Your health and safety is our number one priority. In doing so, we also strive to respect the cultural differences surrounding health and safety in our vast network of over 50 countries. Depending on the emergencies and procedures of our member universities, we have outlined the following policies and guidelines to enhance the confidence that our members have in each other and in ISEP Global Office staff, when responding to emergency or crisis situations.
ISEP Health and Safety Task Force
ISEP is committed to making the health and safety of our students a top priority. As such, ISEP has appointed a permanent health and safety task force to ensure that the organization holds itself accountable in striving to meet best practices and good standards as defined by the education abroad industry.
The task force will be responsible for overseeing the following:
- Maintaining a comprehensive emergency and crisis management plan related to ISEP student emergencies
- Maintaining organizational policies related to student emergencies
- Providing a template and criteria for conducting appropriate risk assessments
- Ensuring ISEP staff are properly trained in student emergency and crisis management
- Maintaining an awareness of legal issues, privacy laws and federal regulations that affect how the ISEP Global Office and the ISEP membership approach health and safety issues
- Maintaining internal procedures to enhance student health and safety preparedness and staff preparedness for crisis situations
- Communicating ISEP’s health and safety policies to the membership and work with staff to ensure member adherence to ISEP’s health and safety standards
- Reviewing student emergency protocols and policies on an annual basis
- Discussing specific student emergency situations as they arise and determine courses of action
- Holding debriefings on student emergencies in order to make improvements and identify lessons learned
Statements of Responsibility
- Will maintain an emergency action plan and protocols for various emergency scenarios. This action plan will be reviewed and updated annually.
- Will maintain a code of conduct for all programs and communicate the consequences of non-compliance to participants.
- Will provide a general health and safety orientation for all ISEP students prior to their departure.
- Will require that all students complete a medical self-assessment form after placement to help host coordinators prepare for possible health and safety risks.
- Will require all students purchase comprehensive health insurance provided a plan of a similar or higher level is not provided in country.
- Will require health insurance of all students entering the U.S. on a J-1 visa per SEVIS regulations.
- Will require that all students purchase medical, evacuation, and repatriation insurance.
- Will include questions regarding health and safety in the application for ISEP membership and will evaluate membership in part based on health and safety preparedness and the medical and professional services offered. Some of our considerations will include:
- Location and likelihood of emergency situations due to location
- Protocols in place to handle student emergencies (for the university and study abroad office).
- Past health and safety concerns/most common health and safety concerns for international students
- Medical and mental health service availability
- Dorm and host family safety
- Please note, ISEP will consider the norms of the host country and will strive to make reasonable requests regarding health and safety based on the particular environment and resources available.
- Will maintain good communication with all necessary parties in cases of emergency.
- Will initiate safety check-ins with ISEP students in cases of level 1 emergencies for students who are currently within the start and end dates of their ISEP program. The decision to check-in with students will be determined based on the location, size and scope of an event. ISEP is not responsible for checking in with students post-program who may be traveling or for checking in with students who are traveling to a country where ISEP has suspended or canceled programs for health and safety reasons. Should a student be traveling after his/her program or in a country where ISEP has suspended/canceled a program for health and safety reasons and have active ISEP insurance, the student should contact ISEP for assistance, and ISEP will do its due diligence to assist.
- Will maintain an emergency contact number available 24 hours a day / 365 days a year: 1-301-681-2388
Will monitor a variety of sources from our Global Office to ensure that we are aware of any potential or current problems in countries where we have programs. These include but are not limited to:
Will remain knowledgeable about health and safety issues pertinent to international education and will provide ISEP staff adequate training to properly address these issues.
Adapted from the “Responsible Study Abroad: Good Practices for Health and Safety,” 2002
In study abroad, as in other settings, participants can have a major impact on their own health and safety through the decisions they make before and during their program and by their day-to-day choices and behaviors.
- Assume responsibility for all the elements necessary for their personal preparation for the program and participate fully in orientations.
- Read and carefully consider all materials issued by ISEP, the home institution and host institution that relate to safety, health, legal, environmental, political, cultural, and religious conditions in the host country(ies).
- Conduct their own research on the country(ies) they plan to visit with particular emphasis on health and safety concerns, as well as the social, cultural, and political situations
- Consider their physical and mental health, and other personal circumstances when applying for or accepting a place in a program, and make available to ISEP, the home institution and host institution accurate and complete physical and mental health information and any other personal data that is necessary in planning for a safe and healthy study abroad experience.
- Obtain and maintain appropriate insurance coverage and abide by any conditions imposed by the carriers.
- Inform parents/guardians/families and any others who may need to know about their participation in the study abroad program, provide them with emergency contact information, and keep them informed of their whereabouts and activities.
- Understand and comply with the terms of participation, codes of conduct, and emergency procedures of the program.
- Attend pre-departure and on-site orientations
- Be aware of local conditions and customs that may present health or safety risks when making daily choices and decisions. Promptly express any health or safety concerns to ISEP Staff, the home institution or host institution before and/or during the program.
- Sign up to receive embassy and travel alerts for his/her host country and countries to which (s)he may travel.
- Accept responsibility for their own decisions and actions.
- Obey host-country laws and comply with on-site authorities in the event of an emergency or crisis.
- Behave in a manner that is respectful of the rights and well-being of others, and encourage others to behave in a similar manner.
- Avoid illegal drugs and excessive or irresponsible consumption of alcohol.
- Become familiar with the procedures for obtaining emergency health and legal system services in the host county.
- Provide ISEP Global Office emergency contact information for the ISEP coordinator or relevant campus emergency contact information in order to be able to reach someone in the event of an emergency.
- Remain familiar with ISEP’s Health and Safety Policy and Emergency Action Plan
- Ensure that coordinator or other designated advisor is available at appointed times and in emergencies and designate a substitute during absences from the office
- Notify ISEP Global Office of student emergencies or other major emergencies as soon as possible
- Make every effort to maintain consistent and thorough communications with ISEP Global Office and students during an emergency situation including, if relevant, the provision of the local medical contact’s information in order to facilitate care for a student.
- Provide a pre-departure orientation for outgoing students addressing health and safety issues and emergency information students should collect upon arrival at the host institution
- Provide an on-site orientation for incoming students addressing health and safety issues, emergency protocols and necessary emergency contact information
- Provide specific information for both medical and mental health services locally either on campus and/or in the local community
- Make every effort to provide necessary support to ISEP student(s) throughout an emergency situation
- Review all incoming student medical forms and consider the information in conjunction with any additional medical information and forms the member may require upon arrival
Travel Advisory Policy
ISEP closely monitors global travel advisories through a variety of sources, including travel advice from governments of the following countries:
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
- United States
ISEP may choose to continue to run programs in countries with heightened travel advisories due to additional information we receive from our other monitored sources including but not limited to the Forum on Education Abroad, hosting university partner, host country’s government, the Overseas Security Advisory Council, the World Health Organization, and the Center for Disease Control.
In the event that a heightened travel advisory causes ISEP or the host university to suspend a program or the home university prohibits a student from participating on a program after a student applies but before the program begins, ISEP will:
- Attempt to find the student an alternate academically appropriate placement,
- Defer the student to a later semester in the same program, or
- Refund all fees paid to ISEP except for the non-refundable application fee and any non-recoverable costs, only if the student does not wish to accept an alternate placement.
Should ISEP determine to cancel or suspend a program due to a travel warning after the program start date, ISEP will follow the program cancellation and suspension policy.
Program Cancellation & Suspension Policy
ISEP has confidence in our partners and the health and safety protocols in place. Notwithstanding, ISEP may determine it necessary to suspend or cancel a program for reasons including, but not limited to, political unrest, social instability, contagious disease control, military operations, terrorism concerns within a host country, or other health and safety concerns.
The final decision to suspend or cancel a program will be made by ISEP on a case-by-case basis, taking into account advice from the host university, the U.S. Department of State (or that host country’s government), the Overseas Security Advisory Council, the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control, On Call International (ISEP’s evacuation provider) and any other sources that may be relevant to the specific emergency. ISEP is the final decision maker as to whether or not to cancel or suspend a program and reserves the right to do so in the best interest of participants. If a student or home institution recalls or cancels enrollments at their own discretion, ISEP’s standard withdrawal policy applies.
ISEP will notify any students and coordinators affected by a program cancellation or suspension as soon as possible after a decision has been made.
Before Program Start Date
If a program is cancelled or suspended prior to the start date of the program, ISEP will work with Member Institutions to try to find alternate host sites for students affected if at all possible. Should ISEP not be able to find an appropriate site for a student, ISEP will then offer the student to defer to a later semester in the same program. If neither option works for the student, the student will receive a refund of all fees paid to ISEP less non-recoverable costs and the non-refundable application fee.
After Program Start Date
If a program is cancelled or suspended with no options to continue coursework remotely after on-site arrival, ISEP will notify any students and coordinators as soon as possible after a decision has been made. If there is not an academically viable option for the student to complete their coursework for the semester, the student will receive a refund of all fees paid to ISEP less non-recoverable costs and the non-refundable application fee.
If on-site instruction is temporarily suspended but is scheduled to continue after a defined period of time, ISEP will work closely with both students and host institutions in an attempt to ensure continuity of studies.
If there is a cessation of in-person or on-site instruction for the remainder of the semester, the ISEP Global Office will work with home and host coordinators to find ways for students to finish their semester if at all possible. This may include completing course work remotely, awarding credit for coursework already completed, or finding an alternative placement at an ISEP member university. ISEP Global Office staff will also work with students and coordinators individually to determine if any recoverable benefits may be returned depending on the circumstances.
ISEP may require that students evacuate their city or country of study in extreme cases. ISEP can only require evacuation of students who are within the program dates.
The decision to evacuate a program will be made by ISEP on a case-by-case basis, taking into account advice from the host university, the U.S. Department of State (or that host country’s government), the Overseas Security Advisory Council, the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control, On Call International (ISEP’s medical evacuation provider), and any other sources that may be relevant to the specific emergency. ISEP is the final decision maker as to whether or not to evacuate a program and reserves the right to do so in the best interest of participants. ISEP can only require evacuation of students who are within the program dates.
ISEP’s medical evacuation provider will evacuate students to the nearest safe location either through commercial airlines or a chartered flight in the event of a program evacuation. The method of evacuation and location to which students will be evacuated is determined by ISEP’s medical evacuation provider. Once students arrive in the nearest safe location, students are responsible for penalties assessed by air carriers that may result from itinerary changes. Any additional expense resulting from the itinerary change or cancellation is the responsibility of the participant.
- Depending on the point in time during a semester when the cancellation takes place, ISEP Global Office will work with home and host coordinators to find ways for students to finish their semester if at all practicable. This may include completing course work remotely or finding an alternative placement at an ISEP member university.
- ISEP will work with the host institution to salvage any grades and course work already completed at the host institution.
- ISEP Global Office staff will also work with students and coordinators individually to adjust member balances and possibly make partial refund payments depending on the circumstances.
Should ISEP determine it necessary to evacuate program participants from a specific location, ISEP also recommends that other students do not travel to this area. As such, ISEP will not do active check-in communications if an emergency event were to take place in the location.
ISEP strives to maintain student privacy in emergency situations. ISEP will not release any student information to external parties who are not directly involved in resolving an emergency situation. However, ISEP will do its due diligence to report incidents to a member university in order to assist in their compliance with local and federal regulations.
Note to U.S members: As ISEP does not receive federal funding, ISEP, itself, is not subject to the reporting regulations of the Cleary Act or Title IX.
ISEP does not receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education. As such, ISEP is not subject to the regulations of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). However, ISEP will strive to maintain student privacy with the following exceptions allowed for by FERPA as deemed necessary by ISEP executive or program staff:
- School officials with legitimate educational interest;
- Other schools to which a student is transferring;
- Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;
- Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student;
- Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school;
- Accrediting organizations;
- To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;
- Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies; and
- State and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law.
If ISEP is informed of an emergency situation of which the home and host coordinator are unaware, ISEP reserves the right to inform the necessary parties if it is deemed to be in the best interest of the student by ISEP Global Office executives or program staff.
ISEP may choose, in consultation with the home and/or host coordinators, to inform emergency contacts about a potential emergency abroad without the student’s permission, such as when the student:
- is unable to speak for him/herself
- has been missing for more than 24 hours
- is perceived to be a danger to him/herself or others, or when
- a significant health, safety, or security incident affecting the entire program has occurred abroad
ISEP will store all medical information provided in a secure online environment. The medical self-assessment form is shared with home coordinator, host coordinator, and ISEP staff. In the case of a student emergency, this information may be shared with any parties that may need to know pertinent medical information.
ISEP students are subject to the laws of the country or state where she or he is studying as well as the rules and regulations of the student’s host and home institution. It is the student’s responsibility to be informed about the laws of the country and/or state in addition to the regulations of the university and conduct himself or herself in a manner that complies with those laws.