Spring Break Trips
With Spring Break coming up, we want you to have a well-planned, safe Spring Break trip. In order to practice good risk management, please see the resources below prior to planning your trip.
The State Department has some great strategies for avoiding dangerous incidents. Just follow the link here to read about them, http://studentsabroad.state.gov/springbreak.php.
The State Department released a Travel Warning which strongly discourages travel to Mexico, and has provided a "Know Before You Go" guide with specific details and resources.
Planning Your Trip
Texas A&M University places a strong emphasis on the value of international experiences, and we applaud student organizations who choose to travel and serve abroad to achieve their organization's mission. Of course, there are risks inherent with international travel, and so it becomes increasingly important to plan comprehensively and far in advance for your event.
If your group is planning an event involving international travel, both the Department of Student Activities and the Study Abroad Programs Office will work with you toward a safe and successful experience. Please submit an Event Planning Form for your event, and staff members from the Student Organization Development & Administration team will respond with relevant procedures and recommendations. The Study Abroad Programs Office will assist in the coordination of the required travel notification and training, while also providing your organization with helpful resources for your travel abroad. Study Abroad has several resources available to help you prepare for travel abroad, including the Checklist and Pre-Departure Considerations found at the bottom of this page and the Short-Term Group Travel website. It is important that you begin working with this office a minimum of 3 - 6 months prior to departure. All regular components of the Student Travel Rule apply for your international trip.
Please note that undergraduates are not permitted to travel to foreign countries under a travel warning issued by the State Department (see http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis_pa_tw_1168.html for a list of countries under travel warnings), according to the university's Foreign Travel Rule. It may also be helpful to note that the Student Organization Finance Center has a Travel Card opportunity available for your organization to directly bill your account for airfare and hotel costs.
Resources and Safety Considerations
Some important safety considerations for international travel include the following:
- Ensure that you have all your necessary documentation. Participants will need signed, valid passports, and it is recommended that each person make two (2) copies of his/her passport - one to leave at home and one to bring on the trip. Should someone's passport become lost or stolen, having copies will facilitate a much easier replacement process.
- Read as much as you can about your travel destination. You should at least consult with the local laws and applicable public announcements or travel warnings/conditions for the country(ies) you are visiting. Find information about the currency exchange rates and any shopping restrictions. We also recommend that you familiarize your participants with the customs and norms of your destination.
- Establish your emergency procedures. Ensure that each participant leaves itinerary information with family members or friends at home, so that they can be contacted in case of an emergency. Provide each participant with emergency contact information that s/he can use at your destination, such as the phone numbers and addresses of your trip coordinators, country liaisons, and the closest United States embassy.
- Exercise caution and common sense during your trip. Attend to your luggage and belongings, especially during travel. Help your participants avoid being targets of crime by dressing inconspicuously and leaving any expensive belongings at home or in their hotel rooms.
- Take care with the food and beverages you consume while abroad. It is important to eat regularly and ensure you are obtaining your necessary vitamins to maintain good health while in a foreign country. Try to avoid uncooked meat and raw vegetables that have not been peeled. Be especially careful with drinking water, even the tap water you use in your bathroom.
CISI - Medical Insurance & Emergency Services
CISI insurance and emergency medical services are available to students participating in any type of international education experience, as well as all faculty who engage in educational activities overseas. The insurance premium is built into the Field Trip Fee paid to the Study Abroad Programs Office. This provides you and your trip participants with medical insurance and emergency serivces if treatment is needed while abroad.
Additional sources of information to help you plan a safe trip can be found at the following links:
- Students Abroad is an excellent place to start for information about documentation, embassies, emergency planning, health, local laws, and much more.
- At the U.S. Department of State website, you can apply for your passports or visa waivers, obtain the latest travel alerts and warnings, gather information about emergency assistance for travel abroad, and find helpful safety tips. This site also contains a great article about comprehensive planning for a safe and successful trip.
- The Global Safe Haven Network offers valuable information about security, health, finances, culture, entry/exit procedures, technology, and transportation for students studying or traveling abroad.
- The Center for Global Education hosts a Study Abroad Student Handbook that contains numerous valuable planning resources for your organization.
- "E-how.com" hosts a series of videos about safe travel abroad, covering such topics as obtaining passports and visas, encountering new cultures, and using foreign currency and languages. This may be a helpful supplemental source of information for students who prefer auditory or visual learning.