Prepare, Be Responsible, and Work With the Program
Michigan Technological University takes student safety and well-being very seriously. But we can’t guarantee a risk-free overseas environment any more than we can for students studying in the US. The best way to be safe during your study abroad experience is to be aware, be responsible, and follow the advice of Michigan Tech and your program staff.
It’s natural that students and parents have questions about the safety of study abroad. We have answers.
Mandatory Pre-departure Orientation
Students enrolled in Michigan Tech programs are required to attend Pre-departure 201 and 301. These orientation sessions focus on health, safety, and personal responsibility, including drug and alcohol use, and legal consequences that differ from US policies. Students work in teams to respond to mock scenarios and learn how to react to both common and emergency issues.
When they arrive in their country of choice students attend a third orientation that covers site-specific health and safety. Staff provides instructions on protocol for political crises, terrorist events, natural disasters, or other emergencies and gives each student a list of on-site emergency contacts.
Emergency Contact Information
Students, keep this information with you at all times. If it’s misplaced, request it from the resident director or host institution international office staff, or contact Michigan Tech’s Study Abroad Office (telephone: 906-487-2160, email: email@example.com):
- On-site staff (host university’s international office or resident director)
- Michigan Tech IPS office staff (906-487-2160)
- Michigan Tech Public Safety and Police Services (906-487-2216)
- Public Safety will contact IPS staff after business hours.
We strongly recommend that parents or guardians have a valid passport in case there is an emergency.
Students who follow simple recommendations are most likely to keep themselves safe and enjoy a great educational experience.
Take Safety Personally
There are many things you can do to minimize risk:
- Be aware of your surroundings and blend in. Dress like the locals. Don’t wear clothes with American slogans, cultural icons, or company logos.
- Avoid American hangouts and moving around the city with large groups of other Americans.
- Don’t visit areas known to be unsafe.
- Don’t use alcohol or other substances that impair your decision-making ability.
- Keep independent travel to a minimum and never go on off-program excursions alone. Travel with a companion, preferably a local citizen, and always leave an itinerary behind with the host family or resident director.
- Avoid crowds, confrontations, arguments concerning political or religious views, and public demonstrations of any kind.
- Draw on as many sources of reliable information as possible before making decisions—the US Consulate, host family members, on-site resident directors or program staff. Listen to their advice.
Handling Specific Situations
What happens if a student is asked to evacuate their host country?
Any decision to evacuate students from a study abroad site will be made largely on the advisories and warnings of the US State Department and after consultation with on-site staff. Should students be asked to evacuate, on-site staff (resident director and/or the host institution's international office) will provide instructions. Some program sites may have a predetermined emergency meeting place where students should go; or in other cases, students may be asked to remain with their host families or stay in residence hall rooms or apartments until further arrangements are made. As in all emergency situations, it is important that students remain calm, not act impulsively, and follow instructions that are given by program staff or the US Consulate. Once students are safe, they should contact their family members in the US at the earliest available opportunity.
Parents are encouraged to contact the Michigan Tech International Programs and Services office at 906-487-2160 to receive the latest information available (see Emergency Contacts). Parents may also email IPS for information. We strongly recommend parents or a designated emergency contact have a passport in case they need to travel to the student.
What happens to the credit if a student is evacuated or departs from a program prior to completing the term?
Michigan Tech works closely with institutional partners regarding course completion and fulfillment of academic objectives. Students will be able to work with our Dean of Students office and IPS to have exams proctored on campus or offered online in order to fulfill unmet course expectations abroad. In most instances, full or partial credit can be negotiated.
What roles do Michigan Tech, the host institution, and/or program providers have in an emergency response situation?
Michigan Tech reacts to emergencies abroad by working with a team of institutional partners in the US and abroad. Program providers have additional staff that work 24/7 to monitor situations around the world and are quick to inform us by phone or email when an emergency arises. In the case of host institutions where a provider relationship does not exist, emergency response and decision-making are equally shared by Michigan Tech and that institution. Our host institutions have developed protocols unique to their campuses and IPS staff travels as regularly as possible for site assessments.
Are there guidelines on what students can or cannot do abroad?
All students who study abroad through one of Michigan Tech’s programs complete an Illegal Drug Use Policy and Waiver of Liability and Hold Harmless Agreement as part of the application process. By agreeing to the terms in these forms, students acknowledge that they will comply with Michigan Tech’s student conduct policies at all times. In addition, students must follow their host institution and/or program provider’s policies. In some cases, there may be conduct rules unique to a particular site or country that students are required to abide by, including certain travel, cultural rituals, or extracurricular activities that are prohibited for safety reasons.
Know the Plan
It’s important to step back from the initial fear-based impulse and view the situation through a rational lens that separates fact from rumor.
Emergencies and Emergency Procedures
Fortunately, true emergencies are rare. You may lose your luggage, your plane ticket, or even your passport. That’s certainly inconvenient, but not an emergency. Emergencies are situations that are an immediate threat to a student or staff member’s health or safety.
Michigan Tech has developed a detailed Emergency Response Plan that allows us to respond quickly and effectively to ensure the safety and well-being of our students. We also work with a team of health, safety, and security experts to proactively monitor conditions abroad, as well as a team of first responders to handle situations as they arise.
- The first point of contact is our office. Call 906-487-2160, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, Eastern Standard Time, or 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, from June–August.
- After 5 p.m. Eastern Time, and on weekends or public holidays, call Michigan Tech Public Safety at 906-487-2216.
- Parents may also e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students should develop a communication plan for regular contact with their parents or guardians to keep them informed about their safety, well-being, and travel plans.
Our top preparedness tip: Know how to use the telephone and have a calling card or other means of using the telephone in the countries that you are visiting on your own or as part of the program. And a second reminder: Ask your parents or designated emergency contact to obtain a passport so they can come immediately to help if needed.
Emergencies Abroad for Michigan Tech Exchange/Consortium Participants
If you see an emergency or have an emergency, your first call after you have attended to any life-threatening matters should be to the designated contact at your host institution. You should also contact Michigan Tech IPS at 906-487-2160.
- Before you leave the United States, get the address and phone number of the US Consulate or Embassy closest to your host cities from http://www.usembassy.gov/.
- When you arrive in the host country, register with the US Embassy or Consulate. You’ll provide them with information on the length of your stay and how to reach you.
- If you are not a US citizen, register with the embassy of your passport country.
- Ask about available emergency procedures and resources when you arrive at your host institution.
- Develop a plan before you leave for checking in regularly via phone or email with your parents or others concerned with your safety and well-being. People need to know how to get in touch with you, especially if you are away from your program city or traveling on your own before or after the program. If there is a serious illness or death in your family, loved ones will need to reach you. They will also want to be in touch to hear your voice and make sure you’re OK if there is a crisis in the US or elsewhere.
- If an emergency requires you to leave your program and return to the US for any length of time, notify your program director, coordinator or group leader.
- Make sure that someone always knows where and how to contact you in an emergency and knows your schedule and itinerary when you are traveling. If you have any questions or concerns about safety or emergencies before your departure or during your study abroad program, contact your program leader or IPS.
There are many on-line resources that provide safety information for travelers in general or specifically for study abroad students. We’ve listed some of the most helpful:
- Association for International Road Safety
- Federal Aviation Administration: Security tips for travelers and information on aviationsafety.
- Promoting Safety in Study Abroad: Covers the role students, parents, and sponsors play, taken from The Parent's Guide to Study Abroad by William Hoffa
- Studyabroad.com Handbook for Students
- The Center for Global Education, SAFTI INFO
- US Embassies Recommendations to Americans Abroad
- US State Department—Your Safety
- US State Department General Site
- US State Department Travel Advisories and Warnings
- US State Department Travel Publications
- OSAC—Overseas Security Advisory Council