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Implementation: On-Site

Now it's time to implement your new or existing Education Abroad program. This page provides information on what to expect and tasks to complete once you arrive in country, as well as resources designed to help you complete these tasks. Directing an education abroad program can seem overwhelming at times, particularly if you've never directed one before. The Office for Education Abroad will assist you throughout this process. And if you're taking over responsibility for an existing program, the program's previous director can share with you their lessons learned. Be sure to review the EA On-site Operations Manual prior to departure.


Click on any one of the following tabs to learn more about steps to take and tasks to complete on-site:

Do this upon arrival

Do this upon arrival

The following tabs contain information and important steps to take as soon as your group arrives at its destination:  

Communicate with Education Abroad

Communicate with Education Abroad

  • Check in with Education Abroad upon your arrival at the program site and ensure that Education Abroad has your 24/7 contact information.
  • Notify Education Abroad and/or the Office for Global Health, Safety, and Security immediately if a student does not arrive as planned.
  • Test your cell phone and let Education Abroad know your local number (if not known prior to departure).

Share your Emergency Action Plan with Students

Share your Emergency Action Plan with Students

  • Share your cell phone number with your students.
  • Collect students' phone numbers (if applicable).
  • Create an emergency communication tree for students keeping in mind that some students may not have a working cell phone.
  • Designate primary and secondary emergency meeting places.
  • Ensure that students know emergency phone numbers including: 
    • the local equivalent of "911".
    • International SOS 24/7 Assistance Line: 1-215-942-8478 (or the 24/7 Assistance Center nearest you – see the MSU membership card for more information)
    • MSU 24/7 International Emergency Assistance Line: 1-517-353-3784
    • 24/7 phone numbers for on-site provider (if applicable)
    • Your cell phone number
  • Ensure that students know the local equivalent of "911".
  • Request that students share their travel itineraries during free time.
  • Share any additional details of your Emergency Action Plan with students.
  • If you are the only program director on-site with your group, let EA and your students know who will be your emergency backup
  • Review health and safety tips with students often

Explain MSU's emergency procedures to students

Explain MSU's emergency procedures to students

Distribute the wallet-sized Emergency Card you received from 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). 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 director or on-site contact, they should call MSU's 24/7 Emergency Assistance Line at 517-353-3784 or the International SOS 24/7 Assistance Line +1-215-942-8478.

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

Conduct an onsite orientation

Conduct an onsite orientation

Shortly after your arrival you are to conduct an onsite orientation with your group.  The following tabs contain information to assist you with your orientation:

Prepare students for emergencies

Prepare students for emergencies

  • Explain your Emergency Action Plan, including the communication tree.
  • Explain and implement the "Buddy System".
  • Advise students of known risks, including risks related to swimming, local transportation, petty crime, etc.
  • Review International SOS insurance process.
  • Inform students of your mandatory reporting responsibilities per the university’s Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct (RVSM) policy.

Medical Needs

Explain to students the most common health and safety issue that programs face are medical in nature and can usually be addressed by assisting students with making an appointment with a local physician for care. Remind the students about their education abroad medical insurance policy. Add that EA 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 International SOS is available to offer medical advice and help them access local medical care. To avoid out-of-pocket expenses, students must contact International SOS before seeking care. International SOS can be reached 24/7 at +1-215-942-8478.

More information on International SOS and international health insurance can be found on the Office for Global Health, Safety, and Security website.

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 Global Health, Safety, and Security and copy your Education Abroad Program Coordinator so 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 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 director, 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, Education Abroad may choose, in consultation with the program director(s) or on-site representatives, to inform emergency contacts about a potential emergency abroad without the student's permission.

U.S. Embassies and Consulates

Remind students that 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."

Review Education Abroad disciplinary process

Review Education Abroad disciplinary process

MSU has a low tolerance for misbehavior abroad. 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. Inform your students the Statement of Responsibility will be enforces and that you will follow Education Abroad's guidelines for behavioral problems, including promptly informing the Office of International Health and Safety of any violations. 

Remind students that the Student Handbook outlines the steps involved in disciplinary action. View information on "Student Conduct While Abroad" in the relevant section of the Education Abroad Student Handbook.

Build a community

Build a community

  • Conduct ice-breaker session.
  • Spell out your expectations, including expectations about students’ being in touch with home (too much, too little); being on time, etc.
  • Have students develop the community standards to which they will hold each other accountable.

Review program itinerary

Review program itinerary

  • Go over the major program activities and the expectations associated with them (e.g., interacting with guest speakers, being on time for group departures, etc.).
  • Explain how planned activities are designed to enhance students’ academic learning.

Show students their new surroundings

Show students their new surroundings

  • Conduct a walking tour of the neighborhood.
  • Point out grocery/convenience stores and inexpensive restaurants.
  • Explain the local transportation system.
  • Share information about local customs and cultural expectations.

Do this every day

Do this every day

To help ensure the best abroad experience possible for your students, it is critical for you to actively engage with your students on a daily basis. It is important to remain on-site for the duration of the program. Independent travel by program directors is permitted only if it does not interfere with program-related activities and/or academics and if the program director remains accessible by phone at all times.

Click on any of the following tabs to learn more about important daily tasks.

Monitor group dynamics

Monitor group dynamics

  • Keep an eye on possible clique-building and/or ostracizing of or withdrawal by individual students.
  • Be aware of consequences of socio-economic inequality among your students and be prepared to share information about affordable/free activities with all students.

Respond to bad behavior

Respond to bad behavior

  • Address behavioral issues immediately and consistently.
  • Inform Education Abroad and/or the Office for Global Health, Safety, and Security of any verbal and written communications with students that address behavioral issues.
  • Document, document, document!

Conduct reflection and debriefing sessions

Conduct reflection and debriefing sessions

  • Facilitate student learning through structured reflection.
  • Become aware of and address issues early by debriefing the day's events.
  • Not all students will speak up in a group – make yourself available for one-on-one conversations.

Monitor local news and events

Monitor local news and events

Monitor local news and events and, time permitting, consult with the Office for Global Health, Safety, and Security if you have any health, safety, or security concerns that may warrant significant adjustments to the program.  

Manage program finances

Manage program finances

Financial considerations are important at every step of program preparation and implementation. It is important to be very familiar with your program budget and refer to it throughout your time abroad.

Accessing Money Abroad

Accessing Money Abroad

  • 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 directors 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 directors 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 directors.
  • If you are directing 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 directors 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.

Keep Track of Expenses

Keep Track of Expenses

  • For ease of post-program reconciliation, 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 Education Abroad or our business manager must approve any deviations.
  • 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 director, 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.
  • Be sure to keep receipts for any personal or program-related expenses, EXCEPT for M&IE expenses (meals & incidental expenses). This includes receipts for transportation, lodging, and anything related to program activities, including group meals, speaker fees, and honoraria.
  • It is recommended to log receipts at the end of every day by labeling them and entering associated amounts into the appropriate section of Education Abroad’s “Expense Tracking Sheet” (access this under the “Tools” tab).

Financial Emergencies Abroad

Financial Emergencies Abroad

  • If unforeseen circumstances arise while you are abroad and you encounter non-budgeted expenses, contact 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 withdraw the money.
  • 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 director 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.

Tools

Tools

EA Expense Worksheet
NRA-PSC (non-resident alien professional services contract)
Alternative receipt (if an official receipt cannot be obtained)

Attend to health and safety issues

Attend to health and safety issues

Promptly inform Office for Global Health, Safety, and Security of any health and safety issues. In the event of a medical emergency, accompany students, or make arrangements for a student to be accompanied by program leadership, to a medical facility. For non-urgent medical care, you should offer assistance to the student, but you are not required to accompany them to an appointment.

In the event of a medical emergency, accompany students, or make arrangements for a student to be accompanied by program leadership, to a medical facility. For non-urgent medical care, you should offer assistance to the student but you are not required to accompany them to an appointment.

In the event that a student must be accompanied home early for any reason (behavioral, medical, etc.), be prepared, if necessary, to personally accompany them or to send another program staff member home with the student without expectation of being able to return to the program site. Should such a situation arise, the Office for Education Abroad and the Office for Global Health, Safety, and Security will work with you to develop a financial and logistical plan that is least disruptive to the program and the remaining students.

If a student is unable to travel to a program location for medical or logistical reasons (e.g. hospitalization, lost passport), the student cannot be left alone. Your emergency plan should account for such eventualities. Contact the Office for Education Abroad and the Office for Global Health, Safety, and Security to discuss options.

Before your program ends

Before your program ends

Schedule time shortly before the end of the program for students to complete the EA online program evaluation.

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