in Education Abroad programs.

Winter Break Study Abroad Semester Assignment Rule

Study abroad courses scheduled to begin after the last class day of fall semester and ending (with all assignments/exams completed) before the first day of spring semester will be scheduled as spring semester subterms. The winter break exception that classifies the course as a spring course requires that the course not cross semester dates. If it does, a count of the trans-semester dates is done to determine the appropriate semester. If there are more course dates in fall semester than spring semester, it will be considered a fall semester course. Therefore, since all winter break program courses must count as spring semester courses, ensure that the majority of your course dates occur during spring semester. Fall and spring semester programs that offer MSU courses also require special consideration. If a fall semester course is shorter than 15 weeks or a spring semester course is shorter than 16 weeks, it requires prior approval from the Office of the Registrar. Courses cannot be scheduled for more than 16 weeks (17 weeks in the spring, including the week of spring break). The only exceptions are for MSU courses approved for ET grading and MSU courses taught by contracted non-MSU faculty teaching at their home university on that institution's calendar.

Overrides

Every week The Office for Education Abroad provides the Office of the Registrar with a list of applicants. The Office of the Registrar then "flags" all applicants so that they can have automatic access to enroll in study abroad course sections. Non-study abroad students cannot enroll in these sections. This process applies to both MSU and non-MSU students and alleviates the need for overrides. Usual semester on-campus enrollment restrictions do not apply to summer courses unless your department/college has requested it. If your courses have restrictions that you want removed for your program, contact Karen Tindall (517-355-4251; tindall(at)msu.edu) in the Scheduling Office. Should you wish to limit enrollment due to majors, prerequisites, specific student populations, etc., you may request a list of participants and PIDs from The Office for Education and provide this list to each sponsoring department to implement overrides. The Office for Education Abroad cannot process overrides.
All students must enroll in study abroad sections. The only exception is for students who take an independent study course that exceeds the minimum number of credits for the program.

Minimum Credits for Program

When you develop your budget, you and your college will establish the minimum number of credits in which all students enroll. All students participating in your program will be required to enroll in and maintain enrollment for the duration of the program in this minimum number of academic credits. The number of credits will differ from program to program and will be specified in the individual program flyers and on the webtext. Students MUST enroll in the minimum number of credits for financial, pedagogical, and equity reasons.
The only exceptions to this policy are reduced course loads for graduate students who are participating in short-term programs requiring enrollment in more than three (3) credits. These students must take at least one of the regularly-offered program courses. If your program offers variable credits, students must take the course for no less than three (3) credits. Students participating in programs requiring enrollment in 3 or fewer credits are NOT eligible for a reduced course load and must enroll in, at least, the minimum number of credits. 

In the past the Office for Education Abroad, in consultation with the sponsoring academic unit(s), has also granted a reduced course load to graduating seniors. Graduating seniors may request this exception, but since reduced course loads have a number of impacts on a program, including the instructional budget and college surplus, they are not granted automatically. Requests must be submitted to the program leader who will consult with the sponsoring college and the Office for Education Abroad before an exception can be granted. Unless a college agrees to absorb the loss, a program cannot operate with an instructional deficit due to reduced credit enrollment.

Even though you may have the minimum number of students, you will want to ensure that you have the minimum number of credits. If graduate students wish to conduct dissertation research, they are welcome to do so for extra credits above the minimum number of credits for your program. University policy does not allow off campus sections of dissertation research, so these credits cannot be considered part of your budget or program. 

If undergraduate students have difficulty enrolling, refer them to the Office for Education Abroad so it can be determined if this is a course or an individual problem. 

If students are taking online courses or directed study abroad (such as MSU independent study credits with the guidance of on-campus faculty), they are welcome to do so for extra credits above the minimum number of credits for your program. 

About one month prior to departure, The Office for Education Abroad will check student enrollment for your program. You can also check the status of your course enrollments through the Registrar's Office instructor menu in the same manner you monitor on-campus enrollments. Students who do not enroll in and maintain enrollment in the minimum number of credits indicated on the program information sheet will be charged an additional program fee. The Education Abroad Advisory Council approved this policy and procedure in summer 2003.

Monitoring Class Lists

MSU and non-MSU students enroll in their study abroad courses in the usual manner.
Check your class lists just before departure to ensure that it matches the names of the students who intend to take these classes. You may wish to also check these class lists throughout the program to ensure that students maintain the correct enrollment. Notify the Office for Education Abroad if you or your students have any enrollment problems. "Drop and Add" requests should be directed to the relevant department(s). Any refunds for drops or withdrawals will follow MSU rules and regulations and will be adapted according to your program dates. The option to select CR/NC instead of grades follows the same rules and regulation as on campus. Choice of the CR/NC system must be communicated prior to the end of the 5th day of classes of the semester. For abbreviated sessions, students have 1/14 of the number of weekdays (not classes) to notify you that they wish to earn CR/NC.

Course Management

When you make on-site course arrangements, especially booking speakers, make sure everything is in writing. Order textbooks and prepare class outlines/handouts through your department, just as you do for on-campus courses. Advise students about textbooks/materials to be purchased before departure. If you will distribute course materials on site, ensure that the cost of these materials is covered in the program fee and not as part of the instructional budget. Program leaders are encouraged to use Desire2Learn for pre-departure and on-site course management.

MSU Code of Teaching Responsibility

All program leaders are expected to follow the MSU Code of Teaching Responsibility as described in the Michigan State University Faculty Handbook. This includes informing students of the grading system before the program and courses begin. This is especially important for programs in which non-MSU faculty members teach the courses and students are issued foreign grades. If you are unsure how to interpret international grades, contact the Office for Education Abroad or the International Admissions Office.

Financial Preparation

Financial Preparation

Creating A Budget

Determine your budget as early as possible. Education Abroad (EA) strives to have summer budgets finalized and program fees posted by the Fall Education Abroad Expo. Students are reluctant to apply and commit to a program unless they know the current year's program fee. Additionally, the Office of Financial Aid is unable to assist financial aid recipients until you have finalized your budget. Delayed budgets can lead to limited financial aid which leads to student withdrawals. Finalize your budget early!

You will be contacted by your EA Program Coordinator regarding your program budget.

Once you have created budget is created and final, it will go through an approval process. A budget is not final until approved by the EA program coordinator, EA Business Office, EA Associate Director, Advisory Council on Education Abroad (ACEA) College Member, EA Business Office Manager, and the EA Executive Director (in that order). If you make changes to your itinerary or budget, you must first consult the Office for Education Abroad Business Office Accountant.  Failure to do so will result in your unit being held liable (financially and otherwise) for these changes. Once your budget is finalized, the program fee will be posted on your information sheet and/or the EA webpage and a breakdown of costs will be forwarded to the Office of Financial Aid. If you have developed your own program website, do not post program costs until the budget has been finalized.

There are two sources of money available for operating your program: tuition and fees, and the program fee. MSU students pay the same tuition and fees that they would on campus. Non-MSU students pay the in-state and out-of-state Lifelong Education tuition rates. Since EA is self-funded and does not receive support from the University, a portion of the tuition and fees generated from programs is used to fund EA (38% x SCHs x the EA rate). The EA rate is different every year and is determined by the Office of the Provost. These funds cover EA salaries and the operation of the office, including 7% that goes to marketing, which includes program development.

The remaining amount available from tuition [(EA rate) x (# of students) x (minimum number of credits per student) x 62%] may be spent on instructional costs such as faculty salary, honoraria, classroom rental, etc. A program cannot run a deficit unless special arrangements have been made with your college and the Office for Education Abroad.

The surplus from the tuition income is the amount that will be returned to the colleges at the end of the fiscal year. The surplus and deficits from the instructional portion of all programs from summer through spring are netted and returned to each college based upon their share of the student credit hours.

Program director salaries are determined by the MSU college that sponsors the program. The MSU payroll system requires all payments for teaching assignments be included in the employee's monthly salary check, which is paid on the last working day of the month. Program directors who teach for a semester during the academic year will be paid their regular monthly salary.

Questions regarding payroll procedures should be directed to the Payroll Office (355-5010).

It is EA's intention to keep costs for the students as affordable as possible. Please provide as much detail as possible for the budget. This will help us anticipate costs as well as ensure that you have sufficient funds for all the activities that you have planned. Surpluses from the program fee line cannot be returned to the students, but will be placed in an EA scholarship fund.

Once your budget is finalized, a complete breakdown of all anticipated costs will be posted on your program webpage and automatically forwarded to the Office of Financial Aid.

The best way to avoid difficulty in making payments abroad is to have as many program expenses as possible paid in advance via the Office for Education Abroad. These items, such as student housing, class trips and instruction, should be paid for well before departure. You will need to secure an invoice from the local vendor, itemizing the amount due. Submit this to your coordinator to initiate payment. Please allow two to three weeks for processing. EA can pay via wire, check or credit card directly. Please ensure that invoices clearly state the preferred method of payment with all the necessary banking information. 

A budget template is available for developing and implementing an accurate education abroad program budget. Contact the Office for Education Abroad business office for the most up-to-date version.

Conflicts of Interest

The Office for Education Abroad is committed to being as transparent as possible with respect to financial arrangements. Financial transactions or business dealings that might pose a conflict of interest should be disclosed pursuant to the Faculty Conflict of Interest Policy. That Policy specifies that "a conflict of interest exists when a faculty member's financial interests or other opportunities for tangible personal benefit may compromise, or reasonably appear to compromise, the independence of judgment with which the faculty member performs his/her responsibilities at the University." Disclosure is especially important in the event of a contract between MSU and an outside company or organization in which you hold a significant financial interest, even when you are not initiating or taking an active role in assessing or negotiating the contract. When the interest meets or exceeds certain standards established by state law, such a contract must be approved by the Board of Trustees.

Travel Advance Worksheet

Approximately one month before your program departure date, contact the Education Abroad (EA) Business Office so a Travel Advance Worksheet can be prepared. The Travel Advance Worksheet serves as a tool for determining your Travel Advance amount and is based on your program budget and the information you provide. Be sure to provide your finalized flight itinerary to assure accurate dates for travel authorization and per diem amounts calculations.  The Worksheet outlines the amount of funds being advanced for each budget category and will be attached to your Travel Authorization Form on file in the Office for Education Abroad.

Since the advance is based upon the actual number of students enrolled, includes your actual housing and uses the latest currency exchange rate, there should be little or no deviation in the actual amount spent. The Executive Director of the Office for Education Abroad will carefully review any large discrepancies. Reimbursement for additional expenses cannot be guaranteed.

Whenever possible, invoices for housing, class activities, instruction, etc., should be requested from the provider well before departure and paid by the Office for Education Abroad in advance. It is important to allow adequate time, approximately two to three weeks, for payment processing. If you purchase equipment with program funds, it must be included in the budget. If you need to keep that equipment beyond the program end date, EA must store the equipment for liability reasons. If you should need the equipment for on-campus purposes, EA will share the cost with your department.

In some cases, it may be necessary to pay guest speakers on site. If you anticipate that invoices will arrive after receiving your advance, discuss this with so that the amount can be deducted from your advance.

A credit card (pcard) is available for program payments and it will supplement your travel advance. It is a MasterCard and works like a debit card, in that the card will be loaded with a specified amount and the card can be used until that amount is spent. The single purchase limit is determined based on your anticipated expenditures, so larger purchases should not pose a problem as they might with a normal MSU purchasing card. Also, unlike the MSU purchasing card, this card can be used for group travel costs such as group accommodations or activities; however, it may not be used for individual program leader expenses. If you are interested in getting a card, contact the Business Office Accountant for instructions on submitting the applications in the EBS system. This should be done at least six weeks prior to your departure date. When the card is ready, you will be notified by Marilyn Powell in Purchasing. You will need to attend a brief training session with Marilyn when you pick up the card. The spending limit will be determined during your advance discussions with Jim Beagle and will be communicated to Marilyn, who is responsible for all card updates and changes. When your program is over, the card should be returned to the Business Office Manager.  Your card will be retained in the Business Office until it is needed again.

Travel Authorization

All Travel Authorizations/Vouchers are processed through the Office for Education Abroad.

After the Travel Advance Worksheet has been finalized, the Business Office Accountant will refer you to the appropriate Business Office Assistant who will schedule a second meeting to finalize your travel authorization and travel advance.  This meeting can take place a week after meeting with the Accountant, but advances cannot be picked up more than 7 days prior to departure date.  Please note that you must have attended an Emergency Preparedness and Response Seminar within the past two years and submitted your emergency contact information to receive a travel advance.

The Office for Education Abroad (EA) is charged by the University with the responsibility of collecting contact information for all education abroad program directors as part of the University's comprehensive crisis management plan. Providing such information on the Faculty Contact Information Form is a vital part of that plan. Failure to provide this information to the appropriate EA Program Coordinator can delay overall planning and the disbursement of funds for your study abroad program.

COMPLETION OF THIS FORM IS NECESSARY IN ORDER FOR YOU TO SECURE A TRAVEL ADVANCE and must be signed by authorized administrative personnel in International Studies and Programs. Due to the need for multiple signatures on this form, do not wait until the last minute to arrange for completion of this form.

When meeting with the Business Office Assistant to go over you pre-departure paperwork, you will be provided with an EBS e-doc number. Take this number to the Voucher Processing Office (360 Administration Building). They will authorize the advance and send you to the Cashier's Office, 110 Administration Building, to receive funds.

The University Travel Office will ask you to sign a MSU Travel/Petty Cash Advance Note for the amount of the advance. Within 30 days of your return, your reconciled travel voucher must be submitted to the MSU Travel Office.

Contact the Business Office Assistant within five days of your return to schedule an appointment to reconcile your advance. Prior to your appointment, you must complete the Expense Worksheet and email it to the Business Office Assistant.   You must account (with the required receipts) for the entire amount of the advance. Should there be funds unaccounted for, you will be asked to write a check for the difference to the University. If unforeseen circumstances arise while you are abroad and you encounter non-budgeted expenses, contact EA to discuss the matter. If allowable program expenses were higher than the amount advanced, you will receive a check for the difference.

NOTE: Failure to clear a Travel Advance within 30 days of return can result in the amount of the advance being deducted from your paycheck. If this occurs, you will not be allowed to receive travel advances at any time in the future. If you anticipate that you will be turning in your travel reconciliation later than within 30 days of return, you must consult the Business Office Assistant.

Summary of required receipts

For audit purposes, the following receipts are required in order to account for money advanced to you for your personal travel, lodging and per diem, as well as program-related activities:

  • Airline passenger flight itinerary and paid invoice, showing times of arrival and departure
  • Rail receipts
  • Any other transportation receipts, including travel to and from East Lansing except by personal car. If you are flying out of Detroit, you will be expected to use the Michigan Flyer for transportation. Due to the cost, this is preferred over personal car or limo service.
  • Detailed lodging receipts (with address)
  • No receipts are necessary for M & IE expenses. This is the only category where receipts are not required.
  • Program Activities Funds - If you received Program Activities funds as a part of your travel advance, you must account for the expenses with actual receipts. This includes speaker fees, honoraria, group transportation, entrance fees, meals, housing, etc. Receipts for group dinners must be itemized and list the number of students and names and affiliations of guests. You must provide verification that no OSA funds were used to purchase alcohol. In order to do this, you may wish to separate the alcohol charges from the food bill and have the students pay for the alcohol separately. Additionally, if you disburse cash to students, create one sheet indicating the amount, date, and purpose of the payment, and ask each student to sign it, indicating they received those funds.

If EA paid for services not received (such as meals with accommodations), seek a refund. EA cannot reimburse you if payment is made twice.

Program Preparation

Program Preparation

Program Dates

The program dates are critical for student interest, flight arrangements, and logistical reservations. The start date is defined as the date of arrival in-country which should be the first day of housing. The end date is the day of departure. The departure date should be when the academic portion of the program ends. Do not add extra days for personal sight-seeing. Students can choose to do this, but it should not be included in the formal program dates. As a program leader, you may stay up to three additional days on site for set-up and breakdown. These days may fall before and/or after the program dates and must be included in the program budget.

Note that MSU policy prohibits program dates from overlapping with on-campus classes or finals. Along the same lines, it is not reasonable to expect students to fly out on class/final exam dates. This is especially important to consider for spring break, winter break or May programs that begin immediately after final exams.

Group Flights

Effective October 30, 2014, Conlin Travel is the University-wide preferred travel agency and STA is the preferred travel agency for group student travel. Because of the irregular pricing patterns on individually booked versus group flights, it has become increasingly uncommon to schedule group flights. However, if you choose to do so, you should work with STA Travel (David Sanderson, david.sanderson(at)statravel.com, 877-207-4492) and inform the Office for Education Abroad of the flight details. Conlin Travel (which has its office on the corner of Hagadorn and Grand River; 844-434-5026) can provide currency exchange and visa services.

A group flight requires a contract and a minimum of 10 passengers. Because this may be risky if you are unsure of your numbers, you may wish to identify a suggested flight. This allows you to make arrangements for the arrival of the group, and seats on a suggested flight are commonly held because of availability and low price; however, please note that this is not confirmed until the actual tickets are booked. DO NOT purchase tickets on behalf of students. Otherwise, you will be financially liable if a student should withdraw.

You should allow students one full day on site before classes begin. This will allow them time to recover from jet lag, and time for you to deliver an effective orientation. In some cases, you may not arrange the international flight but will book intra-country flights in the middle of the program. You will want to make sure that airline has safety approval. If the airline is registered with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), it has passed airline approval for global safety management. Additionally, you will want to double-check the luggage weight limit for intra-country flights. It is not uncommon for these flights to limit weight or pieces of luggage, and you and your students do not want unexpected charges.

Please note that the Office for Education Abroad does not serve as a travel agency. The Office for Education Abroad is unable to intervene or assist when students are dissatisfied with flight arrangements. Please do not refer students to our office for this purpose and assist us by reinforcing the message that comments should be directed to the issuing travel agent.

Student Housing

Program leaders are responsible for identifying and arranging student housing. Education Abroad Program Coordinators may be able to assist with locating and recommending suitable housing. Consider possible accessibility issues for students with disabilities when selecting housing, classrooms, field trip destinations, etc. While abroad, take note of existing accessibility accommodations. Although you may not have a student with disabilities on your current program, this information may prove useful in the future.

Important regulations

  • University policy prohibits unmarried students of the opposite sex from sharing the same sleeping quarters. If students live in a flat/apartment with individually locked bedrooms, it is permissible for male and female students to share the apartment, but not the bedrooms.
  • In no case should program leaders or their family members share accommodations with students.
  • In general, it is preferable for program leaders to not share apartments or rooms with program assistants. If the program assistant has academic responsibility and potential influence on grades, the program assistant cannot be housed with students (but can stay with program leaders, if necessary). If the program assistant has only logistical responsibility, he/she can stay with students or program leaders.
  • If students are not allowed to make their own alternative housing arrangements during the program, this requirement MUST be stated in the program flyer and web text.
  • If a student requests assistance with on-site housing arrangements, before or after the program dates, you may provide the student with contact information. However, neither you nor the Office for Education Abroad can make specific arrangements for students prior to or after the official program dates. Providing services outside of formal program offerings and dates can lead to unacceptable liability risks for MSU.
  • No administrative support (for housing, childcare, etc.) will be provided for accompanying non-participants.

Logistical Arrangements on Site

Most program directors make their own arrangements on site. However, the Office for Education Abroad can help to identify an onsite provider or a host institution to set up your program on site (e.g., housing, classrooms, guest speakers, excursions, etc.). Consider networking with international MSU alumni to assist with select on-site issues. See International Alumni on the MSU Alumni Association Web site for the names of on-site contacts.

When making onsite arrangements, keep in mind possible special student needs (e.g., physical needs, needs among group members, and interaction with host nationals), such as those of students of color; students with physical disabilities; students who need extra academic support; students who may need assistance with personal, emotional and educational concerns; LBGT (lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender) students; and mature students, especially those with accompanying family members.

The majority of planned excursions and class activities should have academic relevance and not be merely tourism outings. Should students be given individual course assignments that incur additional cost, include this in the course syllabus so that students will be adequately informed of this additional cost.

If you plan to rent a van for student transportation, please be advised that because of the undue risk of serious and fatal accidents, rental expense from outside agencies for vans that hold a driver and 11-14 passengers is not reimbursable. A mini-bus with a driver is permissible since they are constructed differently and not subject to roll-over like the 12-15 passenger vans.

On the advice of the Office of Risk Management, no program funds can be used to pay for activities with a high degree of risk. The Statement of Responsibility that all students agree to also indicates that the University is not responsible for injury or loss that students may suffer when traveling independently. Program leaders should not endorse, encourage or facilitate independent student activities that involve a high degree of risk. Also note that our medical insurance policy includes three exclusions: 1) hang-gliding, 2) bungee jumping, and 3) parachuting. The cost for treatment from any injury or illness resulting from participation in such activities will be the responsibility of the student.

Critical Incident Management Seminars

MSU requires that all study abroad program leaders participate in a critical incident management seminar every two years. Seminar presentations are made by the coordinator for international health and safety and cover preparation prior to departure, resources available, and actions to take while abroad when responding to emergencies. Seminars are offered throughout the year and occur at various days and times to accommodate teaching schedules. Program directors will not receive a travel advance until they attend a seminar. Leaders will be notified if they are due to attend a seminar.

Pre-Departure Orientation

Encourage participants to complete the online Office for Education Abroad General Pre-departure Orientation, which usually opens in November for Winter Break and Spring semester programs, in February for Spring Break Programs and in April for Summer, Academic Year and Fall programs. In addition, plan, schedule and lead a program-specific orientation addressing the key program-specific details your students need to know. It should include information (to the best of your ability) on safety; health; legal, environmental, political, cultural and religious conditions in the host country; potential health and safety risks; and appropriate emergency response measures.

Make every attempt to communicate all necessary information to students prior to the completion of the previous semester. If you plan to email students between or after semesters, alert them so they know to regularly check their MSU email accounts. If you create a website for your program that is not protected by a password, please refrain from providing identifying details regarding housing, such as street addresses.
You may want to arrange for a get-acquainted event for participating students prior to departure. Please note that any expenses associated with such an event need to be included in your program budget.

Be sure to reinforce the message that education abroad is an academic experience first and foremost, and that academic responsibilities take priority over personal interests. Planting this idea helps to combat the occasional notion that education abroad is a vacation. Refrain from referring to the experience as "a trip," but instead use the word "program."

Below are suggestions for what to include in your pre-departure orientation:

  • Contact Information/Program Itinerary
    Inform students that you will be carrying a cell phone during the program and will inform them of the phone number at the on-site orientation.  Explain to students that this is meant to be used in case of an emergency. Consider setting limits on how early or late students can phone or text you for non-emergency purposes. Also, provide students with a complete program itinerary during orientation to help prepare them for the on-site academics. This itinerary should include the full name, address, phone numbers and URLs (if applicable) for any overnight accommodations. Review guidelines.
  • Health Concerns/Immunizations
    You must refrain from providing advice about medications, vaccines, or over-the-counter medications. Even though such advice may be well-intentioned and given out of concern for students, travel recommendations change frequently and any recommendations should be made in the context of a student's personal health history. Therefore, such recommendations must be made by qualified health personnel, or by national or international reputable health agencies such as the CDC, WHO, etc. There is significant liability both to the leaders and to the University that can result from giving incorrect medical advice. Practicing medicine without a license is not a good idea. There are links on the MSU Travel Clinic's Web site to reliable sources for travel recommendations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Travelers' Health site. For your own sake, and for the sake of the University, please rely on these sources for health and medical recommendations for students.

In general, students traveling to Australia, Canada, Europe, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Scandinavia and the United Kingdom do not need to make an appointment with the Travel Clinic. However, such students should be advised to see their personal physician if 1) they are not up-to-date on their routine immunizations; 2) they are on prescription medications (to ensure they will have an adequate supply for the duration of the program);  or 3) they have a pre-existing medical condition that may require extra attention in the new environment.

Students traveling to higher health-risk locations, such as Africa, Central/South America, Russia, Ukraine, and Southeast Asia, are likely to need a clinic visit. Help students prepare for this meeting by following the guidelines for preparing students for the Travel Clinic.

Also, the MSU Travel Clinic can provide half-hour health presentations for program-specific orientation located in countries posing higher health risks. Alternatively, program leaders have used the Ingham County Health Department, which gives group consultation and country-specific presentations, followed by one-on-one consultation and administering of immunizations.

  • U.S. Department of State Resources
    The Office for Education Abroad's online orientation devotes a significant amount of time to health and safety. It also refers students to a special U.S. Department of State Travel Abroad page for students. As a program leader, it is your responsibility to read the relevant Country Information Sheet(s) for each country on your program's itinerary. Using this and other information provided by your on-site contacts, advise 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 help you to reinforce your message to students that travel to dangerous areas should be avoided. The Office for Education Abroad also asks students to read a Country Information Sheet for every country/countries your program will visit. You must also periodically review the U.S. State Department web site for updates between the time of orientation and the group's departure. Once your program has started, the Office for Education Abroad will notify you of any significant updates while you are abroad. If you believe there are regions of the country/countries to be visited that present undue risks, contact the Office for Education Abroad. This includes program-sponsored accommodations, events, excursions, and other activities. Students enrolled in programs located in countries with U.S. Department of State Travel Warnings (and operating under a waiver of the Office for Education Abroad Travel Warning Policy) will be asked to sign an additional release as well as adhere to additional security measures.
  • Travel Registry with the U.S. Department of State
    The Office for Education Abroad will register you and your students with the U.S. Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) prior to departure (and for all countries on your program itinerary). Students and leaders should register themselves with STEP for personal travel before or after the program or for countries not on the program itinerary.
  • Community Building
    Seasoned study abroad program leaders report their biggest challenges abroad are not emergency situations, public transportation strikes, fluctuating currencies or language barriers, but student behavior problems. Those who have successfully traveled with students for many years advocate discussing appropriate student conduct and behavior-related problems in the pre-departure orientation as well as upon arrival.

Reinforce the concept of students as "cultural ambassadors" and emphasize that their conduct will be seen as representative of the United States, the state of Michigan and this University. Students need to be reminded that while the consequences of poor behavior while on campus or in East Lansing reflect solely on themselves, their misconduct abroad will be attributed to the entire group. In addition, be honest with your students about how their poor behavior reflects poorly on you, as the program leader. Most importantly, participants need to understand that the viability of a program rests in their hands. Offensive or indifferent behavior resulting in negative evaluations by colleagues abroad could lead to their refusal to continue hosting your group.
You may want to consider creating a group agreement specifically tailored to your program. These are not legal contracts but are good faith efforts agreements between the students and leaders. Ask students to identify acceptable and unacceptable behaviors on which the group can agree. In addition to the expected "don't be late for bus departures," ask students to decide on actions to avoid such situations. For example, students can agree to check that everyone is awake at a certain time, or phone a classmate after their alarm has rung. The students may also agree upon consequences and/or group response to repeated offenses. There is no need for complete agreement - consensus should be the desired goal.

It may be more important to emphasize what the students should do, rather than what they should not do. This applies to bystanders as well. For instance, if one student sees another student displaying inappropriate behavior, that student should step forward to stop it. Encourage this type of response, as well as the peer pressure that students with leadership skills can provide.

If you experience excessive complaining, the group could set specific times during the day when all complaining is allowed. None is allowed throughout the rest of the day. This may seem like an extreme action, but it's proven to work.

Ask students to discuss how personality conflicts can undermine the atmosphere of the program and provide suggestions for dealing with such conflicts. Although it may seem like common sense, you may need to regularly remind students to:

  • be polite and listen to one another;
  • respect each other, leaders and local people affiliated with the program;
  • honor diversity and differences within the group;
  • fight fair and attack the problem, not people; and
  • look for compromises.

You may wish to address sex and dating among program participants as well as with locals. Pre-departure discussion regarding the local culture's receptivity to public displays of affection, gays and lesbians, and other issues may help to alleviate misunderstandings.

Furthermore, address your concerns about alcohol misuse and abuse. In addition to posing a health and safety risk, alcohol abuse is the primary source of behavioral problems and personality conflicts between group members. By addressing this issue in advance, you not only inform students of your concerns, but also alert them to possible past problems that have had a negative effect on the program. Many study abroad program leaders have commented that this proactive approach has been successful in reducing the number of alcohol-related problems.


To begin this discussion, it is helpful to ask students to discuss the consequences of alcohol misuse, such as the following:

  • tardiness or poor attendance at classes and activities
  • negative student interactions as a result of alcohol-induced "bad" behavior
  • animosity/break down of community among members due to such behavior
  • poor reflection of group to local community/faculty/contacts
  • undue stress on program leader/resident director that requires
  • excessive attention and time

Brainstorm with the students about their perception of alcohol use in the host culture, comparing and/or contrasting with alcohol use in the United States. Share your knowledge of alcohol use in the host culture and remind students of the difference between alcohol use and alcohol misuse/abuse. Excessive drunkenness is not tolerated in any country, and is, in fact, considered an illness/addiction in many cultures.

Managing a Family Member Contact

As a program leader, you should NOT make direct initial contact with any student's family members without the student's permission. Where possible, the student should communicate with their family members. (NOTE: a parent is not necessarily the student's emergency contact). The Office for Education Abroad will encourage all students to keep family informed, but this is ultimately up to the student.

To help decrease parent anxiety and the need/desire to contact you abroad, many program leaders use various electronic outlets to provide parents access to program information and updates. Consider creating the following for your program:

  • Blogs (e.g. www.blogger.com)
  • Webpages
  • Email groups (e.g. Google group - groups.google.com)
  • Facebook, Twitter, or WordPress
  • Be sure to post regular updates and encourage your students to do the same so that their family members can see that everyone is alive and well!

If a student is ill or injured, even if it's not an emergency, please call the 24/7 Emergency Assistance Line at (517) 353-3784) so that we are informed in case our office is contacted about the situation.

 

Personal Travel Preparation

Personal Travel Preparation

Airline Reservations

Program directors may book and direct-bill their airfare to the Office for Education Abroad (EA) within six months of departure through Conlin Travel or STA Travel. It is your responsibility to schedule your own flight arrangements, which should be done as early as possible.

Effective January 2010, MSU will reimburse travelers for the lowest roundtrip airfare. These preferred travel agencies are under contract to find the lowest airfare. They accomplish this through airline and airfare websites, so it should not be an advantage to search on your own. If you wish to fly business class, you must purchase an upgradeable ticket and either use your own frequent flyer miles or personally pay the extra cost for an upgrade. EA will not reimburse leaders for business class tickets.

When booking your flight, please note that you are allowed up to three days more than the actual program dates for set-up and breakdown. These days may fall before and/or after the program and must be included in the program budget. If you plan to add non-program-related travel onto your flight, EA will reimburse you for the estimated cost of only the program-related roundtrip ticket. Due to our large volume, EA must rely on program directors to show judiciary responsibility. Even if your initial itinerary is approved by EA, you cannot use program funds for personal travel. If your non-program travel is approved by another unit, we will share the cost.

According to MSU travel policy, you cannot purchase airfare more than six months before departure. Should you choose not to direct-bill, then you will have to charge the airfare to your personal credit card and will receive reimbursement upon reconciliation of your travel expenses.   

In all cases, the passenger receipt and paid invoice statement from the travel agency must be submitted when program expenses are reconciled after your return to campus.

Program Director Housing

The Office for Education Abroad (EA) advises that you keep your personal housing and Meals and Incidentals Expenses (M&IE) funds separate from student program funds.

Lodging expenses are reimbursed according to your actual expense and cannot exceed the most current U.S. Department of State rates. In order to keep costs down for students, you will be expected to keep accommodation costs in major cities below $200 per night. This will be discussed during the budget development stage. Expenses can only be reimbursed for the actual amount up to the U.S. Department of State rate (or $200 in major cities) and are determined by the rate when you were abroad, not by the rate when your budget or worksheet was developed. Due to fluctuations in these rates, keep this in mind when you book your reservations. If your housing costs are based on a "per person" rate, you will be reimbursed for only one person.

IMPORTANT: For audit purposes, you are required to have an original detailed receipt to substantiate your housing expenses.

Although the Office for Education Abroad may, at some sites, be able to suggest possible options for your housing, EA cannot be responsible for arranging or negotiating your international accommodations.

EA can cover the cost of housing deposits any time prior to departure. You are encouraged to book your housing as early as possible to guarantee lower deposit and housing costs. If you need a deposit paid early in order to secure housing at a favorable rate or a preferred location, contact your EA coordinator for payment arrangements.

 

Meals and Incidental Expenses (M&IE)

 

Meals and Incidental Expenses (M & IE) are intended for one person only and is based on the most current rate available from the U.S. Department of State rates (unless you agree to accept a lower rate in order to keep program costs low). The rate varies according to geographic location and is based on the actual time in a location abroad. 

M & IE is paid in lieu of actual expenses and eliminates the need to keep receipts for every personal transaction. It is intended to cover such things as meals, laundry and dry cleaning, fees, tips to waiters/porters/hotel maids, etc., baths, faxes, telegrams, telephone calls for reserving hotel rooms, transportation between places of lodging and business or where meals are taken.

If you are submitting receipts for group dinners that include yourself, you cannot collect M&IE plus be reimbursed for the group meal. The Travel Office considers this "double dipping" and will reimburse you for whichever is lower.

If you bring family members with you, and they accompany the group on any portion of the program, you will need to inform the students that the program does not cover any travel costs of your family members. Students may have the impression that their program fees are covering what they perceive to be your family vacation. See Guidelines for Accompanying Faculty Family Members below for further details.

Program Director Insurance

Comprehensive information about education abroad leadership related insurance is available on the web site of MSU's Office for International Health and Safety

Guidelines for Accompanying Family Members

While it is not necessarily recommended, program leaders may decide to bring family members along on their education abroad program. However, MSU/The Office for Education Abroad reserves the right to impose limits and/or conditions on the roles, activities and presence of family members or friends who accompany program leaders. Such limits or conditions derive from programmatic concerns related to health, safety or security as determined by MSU/The Office for Education Abroad. In most cases, accompanying family members or friends will not be permitted to join the study abroad group for some or all activities. MSU/The Office for Education Abroad assumes no responsibility for accompanying family members or friends.

If you bring family members with you, and they accompany the group on any portion of the program, you may wish to inform the students that the program does not cover expenses for your family members. Students may be under the impression that their program fees cover what they may perceive to be a family vacation.

The following describes the limits or conditions that apply to family members accompanying program leaders.

  • Employment: Family members may NOT be hired to perform duties on the study abroad program if the fulfillment of such duties is under the general supervision or direction of the program leader. Such a supervisor/subordinate relationship is against the Conflict of Interest policies as outlined in Section III of the MSU Faculty Handbook. In the case of study abroad programs, "hired" means receiving monetary compensation for services performed or receiving payment of expenses (travel, etc.) in exchange for performance of duties. It is possible, with special permission, for spouses to serve as co-directors of a program, provided that they do not supervise one another. In this case, a Conflict of Interest form, signed by the leader's home department, must be submitted to the Office for Education Abroad business manager.
  • Liability: It is the responsibility of all family members (including spouse/partner and dependent children) of the leaders to read the U.S. State Department information sheets if they participate in any group travel by land, sea or air. Family members are responsible for their own safety and insurance coverage.
  • Accommodations: Accompanying family members may share accommodations with the program leader(s), provided such sharing is allowed by the housing provider. The program leaders will receive only the State Department housing allowance for one person, regardless of how many accompanying family members share the accommodation. If housing costs are based on a "per person" rate, the program leader will be reimbursed for only one person. In no case should program leaders or family members share accommodations with students. In general, they should not share apartments or rooms with program assistants.
  • Excursions/Travel: Accompanying family members may participate in program excursions and field trips, provided that such participation does not inflate the cost of the excursion or negatively affect planned program activities. Program excursions are planned to accommodate all students plus the participating leader(s). If there are empty seats on the bus, boat, or other arranged travel, accompanying family members may travel with the group at no extra cost. However, at no time will a bigger or additional bus, boat or other mode of transportation be arranged in order to accommodate accompanying family members.
  • Excursion Expenses: If participating in group excursions, accompanying family members must separately pay all per person expenses (i.e., entrances to parks or museums, theatre tickets, etc.). In no case is program money to be used to fund family member participation in special events. If the cost for the family member is included on the group receipt, it must be deducted before the receipt is submitted for reimbursement.
  • Group Meals: If participating in group meals, the leader must reimburse the program for any expenses incurred by accompanying family members if a separate bill cannot be obtained. Program money should not be used to buy meals for accompanying family members. The exception to this policy is entertainment of host institution guests to which a couple is invited for a meal. The program leaders may bring his/her spouse to such an event and receive reimbursement for the spouse's meal.
  • Minor Children: Minor children accompanying program leaders must be adequately supervised at all times. The presence of minor children or other family members must not disrupt or negatively affect the study abroad program in any way.
  • International Medical Insurance: Program leaders and assistants are provided comprehensive international care through GeoBlue (formerly HTH Worldwide). Accompanying family members can obtain similar coverage directly from GeoBlue.

Visas

It is the responsibility of program leaders and students participating in a program to inquire about visa requirements for all countries to be visited, including those before and after the study abroad program. For related information, please visit our page on passports and visas. Travelers may be denied entry into, or be deported from, a country for which a required visa has not been obtained. The Office for Education Abroad will reimburse you for the cost of any mandatory visas to countries that are part of the program itinerary. Visa requirements may be different for non-US citizens. 

Immunizations and Medications

Check the MSU Travel Clinic or Center for Disease Control (CDC) for information on immunizations and health issues. The Office for Education Abroad will cover the cost of an office visit and any mandatory immunizations for all program leaders (including program assistants) to countries that are part of the program itinerary. Covered services received at MSU Travel Clinic can be billed directly to the Office for Education Abroad. Please make sure you include the cost in your program budget. The Office for Education Abroad will not cover the cost of updated vaccinations or routine immunizations such as tetanus, etc. If you plan to meet with your personal physician regarding your travel health needs, take a copy of the CDC recommendations to your appointment. Carry all prescription drugs in original containers and bring written information on blood type, prescriptions and other special medical conditions.

Cell Phones

MSU and the Office for Education Abroad require that every study abroad program provide the Office for Education Abroad with at least one cell phone number prior to departure. There are many ways to obtain international cell service - from renting a phone to adjusting your personal cell phone's service package. Personal calls made on the phone will be the responsibility of the user.
Options for International Cell Phones:

  1. Find your own provider through on-site contacts or on the Web.
  2. Add international service to your personal cell phone for the times and locations that you are abroad.
  3. Rent or purchase a phone upon arrival (phone purchases must be made with departmental funds).

Export Control Issues: Laptops and Equipment

Keep in mind that if you are traveling abroad with controlled equipment or materials (e.g. global positioning systems, encrypted software, or select agents) you may be in violation of federal law. Review the MSU's Office of Export Controls & Trade Sanctions website (click on Export Controls) or contact their office at (517) 432-4500 to discuss federal restrictions or limitations related to your destination. It is also important to consider the kind of student information kept on any laptops you take abroad. If your laptop is lost or stolen you could put students at risk of identity theft. If possible, try not to keep student PIDs on your laptop, or at least only record the last four digits. If you have participants' home addresses, phone numbers and emails, please encrypt or protect the information with passwords.

While you are Gone

Be sure to leave your detailed travel schedule and contact information with the Office for Education Abroad and your departmental office.

 

Conducting your Program on Site

Conducting your Program on Site

Overview: Upon Arrival

  • Notify the Office for Education Abroad and or the Office for International Health and Safety immediately if a student does not arrive
  • Advise students of known risks, including transportation risks
  • Test your cell phone and provide the Office for Education Abroad with your number if you were unable to provide it pre-departure
  • Share your cell phone number(s) with students
  • Obtain student cell phone numbers (if applicable)
  • Create a communication tree for students
  • Implement the "Buddy System"
  • Designate primary and secondary meeting places
  • Conduct On-Site Orientation that includes an Emergency Action Plan

On-site orientation information

  • Upon arrival, program leaders should have an on-site orientation meeting centering on health and safety information. Suggested topics include:
  • Emergency Preparedness
  • The Buddy System
  • Communications
  • Emergency Action Plan
  • Medical Needs
  • Incident Reporting
  • Parental/Family Contacts
  • Discipline or Behavior Problems
  • U.S. Embassies/Consulates
  • Dangers, Risks and Accidents

Emergency Preparedness

General emergency procedures, such as the 24/7 emergency line, are in place and specific emergency procedures should be discussed in the on-site orientation.

Distribute the wallet-sized Emergency Card you received from the Office for Education Abroad as part of your travel advance meeting. Ask students to record your cell phone number and, if applicable, the number of the resident director or another trusted local contact. Also provide all students in your group with the local telephone number(s) that they should use to contact emergency services (i.e. the equivalent of the "911" in the U.S., which provides access to police, fire and emergency medical services). To find the local emergency numbers, visit Emergency Telephone Numbers. Also note that "112" is a worldwide mobile emergency number.

Students needing immediate emergency assistance should attempt to reach local contacts first, as this will lead to a quicker response. While students are often inclined to call their parents, particularly in a medical emergency, parents are not generally in a position to guide a response given their lack of local knowledge. If students in crisis cannot reach a program leader or on-site contact, they should call MSU's 24/7 Emergency Assistance Line at 517-353-3784. Note there is also space for students to record their individual Certificate number located on their HTH insurance card.

MSU's Office for International Health & Safety's website has a wealth of information and tips to help keep your students (and yourself) safe while on your program.

Emergency Action Plan

You should have an emergency action plan that you should share with your students once you're on site.

The Buddy System

Many critical emergencies you will face will be the result of a student being alone, either on purpose, or most often by accident. Strongly encourage your students to employ the buddy system, especially when going out at night.  Suggest a "leave no man (or woman) behind" approach to keeping each other safe.

Community Building

Revisit any "community building" activities and agreements that were made during the pre-departure orientation (see the "Community Building" section under Program Preparation). Be alert to group dynamics and address any concerns you may perceive. Don't make light of incidents of abuse (such as joking about hangovers). Make sure you follow up on stated consequences. Do what you said you would do if students violate agreed-upon rules.

Communications

Help students figure out how to call the United States.  If most of your students have cell phone, take time to collect their phone numbers and create a communications tree. Make sure those that don't have a phone will still be able to get information shared by the "tree."

Medical Needs

Explain to students the most common "emergencies" that programs face are medical in nature and can usually be addressed by assisting students with making an appointment with a local physician for non-emergency care. Remind the students about their education abroad medical insurance policy. Add that OSA highly values a student's right to medical privacy—disclosures of a student's condition will be made only to the most appropriate individuals with the highest level of discretion. Remind students that HTH Worldwide can usually arrange for direct-billing of hospital expenses when a student is admitted to a facility for long-term care. However, HTH must be notified of the need at admission, not discharge. Refer again to the instructions in the online Student Guide under "medical emergencies abroad."  If HTH is not informed of the need for direct-billing in a timely manner, the student may be required to pay upfront and seek reimbursement later. Students should be prepared to pay for non-emergency care out-of-pocket and seek reimbursement upon return to the United States. To obtain a full reimbursement, students must retain all receipts and the care must have occurred during program dates.

If a student requires medical attention on site, but does not warrant emergency treatment (i.e. just an office visit), please contact the Office for International Health and Safety and copy your Education Abroad Program Coordinator so the Office for Education Abroad is aware of the situation and can act quickly if the student's condition should worsen.

Incident Reporting

Tell students they are required to inform you about any real or perceived emergency or critical incident. Even if the incident is not life-threatening or is simply a rumor, it is important that you notify the Office for Education Abroad because exaggerated rumors of the seriousness of the incident may reach parents, who will contact our office for details.

Examples of incidents or emergencies
For our purposes, an emergency is any circumstance that poses a genuine risk to, or has already disturbed, the safety and well-being of program participants. Emergencies may include incidents that are "newsworthy" and reach U.S. news agencies, causing alarm to parents or colleagues.
Emergencies can include, though are not confined to, the following:

  • physical assault
  • disappearance, hostage-taking, or kidnapping of a student
  • robbery
  • sexual assault or rape
  • serious illness, physical or emotional
  • threat of, or attempted, suicide
  • significant accident and/or injury
  • hospitalization for any reason or length of time
  • terrorist threat or attack
  • local political, natural, or man-made crisis/disaster in the vicinity of student accommodations or classrooms that could affect the students' safety or well-being
  • arrest or questioning by the police or other security forces
  • any legal action (lawsuit, deposition, trial, etc.) involving a student
  • death of a student

Contact with parents/family
Inform students that you, as a program leader, cannot make direct, initial contact with their parents or family members about an emergency or critical incident without student permission.  Students should be encouraged to communicate directly with their parents about a critical incident or emergency abroad. In special circumstances, the Office for Education Abroad may choose, in consultation with the program leaders or on-site representatives, to inform emergency contacts about a potential emergency abroad without the student's permission.

Discipline and Behavioral Problems

Communicate to students the applicable codes of conduct and consequences of noncompliance (which can include dismissal from the program). Refer to the Statement of Responsibility, which every student signed as part of the application process. Also mention that you will follow the Office for Education Abroad's guidelines for behavioral problems MSU has a low tolerance for misbehavior abroad.

U.S. Embassies and Consulates

Remind students that the Office for Education Abroad registers their program-related travel with the U.S. Department of State. Strongly encourage students to register their personal travel (before or after the program) with the U.S. Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). It is useful for the program director to know the location of the nearest U.S. Embassy or consulate in each location since losing one's passport is a common occurrence on education abroad programs.

Dangers, Risks and Accidents

Advise students to avoid any local protests or demonstrations and discuss preventable accidents with them, emphasizing such things as traffic patterns, pub and drinking culture, drug laws, unsafe swimming, and the types of things that can happen when walking down a street alone at night in a foreign city. Be very specific about safe and unsafe behaviors such as certain types of sexual behavior and how to dress and behave to avoid unwanted attention. Refer students to the information in the online Student Guide under "everyday safety tips."

Finances Abroad

Finances Abroad

  • For ease of post-program reconciliation, the Office for Education Abroad advises that you keep your personal housing and Meals & Incidental Expenses (M & IE) funds separate from program funds.
  • Record Class Activities charges by itemizing expenses and collecting receipts for audit purposes. All expenditures (except emergencies) must follow the original approved and finalized budget. The executive director of the Office for Education Abroad or our business manager must approve any deviations.
  • In order to avoid loss or theft, do not carry large amounts of cash with you. You should also bear in mind that it is illegal to enter most countries with $10,000 or the equivalent in "financial instruments" without declaring the money - and declaring the money in some countries may incur difficult or even unpleasant consequences.
  • Most program leaders utilize ATMs on site. ATMs can provide ready access to local currency and are drawn from your own account. For instance, machines displaying the Cirrus symbol are compatible with an MSU Federal Credit Union ATM card. Since daily withdrawals are usually limited and you may need to withdraw large program sums on a daily basis, ask your home bank to increase your daily withdrawal limit. This increased limit may only be accessible during US banking hours - check so you won't be stranded over the weekend. Also, check with your own bank about service charges and accessibility. Many program leaders also use debit cards. If you intend to use a VISA Checkcard to access your U.S. account, notify your bank that you will be traveling abroad.
  • Credit cards are a convenient way to cover expenses and will usually net the most favorable exchange rates. The Office for Education Abroad MasterCard can be used for any program-related expense.
  • Whatever method you use, contact your bank to ensure that you will have access to funds. Due to fraud losses, some banks are limiting access to ATM and debit card transactions outside of the U.S.
  • It is advisable to carry your funds in a variety of forms (ATM, credit cards and local currency). In some countries, particularly developing nations, U.S. dollars (cash) may be the most readily acceptable form of payment; however, theft becomes a greater risk. Traveler's checks are inconvenient and no longer used by most program leaders.
  • If you are leading a long-term program, you may wish to open your own account with a bank abroad. This can be accomplished in a variety of forms (e.g., wiring program funds ahead, obtaining a cash advance on a credit card upon arrival and depositing those funds, etc.). If you write the bank ahead, you may be able to get a check-guarantee card, which will encourage businesses to honor your local checks. Some program leaders have found it helpful to carry a letter of reference from their local U.S. bank. Ensure in advance that funds will be available when needed and not delayed due to international processing. If you are an authorized signer on an account maintained or held in another country, the IRS and U.S. Treasury require that you report such signing authority when completing your tax forms.
  • If there are surplus funds in any part of the program fee portion of the budget, including class trips and activities, it may only be used to fund additional or unplanned educational activities. Such activities include theater performances, museum entrance fees and class-related visits. Receipts/ticket stubs must be obtained for these additional activities. If additional class trips require that students pay for their own entrance fees/tickets, they must submit receipts to the program leader, accounting for the disbursement of funds. Once the students document their expenditures with receipts, reimburse them for that amount and have them sign a statement that they received that amount. You no longer have to retain the individual receipts.
  • If unforeseen circumstances arise while you are abroad and you encounter non-budgeted expenses, contact the Office for Education Abroad.
  • Despite all the advice and pre-departure preparation, some students will find themselves short of funds. Possible solutions are: have the family deposit funds into the home account so that the student can access the funds through an ATM; deposit money online through Moneygram; send a foreign draft by express mail; send a bank wire or transfer; or send a transfer through American Express or Western Union. This latter option is quite costly. Money can also be shuttled from a bank in the U.S. to its branch in a foreign city, if it has one. Banks, however, are notorious for keeping bankers' hours. Moneygram at (800) 542-3590 is an online for-profit money transfer service with 23,000 agents in 103 countries. The service charges $40 to send $500 anywhere (more for larger amounts) and is convenient since the family can deposit funds online and they are immediately available to the student. Once the money is deposited, they call the student with the necessary information to withdrawal.
  • Loans to students should be avoided, but in cases of extreme emergency a loan for a maximum amount of US $100.00 can be authorized. Students must sign a loan or a similar statement stating responsibility for the loan and the timeline for payment. Only one loan per student will be granted during the period of the program and should be repaid before the student returns. Payment of this loan will be included in your travel expense reconciliation; if you are unable to collect these funds from the student, notify the Office for Education Abroad as soon as possible so a charge can be applied to the student's account.
  • Various private companies can help replenish funds when bad planning or theft leaves a student or program leader penniless. Most credit card companies provide legal, medical and financial services around the world 24-hours-per-day, including emergency cash advances and card replacement (often within hours). Using the local AMEX office, you can receive funds in about a day, but high fees may apply. If all else fails, turn to the Bureau of Consular Affairs. After an investigation determines that an American is genuinely stranded, a consular official will seek a friend or relative of the traveler to help. If no one can be found, an official may advance money, but a "limitation" will be put on the individual's passport, signifying that it is to expire when he or she reaches home and cannot be renewed until the loan is repaid.
  • See the "Resources" section of these pages for important financial tools, such as the worksheet for group expenses and the non-resident alien professional services contract.