Faculty & Advisors

AIFS Study Abroad Health and Safety

AIFS considers the health and safety of students studying abroad to be our first priority. We take a comprehensive approach to minimizing risk and preparing students for their time abroad. We are also fully prepared to respond to any health or safety issue that may arise. With over 50 years of experience in administrating international education and exchange programs around the world, our policies and procedures related to health and safety are extremely effective, and our record is excellent. Additionally, we closely monitor what is being discussed in our field regarding student health and safety, and we remain responsive to the needs of our college and university partners. We continually look for ways to enhance the level of support and service we provide to both students and our partners.

We believe that health and safety is shared responsibility between AIFS and our students, their parents and their home universities. Our approach begins when a student applies to an AIFS program and continues through to the completion of their time abroad.

Admissions – Located in our Stamford Offices is a team of eight Admissions Officers who manage the application, admissions and preparation process for each program. They guide students through the application process, visa, pre-departure preparation and all details related to their specific program. They are readily available to answer students’ questions and to ensure that all requirements are met.

Student Handbook – Each student is provided with a handbook that provides them with comprehensive information about their program providing extensive details and advice to help prepare them for their time abroad. The handbook also addresses the student role in helping to ensure their health and safety while abroad.

AIFS Resident Directors – Central to our health and safety plan and the support we provide students while abroad are our Resident Directors. They are professional staff who are either host country nationals or individuals who have lived in the host country for many years, and where applicable are fluent in the local language. Most of RDs have been with AIFS for many years, with several having served for more than 30 years. Our Resident Directors have extensive contacts in the local community and access to resources that may be required to assist with any situation that may arise.

On-site Orientation – All students are required to participate in a formal orientation upon arrival. The orientations are designed to help students begin the process of adjusting to a new culture, and a key component of the orientation stresses health and safety and student conduct. Resident Directors conduct the orientation and they use local resources where applicable to provide important information.

Code of Conduct – All students are provided with a written code of conduct, which they are required to acknowledge and sign. Additionally, all students sign a General Release as a part of their application where they acknowledge that they are responsible for the rules and requirements of program participation. In the release students agree that AIFS can and will inform their home school and parent(s) in the event of a health, safety or behavior issue.

Early Intervention – We recognize that student choices regarding the use of alcohol or other potentially risky behaviors are often at the root of health and safety issues and incidents. Throughout the duration of the study abroad program our Resident Directors observe student activities and actions. If concerns arise they consult with senior staff in our Stamford and London Offices. Our approach is always to intervene early to encourage students to change their behavior before an incident occurs.

 

Protocols for Incident Response

24-7 Emergency Service – In our Stamford, CT office we are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Students, parents, school administrators, and our Resident Directors can reach a Duty Officer to report an incident and initiate response protocols.

Resident Director Response – In most cases, our local Resident Directors are the first to become aware of a health or safety incident. Their first priority is to seek whatever support is immediately required for the student(s) involved, such as medical attention, transport to a hospital, involvement of local authorities, etc. Resident Directors will accompany students to the required medical facility to assist with consultation, translation, etc. When an incident involves a criminal act of any kind the RD will urge the student to file a police report. At the earliest possible moment the RD will report the incident through the emergency communication system described above. The RD will also notify our London Office as well. Often times, especially when an incident occurs on one of our European campuses, the added support provided by that office is very helpful.

Internal Communication and Emergency Response – AIFS takes a team approach to responding to emergencies, and the severity of the incident/emergency will dictate the involvement of staff in the process. Any serious incident or situation will be immediately communicated to our Stamford-based AIFS Study Abroad Executive Director and AIFS Risk Manager, and our London-based Director of Programs. Response decisions will be made by this group, which collectively has extensive experience in managing and responding to emergencies.

Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) – Any incident involving the need for medical attention, hospitalization, evacuation or other related on-site support services will result in the immediate opening of a case with CISI and Team Assist. All AIFS students are provided comprehensive coverage through CISI, which is included in the program fee. CISI is one of the largest and most experienced insurance providers in the field of international education and exchange. They provide services to more than 150,000 students each year. The included Team Assist plan provides participants with worldwide 24-hour emergency telephone assistance. They are also our resource for finding local services, whether they are medical facilities, medical specialists, mental health professionals or counseling support. A case officer is assigned and will manage the care required all the way through to evacuation, should that become necessary.

With regard to crisis management support, CISI receives daily notifications from our Security Assistance provider with information about countries around the world who are on the radar for security concerns or have had warnings issued in relation to severe weather conditions, natural disasters or political or military unrest. Daily, Senior Management reviews these notifications. If an event takes place that has the potential to affect our participants, a roster of individuals is pulled for the location and a Crisis Team Member will contact our partner institutions with information on the occurrence and to look for confirmation of whether or not students on our list could possibly be impacted based upon their proximity to the event. If there are concerns over the security of students, our Assistance Provider is contacted immediately to start the process of reaching out to your students using any contact information we have to ensure their safety and well-being.

U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories – State Department advisories are an important component of our evaluation of safety related to our program locations and our response to crises when they occur. The Travel Advisory Level system introduced in 2017 has not significantly changed our approach to evaluation of and response to State Department information. A Level 4 Advisory is a clear indication that a location is not suitable as a program destination, or for student travel to that country from another location. The level 4 Advisory is equivalent to the previous “Travel Warning” and AIFS will not operate programs in locations with this advisory. In the unlikely event the State Department would issue a new Level 4 Advisory for a country where an AIFS program is running, an emergency evacuation protocol would be initiated.

A Level 3 Advisory requires a careful evaluation of the situation and environment related to our program’s location. Should the Advisory directly raise safety concerns in our specific program location and surrounding region, emergency protocols would be initiated. However, if the Advisory results from concerns about regions in the country to which students will not be exposed, the AIFS program would continue to operate. Our local staff would share information with students and reiterate the need for precautions. Our standard protocols for advising and reminding students about safe practices and taking necessary precautions are always emphasized countries with Level 1, 2, or 3 Advisories.

If an event takes place that has an immediate impact on a concentrated area that we have confirmed students we immediately send this information to our Assistance provider to begin the process of contacting students to check on their safety and offer assistance if needed. During this process, a member of the AIFS staff will be in contact with our school partners to provide updates on the current status and location of students affected, and the steps that we, in conjunction with our Assistance and Security Provider, plan to take next. If this event triggers security evacuation coverage, CISI Crisis Team works in conjunction with our Security Assistance Provider, the responsible member at the partner institution and the students to extract the students from the area affected and get them to a location of safety.

Student safety is in the forefront of our minds at all times. CISI has a designated Security Committee scheduled for evenings and weekends to monitor notifications as well as general news alerts from sources like CNN, MSNBC and BBC News. Should an event arise that requires our attention, CISI act on it the same way we would during normal business hours.

Reporting to the Home School and Parents – Any incident involving a student’s health, safety, or other issue that raises a concern about student and could affect their ability to complete their program will be reported to the home institution by our Stamford staff at the earliest possible opportunity. Our first priority is to attend to the involved students’ needs on site, and to then to initiate the reporting process. AIFS also reserves the right to contact parents of students involved. While it is our preference that students contact their parents directly, if they are unable or unwilling to, AIFS will assume that responsibility. Incidents, whether they are medically related or involve student behavior, may result in a student not being able to complete their study abroad program. AIFS will consult with the students’ home schools in these situations in order to discuss the appropriate course of action.

We recognize that in the internet age, emails, posts to Facebook and other social media outlets and phone calls from students abroad to friends or family at home can occur almost instantly when an incident occurs. As stated above, our priority on site is to first attend to the needs of the student(s); to activate emergency support services as needed and to then initiate communications to inform and include all those who need to know.

Over our long history of managing study abroad programs around the world AIFS has had to effectively respond to a diverse array of incidents and situations. Our institution knowledge is extensive and the resources we have developed, both in terms of what is required “on the ground” to manage an incident, as well what is needed from our resources as an organization, are significant. AIFS will continue to deliver its study abroad programs with exceptional health and safety record.

 

Clery Act, Title IX and the Violence Against Women Act

AIFS is committed to supporting the Home Institutions’ compliance and regulatory requirements related to the Clery, Title IX and VAWA. AIFS will:

  • Report on the status of a victim of a crime regardless where the incident occurred.
  • Promptly respond, investigate and (where called for) take action to address unequal treatment on the basis of sex.
  • Implement measures to protect the health, safety, security and integrity of all parties involved should there be a reporting of threat or harm against a student.
  • Provide prompt response services to any victims which include access to counseling, medical assistance, resources and the opportunity to report to local law enforcement (as well as the choice not to report).
  • Have our Resident Director staff based overseas on our campuses serve as Campus Security Authorities, and be trained on the responsibility of this role.
  • Ascertain the crime statistics and safety for our study abroad campuses by obtaining detailed Intelligence Briefings from our Security Assistance Provider, Ijet. These briefs include up-to-date information on such areas as civil unrest, crime, security services, terrorism, and kidnapping, with a rating scale for each category.

In addition, we will notify the home institution in the event of:

  • Any situation or problem which threatens a Student’s successful completion of the Program.
  • A Student’s death, serious injury or illness, arrest or disappearance.
  • The physical or sexual assault of a Student.
  • A Student’s experiencing unwanted sexual behavior, sexual harassment, relationship violence or stalking.
  • A Student is accused of unwanted sexual behavior, sexual harassment, violence or stalking.
  • A criminal act committed against a Student.
  • A student’s failure to attend required program activities without adequate explanation.

 

Conclusion

AIFS is committed to providing its participants a study abroad experience of the highest quality, enabling them to pursue their academic and career objectives in an environment designed to protect their health and safety.