You are here

Orienting Students


Orientation Topics for Program Leaders

Student pre-departure orientation is a critical step to ensure that students stay safe, healthy and happy while on travel study.  Orientation will occur in several parts; students will participate in the mandatory the Travel and External Study Office facilitated orientation, as well as pre-departure and on-site orientations facilitated by you, their Faculty Leader.

Your role in this process is to ensure that your students are organized and prepared before departure, have a positive experience once your course begins, and manage their expectations throughout the process.

Plan on reviewing all necessary course information for your own course in your pre-departure and on-site orientations with students.  Please invite the Travel and External Study Coordinator to attend one of your pre-departure meetings so that we can help answer students’ general questions.

The Mandatory Student Pre-Departure Orientation

The Travel Study orientation reviews important risk management, health awareness, leadership training, and cultural adjustment issues. Sessions focus on developing a team culture in an effort to promote global citizenship. Pre-departure orientation helps to prepare students logistically, as well as provide a space to meet others going on travel study. The Travel and External Study Office offers two orientation sessions. Orientations are approximately four hours in length.

Program-Specific and On-site Orientations

Part of your job as the Faculty Leader is to orientate students to the culture of the host location and mentor them on a range of social, academic and other practical issues.

Meet with your students (at least twice) before departure to discuss your course, answer questions, prepare logistics, and allow students meet one another. Use your pre-departure meetings to lay the groundwork for a positive and enriching travel study experience, collect necessary paperwork, and plan emergency procedures for the duration of the course.

On-site orientation topics may cover a range of logistics, some may include:  keys, deposits, passport issues, maps, and sharing details concerning facilities and housing.

What to do now:

1) Schedule pre-departure meetings with your students (remember to invite the Travel and External study Coordinator) to one meeting

2) See list below. Plan on reviewing the necessary pre-departure information with your students at your meeting(s)

3) Additional Questions?  Please Contact the Travel and External Study Office

Health Screening, Vaccinations & Insurance

  • Basic health and safety issues are covered in the mandatory student orientation. Make students aware of any country and/or site specific health concerns and possible risks/exposure. Provide resources for more information, but do not dispense medical advice!
  • Students must complete a self-disclosure health survey with their application. Some student may be required to obtain additional information prior to departure
  • Student Counseling Services is a great resource for students traveling to locations outside of the United States. The center offers pre-travel counseling, advice on needed prescriptions, Vaccinations may be necessary for travel to certain locations, and a health professional is the best person to give these recommendations.
  • Additional international health information can be obtained at the CDC website:
  • Otis College requires that all participants obtain International travel insurance. Information regarding this policy can be found on the travel study website

Passports & Visas

  • Students are responsible for having all necessary travel documents or visas for the course or program. The Travel and External Study Office does not provide assistance with travel documents or visas.
  • Make sure all your students are allowing adequate time to apply for and receive their passports:
  • Be sure to check all entry requirements for your destination, some countries require visas. Many countries require passports to be valid for up to 6 months after departure from the country. For more info:
  • Non-US citizens participating in your course or program may have different entry requirements, so these students need to check with the destination consulate/embassy to verify what additional documents (if any) they need for entry/travel in the host country.
  • State Department “Tips for Traveling Abroad”


Please cover all of the following topics with your students before the program begins. Use your Leader & Safety Guide as a reference.


Flights & Contact Info

  • Organize a meeting place for all students at the start of the program. This may be en-route to the final destination, the group hotel, classroom site, etc. Make sure students have very clear directions (in English and the local language) and a good idea of how to get there.
  • The Faculty Leader should be available and easy to contact on site prior to students’ designated arrival dates (unless traveling with students). Make sure students have your contact information and a back-up plan.
  • Set out clear guidelines ahead of time for what students should do if they do not arrive at the initial meeting place as planned.
  • Address how to access money and any other logistical issues related to traveling to the meeting point.

Basic Needs: Housing & Food

  • Provide info about housing arrangements, regulations, etc. Establish clear expectations for students regarding housing, policies, property damage, etc.
  • If students are staying in “home-stays”, discuss specific cultural norms and practical issues. Address concerns and encourage dialogue if problems arise on site.
  • Discuss dining and food options, costs, local customs, any food risks.
  • Discuss local alcohol laws and culture, and risks associated with excessive drinking.

Local Transportation

  • Availability and use of local transportation. Point out which modes of transportation are preferred, those recognized as unsafe, general costs associated, and how to purchase tickets.
  • Discuss hitchhiking, motorcycles, and other tempting yet unsafe modes of transportation.


  • General introduction to the community and its physical surroundings.
  • Give details about living and traveling conditions with as much detail as possible to avoid “surprises” and student concerns.
  • Discuss what it will be like to live and travel as a large group. Address apprehensions about privacy, personal time, etc. Students will need to share, cooperate, and sacrifice individual needs and look after the group.


Local Program Site Information

Address in-country, weather conditions and suggest items to pack (i.e. comfortable walking shoes). Discuss appropriate attire, both in regards to climate, as well as cultural expectations.

Cultural Behavior

  • Remind students of their important role as ambassadors of Otis College and U.S. while abroad.
  • Discuss what it means to be an American student/traveler in an international context.
  • Discuss cultural norms and traditions, gender roles, communication styles, etc. of host country.
  • Mention normal aspects of culture shock and let students know they can and should come to you if they are having trouble at any time throughout the trip.

Communications, Banking & Money

  • Highlight facilities for mail, internet and telephones.
  • Set expectations for frequency of access to phone and internet. Encourage students to set communication frequency expectations with family and loved ones before the leave.
  • Laptops and cell phones: To bring or not to bring? Discuss in relation to required coursework.
  • Help students plan how much money of their own they will need during the program (consider financial emergencies here, as well).
  • Explain options and any barriers to managing money on-site (ATMs, banks, exchange rates, cash, travelers checks, credit cards).
  • Discuss non-program-related travel: When is it okay and when is it not okay?
  • Inform program leader of travel plans and leave contact addresses and/or phone numbers for use in emergency situations.
  • Students are responsible for all costs and safety issues of non-official program travel.


Non-Program (Personal) Travel

Academic Expectations

  • Go over syllabus and program itinerary with students, answer questions, and discuss “what to expect” related to workload, travel, group work, learning outcomes, etc.
  • Grading for Travel Study is often based on non-traditional “work.” Make sure students are well-aware of expectations and what their grades are based on. To avoid confusion and conflict, put it in writing!

Behavioral Management

  • Discuss expectations (yours and theirs) for living, studying, traveling, and functioning as individuals and as a group. Consider creating a group “code of conduct” for the program. This can facilitate discussion and be a tool you can refer to if/when behavior issues arise.
  • Remind students that they are bound by the Student Code of Conduct and all local laws (that may be very different from U.S. laws) at all times during the program. Discuss with students how you will handle behavioral and disciplinary issues during the program.
  • Discuss local laws concerning drug use, political activism, and other risky behavior, etc.
  • Students may need to discuss and process the things they are experiencing on the program. Plan time for (and encourage) reflection and feedback between you and the students from the start of the program.
  • Encourage your students to consult with the Student Counseling team that work in Student Life to discuss any issues fears or concerns that may come up in the health screening survey or in orientations.

Health & Safety

Emergency Planning

  • What to do, where to go, and who to contact in case.
  • How to get a hold of faculty leaders and other key local contacts.
  • Assure students that an Emergency Action Plan has been developed for all international programs, and that you are prepared.
  • Distribute emergency contact cards to all students.
  • Ask students to make you aware of their personal medical/ health considerations, so that you can facilitate appropriate care as needed.

Review of medical and health facilities

  • Remind students that they are responsible for ALL medical expenses in country and they are required to purchase travel health insurance (usually provided by the Program Provider).
  • Go over the Emergency Contact Card with students, fill in appropriate local contacts and instruct students to have this card with them at all times.
  • Outline local medical facilities and norms for patient care in the country.
  • Discuss the importance of having funds available for payment of medical and drug bills.
  • Guide students to take charge of their own health while abroad. For routine medical issues students should be able to finds a clinic and a doctor through the Program Provider or GeoBlue insurance and should plan for this possibility before traveling. Leaders should obviously help a very ill student, but need not to be fully responsible for basic health maintenance. Non-emergency clinic visits need to be scheduled in advance in order to be free at the time of service. Student can pay and be reimbursed for last minute non-emergency clinic visits.


Discuss country-specific safety concerns in as much detail as possible

  • Areas, neighborhoods, types of transportation to avoid
  • Common crimes of concern, and tricks used to dupe foreigners
  • Common gender roles and customs, and any specific safety concerns for women
  • Alcohol and drug use (local norms & laws, program expectations)
  • Traveling alone
  • Water/ food safety
  • Sex related (harassment, assault, STDs, HIV/ AIDS, etc. )
  • Establish a common code for group safety, watching out for each other, etc.