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Organizing Short-Term Programs Abroad

Whether you have organized short-term trips abroad before or are planning your first international experience with students, our staff are able to serve as a resource to you. We welcome the opportunity to work alongside you as you plan a rewarding experience for your students.

Once you have completed the initial brainstorming phase, the next step is for the faculty or staff leader to complete a formal program proposal to be reviewed by International Education. Proposals are reviewed to ensure that best practices for international travel and university risk management procedures are being followed. Upon review, proposal are either approved, rejected, or approved with modifications required by IE.

Given the complexity involved with international travel, short-term experiences abroad may not be advertised or publicized to students before they have been cleared by IE.

Proposal Dates and Deadlines

The online application for filing a proposal will open on June 15 for programs running in the following academic year (fall, spring, summer). It is preferred that proposals are submitted 5 months in advance by no later than:

  • Fall break programs: July 1
  • Thanksgiving and Winter break programs: September 1
  • Spring break programs: December 1
  • Summer programs: February 1

Repeat Short-Term Programs

Short-term programs that are repeated should still complete a proposal form so that the information remains up-to-date. IE will review and if there are no substantial changes in the location, content, or safety conditions of the program, the proposal will normally not have to go through the formal review process again.

Program Administration

Planning Leadership
  • IE requires each program to have a leader and a co-leader. This is to ensure that there will always be a responsible representative of UR with all the students, even if the group must be split. For example:

    1. If a student falls ill, loses his/her passport, is a victim of a crime, etc., then one leader should go with the student in distress and the other can keep the program running as normal for the rest of the students.

    2. If a leader falls ill or has to attend to personal issues (see above; all the same things happen to leaders as to participants!), then the co-leader can keep the program running as normal for the students while the other leader recovers.

    Having a co-leader is especially important for programs that move from city to city, for those taking place in remote locations, or for those taking place in locations that present significant health/crime/safety risks.

  • If you are employing a tour guide, you should make it a condition of your contract with him/her that there will be a back-up staff member available in case of illness or other circumstances that would prevent him/her from leading the tour as scheduled.
Planning Dates

In planning a program, research the dates that are significant in the country(ies) you will visit. Travel guides can be helpful with this. Be sure you know when holidays occur, as businesses will be closed, hotels and airlines will be booked to capacity, and it may not be possible to make visits to companies or universities. Also be sure you know which days have political significance. Using the month of May as an example:

  • In Japan, there is a series of holidays known collectively as “Golden Week” when businesses are closed and many Japanese people travel.
  • Israelis celebrate May 15 as independence day (businesses closed, etc). People in the neighboring Palestinian territories, and some within Israel, commemorate the same date as a disaster (“Naqba”), with protests which can close roads and raise security concerns.
  • May is the month with the greatest number of public holidays in France. Businesses are closed and French people sometimes take vacation days to bridge between the holidays so they can be away from work for two weeks or more. Many strikes take place in France during this month, as well.
Planning Safety
  • All proposals for Richmond funded or affiliated travel abroad by students, staff, or faculty will be reviewed for safety by the OIE, using a variety of sources, both public and private.
  • Proposals for travel to countries for which the US Department of State has issued a Travel Advisory Level 3 must be accompanied by a special petition. Click here for details.
  • The petition will be reviewed by the OIE and the University’s risk management team. Travel will not be permitted unless the petition is approved.
  • Some countries, or parts of countries, present unacceptable levels of risk though they are not covered by a Travel Advisory. There are also some activities that Richmond deems unacceptably dangerous, even in countries that are not otherwise considered to present substantial risk (for example, researching criminal activities in a “safe” European capital). Be aware that proposals for such locations and activities can be denied on grounds of safety.
  • Program leaders should check with UR’s Health Center to see which immunizations or medications they recommend that program participants have before taking part in the trip.
  • While it is not required, the OIE suggests that program leaders have training in first aid and CPR. These skills can be acquired at low cost through the Think Again classes offered by the School of Professional and Continuing Studies. (Please note that International Education does not pay for this instruction).
Planning Academics
  • Experiences abroad that are intended to yield UR academic credit for the participants must be led or at least accompanied by a UR faculty member of at least adjunct status. Otherwise, only transfer credit can be offered.
  • At the same time that a program leader submits an online proposal for his or her trip to International Education, he or she should have the UR dean of the school that is most closely associated with the program abroad submit a letter to Martha Merritt, dean of international education, stating that he or she approves the academic part of the proposal, including the amount of academic credit to be granted for the experience.
Planning Housing
  • If possible, housing should be located in an area that is close to your program activities so that travel time is kept to a minimum.
  • It should ideally be located near public transportation so that students have a safe way to return to their housing if program activities extend into the evening.
  • Students must of course be staying in a safe area of the city/town where the program takes place.
  • Program leaders may not rely on having students stay in the homes of friends or colleagues.
  • It is important for leaders to book housing through an official provider of such – a hotel, hostel or university residence, for example – so that there is clarity about fees, terms of payment, services provided, and liability matters.
  • Housing arrangements must be finalized well before the program start date. Once housing plans have been approved by International Education they are considered to be final, and any changes must be reviewed.
Planning Travel
  • Avoid booking the last flight or train of the day to anywhere – if it’s delayed or cancelled, the group is stuck overnight. This can cause great complications on short-term programs because the schedules of such experiences are usually very full. Missing one day of activities on a program that only runs for four or five days is a substantial loss.
  • To make the most of your short time abroad, avoid travel itineraries that include several long-distance bus or train trips. Try to choose one city as the base location for your program and make short day-trips from there. A good base location will be well-served by multiple modes of public transportation, will have a low rate of crime, will offer affordable places to eat, and will be within about an hour’s travel of the companies, monuments, historic sites, etc., that you hope to visit.
  • Allow ample time for students to get ready for your excursions and other daily activities. Remember that a larger group needs more time to start its day than a smaller group. When deciding on wake-up times, or if you are asking yourself if it really is necessary to see if a late student is awake, err on the side of caution.
Scheduling Time Abroad
  • During the early planning stages, you may find it helpful to take a relatively conservative approach to scheduling, leaving unscheduled blocks of time.
  • Build in regular times for class briefings (before guest speakers or site visits) and debriefings.
  • If your program is set in a relatively remote location, you may want to consider including a day or two of orientation in a city in the same country. This can help the students acclimatize and gives them a chance to get their bearings before heading off to a more isolated site.
  • For multi-week programs, build in some free days to give students (and yourself) a chance to escape from the group, explore on their own, and decompress.
  • Assign course readings prior to departure. Students are unlikely to have the time or energy for significant course readings in the evenings while they are in the host country.
  • Develop a list of optional activities, so that if the group finds themselves with some extra time on their hands, you have some ready ideas of relevant visits.
  • Develop a list of evening activities so that students have alternatives to drinking, traveling late at night, and other risky behaviors.
  • Once you have set your itinerary and your proposal has been approved by the OIE, do not change it without consulting these groups. Changing where you will be, what you will be doing and when can change the academic depth of your program or its safety conditions.
Health and Travel Insurance for Students, Faculty, and Staff

University of Richmond students going abroad on programs with any affiliation to the University are enrolled in coverage from AXA/Chubb Travel Assistance, a company that has been chosen for its comprehensive international travel insurance. As soon as students register their participation in Gateway Abroad they will have access to the necessary insurance documentation. The insurance policy, claim forms and instructions are available on the study abroad website.

The Office of Risk Management administers a Foreign Travel Insurance Program that provides insurance coverage and travel assistance for Richmond employees engaged in official university travel outside of the United States. The University offers travel, liability, and health insurance through AXA/Chubb Travel Assistance for faculty and staff traveling abroad on official University business.

Roster and Itinerary

The faculty leader will file the program roster and itinerary in the online proposal; both should be in final form three weeks before departure. Be sure to communicate any changes to Patrick Schweiger, study abroad manager.

Agreement and Release Form

Any student taking part in an international experience affiliated with UR must provide an electronic signature on an Agreement and Release form in GatewayAbroad (one of the online forms completed by students to register their participation in a program abroad). The form makes reference to the University's policies on student conduct, the full text of which can be found in University of Richmond catalog and in the student handbook.

Emergency Information Form

Any student taking part in an international experience affiliated with UR, and any faculty/staff leader of such a program, must complete an online Emergency Information Form in GatewayAbroad. The faculty/staff leaders should take printouts of each student's emergency information on the trip abroad and should shred these confidential documents as soon as the program is finished.

Registration with the U.S. Department of State

The faculty/staff leader is responsible for registering the travels of each participant (U.S. citizens and permanent residents) on the U.S. Dept of State's travel registration page.

Information required includes passport details, the address and phone of your hotel(s) abroad, and the phone/e-mail info of your emergency contact(s) in the United States. It is recommended that you not grant permission for the Department of State to contact the media.

International Students

International students wishing to take part in a short-term program abroad should check with the director of international student and scholar services concerning the processes they must follow to to maintain legal immigration status in the United States. International students should research and understand what visa requirements are for the country(ies) they will be visiting as part of the short-term program and ensure that they apply for a visa in a timely manner. Note that visa requirements for such students can be considerably more demanding than for U.S. citizens.

Pre-departure Orientation

Providing students with useful insights on the places they will visit and the differences they will encounter is an important step in helping them gain all they can from an educational travel experience.

The faculty/staff leaders must plan at least one pre-departure orientation session for the group. The date, time and place should be communicated to Patrick Schweiger, study abroad manager, at least two weeks in advance of the event. International Education will send a representative (staff member, former study abroad participant, or visiting exchange student) to assist with presenting the information.

Topics covered should include:

  • Cultural differences
  • Packing tips
  • Travel arrangements
  • Safety concerns
  • Maintaining contact between leader(s) and participants at all times as well as communication with UR
  • How to address health problems
  • Using the health insurance
  • Accommodations abroad
  • Meals abroad
  • Academic obligations
  • Personal budgeting
  • Use of cash, credit/debit cards and ATMs
  • Expectations for student conduct

Materials to be distributed to program participants during the orientation should include:

  • Itinerary for the program abroad
  • CDC advice on travel to the country/countries where program will take place
  • U.S. Department of State country background notes and any relevant safety notices

The faculty/staff leader should provide one copy of the following to Patrick Schweiger, study abroad manager, and should keep a second copy on file with his/her office for five years:

  • Outline of the orientation presentation
  • Names of attendees/non-attendees
  • Copies of documents provided to participants