Safety and Responsibility

Because the health and safety of our study abroad participants are of primary concern to Indiana University, guidelines have been developed to provide useful practical guidance to institutional representatives, student participants, and their parents/guardians/families. No set of guidelines can guarantee the health and safety needs of each individual involved in a study abroad program, but the guidelines address issues of general concern and the responsibilities of all parties.
  • General Responsibilities of the Office of Overseas Study

    The Office of Overseas Study has university-wide responsibility for all Indiana University study abroad programs, though that responsibility may be shared with other campuses (e.g., the Office of International Affairs at IUPUI and the Office of International Programs at IU South Bend) or professional schools (e.g., Kelley School of Business, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, School of Law, etc.). In the case of co-sponsored programs, this responsibility is delegated to other institutional providers (e.g., CIEE, IES), with Overseas Study in a consultative role.

    IU study abroad programs are those which have been approved by the university-wide Overseas Study Advisory Council (OSAC), as required by presidential directive. Study abroad initiatives which attempt to proceed without the approval of OSAC have no official status as IU programs and cannot advertise themselves as such. Independent initiatives risk being cancelled, and credit for their participants denied upon review.

    IU programs are also operated within the IU Policy on Study Abroad in Countries with Travel Warnings.

    IU programs are also operated within the IU Policy on Programs Involving Children.

  • Responsibilities of the Office of Overseas Study for Approved IU Programs Abroad
    1. Conduct regular assessments of health and safety conditions for IU programs, including program-sponsored accommodation, events, excursions and other activities, prior to program. Monitor possible changes in country conditions. Provide information about changes and advise participants and their parents/guardians/families as needed. Develop and maintain emergency preparedness and crisis response plans.
    2. Provide guidelines for program directors and staff with respect to managing emergencies abroad.
    3. Provide orientation meetings and materials to participants prior to departure for the program and onsite, which include appropriate information on health, legal, environmental, political, cultural, and religious conditions in the host country. In addition to dealing with health and safety issues, the orientation should address potential health and safety risks, and appropriate emergency response measures. Ask students to share this information with their parents/guardians/families so they can make informed decisions concerning preparation, participation, and behavior while on the program.
    4. Consider health and safety issues in evaluating the appropriateness of an individual's participation in a study abroad program.
    5. In the participant screening process, consider factors such as disciplinary history that may impact on the safety of the individual or the group.
    6. Provide students with information on the role of and assistance provided by the on-site resident director or program coordinator.
    7. Discuss with students, following their selection but prior to their participation in a study abroad program, individual health and disciplinary history issues, that may impact on the safety of the individual or the group.
    8. Provide health insurance (including emergency evacuation and repatriation) to participants or assure that participants receive information about how to obtain such coverage.
    9. Direct on-site program staff to provide information for participants and their parents/guardians/families regarding available medical and support services, and to help participants obtain the services they may need.
    10. Hire vendors and contractors (e.g. travel and tour agents) that have provided reputable services in the country in which the program takes place. Advise such vendors and contractors of the program sponsor's expectations with respect to their role in the health and safety of participants.
    11. Communicate applicable codes of conduct and the consequences of noncompliance to participants. Take appropriate action when participants are in violation.
    12. In cases of serious health problems, injury, or other significant health and safety circumstances, maintain good communication among all program sponsors. When informed about an emergency situation abroad in a city or country where IU students are located, work to confirm the safety of IU students. Depending upon the type of program, such communications might be directed to partner institutions/organizations, to IU program faculty/staff traveling with students, or to individual students. 
    13. Provide these guidelines to participants and their parents/guardians/families regarding when and where the responsibility of the IU Office of Overseas Study ends, and the aspects of participants' overseas experiences that are beyond the control of Overseas Study. In particular, Overseas Study generally:
      • Cannot guarantee or ensure the safety of participants or eliminate all risks from the study abroad environments.
      • Cannot monitor or control all of the daily personal decisions, choices, and activities of individual participants.
      • Cannot prevent participants from engaging in illegal, dangerous or unwise activities.
      • Cannot ensure that U.S. standards of due process apply in overseas legal proceedings or provide or pay for legal representation for participants;
      • Cannot ensure that home-country cultural values and norms will apply in the host country.
      • Cannot fully replicate home campus support services at overseas locations;
      • Cannot assume responsibility for the actions of persons not employed or otherwise engaged by Overseas Study, for events that are not part of the program, or that are beyond the control of Overseas Study and its subcontractors, or for situations that may arise due to the failure of a participant to disclose pertinent information.
  • Responsibilities of Participants

    In study abroad, as in other settings, participants can have a major impact on their own health and safety abroad through the decisions they make before and during the program and by their day-to-day choices and behaviors.

    Participants should:

    1. Participate fully in all orientations before departure and on site, and read and carefully consider all information provided by Overseas Study that relates to safety and health conditions in host countries.
    2. When applying for or accepting a place in a program, consider carefully their health and other personal circumstances, and assume responsibility for them after acceptance.
    3. Make available to Overseas Study accurate and complete physical and mental health information and any other personal data that are necessary in planning for a safe and healthy study abroad experience.
    4. Obtain and maintain supplementary health insurance coverage and liability insurance, if required, and abide by any conditions imposed by the carriers.
    5. 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 on an ongoing basis.
    6. Understand and comply with the terms of participation, codes of academic and ethical conduct, and emergency procedures of the program, and obey host country laws.
    7. Once on site, 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 the program staff or other appropriate individuals.
    8. Become familiar with the procedures for obtaining health and law enforcement services in the host country.
    9. Avoid substance abuse of all kinds.
    10. Follow the program policies for keeping program staff informed of their whereabouts and well-being, especially when travelling away from the program site.
    11. Behave in a manner that is respectful of the rights and well-being of others, and encourage others to behave in a similar manner.
    12. Accept responsibility for their own decisions and actions.
  • Recommendations to Families

    In Study Abroad as in other settings, parents, guardians, and families can play an important role in the health and safety of participants by helping them make decisions and by influencing their behavior overseas.

    When appropriate, parents/guardians/families should:

    1. Through their student participants, obtain and carefully evaluate health and safety information related to the program, as provided by Overseas Study and other sources.
    2. Be involved in the decision of the participant to enroll in a particular program.
    3. Engage the participant in a thorough discussion of safety and behavior issues, insurance needs, and emergency procedures related to living abroad.
    4. Be responsive to requests from Overseas Study for information regarding the participant.
    5. Keep in touch with the participant.
    6. Be aware that some information may most appropriately be provided by the participant rather than the program.

These guidelines were adapted from the NAFSA Interorganizational Task Force on Safety and Responsibility (May 2002), as approved by Indiana University's Overseas Study Advisory Council.