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Health & Safety

Three students smiling with a mountain view in the background.

AIFS Approach to Health & Safety

AIFS considers the health and safety of students to be our first priority. We take a comprehensive approach to preemptively 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 while they’re there. With almost 60 years of experience, 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.  

Included in a student’s AIFS tuition, they will receive program cancellation/interruption insurance, baggage coverage, and financial security, a unique policy that protects every student’s payment and guarantees they will receive the services included in the program. 

We continually look for ways to enhance the level of support and service we provide to students. 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. This “peace of mind” commitment has been meaningful to students who have studied with us over the years, even amidst uncertain times. 

We have developed tested systems to help manage a wide range of scenarios in each of our program locations. The information we act upon is based on recommendations from the U.S. Department of State’s travel warnings, local law enforcement in our overseas destinations, NAFSA, NACE and the World Health Organization.  

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

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

Lastly, we understand that moving to a new city or country is an exciting challenge that takes adaptation to be successful. For this reason, we offer many of our events during the early stages of the program to increase contact with staff, encourage socialization and bonding as a group, and build familiarity with the host city.

Coronavirus Information

The AIFS Abroad Team continues to modify a flexible plan which reflects the ever-changing realities of running a program in a pandemic. We have learned a lot since the onset of COVID-19 and continue to gather information from multiple sources to make sound and timely decisions. 

AIFS is vigilant in monitoring updates from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. State Department. We also consult with a third-party travel security specialist that advises us on the risks associated with travel to different areas in the world. 

The countries which require self-isolation/proof of a negative test are ever-changing. 

Ensuring that students are tested before departure will be done by comprehensive pre-departure advising and in collaboration with our students who have a due-diligence to ensure they have done everything necessary to be eligible to travel.  

Should students be required by a host country’s mandate to quarantine upon arrival, then that will be a mandatory requirement to our program. Failure to adhere to quarantine protocols will result in expulsion from the program. AIFS Abroad will work with a variety of housing providers to ensure our participants will be looked after. They will receive daily check-ins, meal delivery, etc.

AIFS Abroad uses a variety of housing options for students around the world. This could be student residences, apartments, hotels, and homestays. We are focusing our accommodation to be single occupancy, but in some locations, this is not possible. In locations where we use Student Residences / Apartment buildings, we will be following their visitor restriction policies. 

All host families have received additional training regarding COVID protocols for their local area. If someone in the house tests positive for COVID-19, the appropriate officials will be contacted and the correct quarantine steps will be put in place. If the person is very ill, they will go straight to the hospital. If they are well enough to stay at home, they will be quarantined along with other family members as required by the authorities. If needed, we have access to additional accommodation so students can quarantine in private rooms if needed. 

We work closely with our partner universities’ guidelines so that students can safely attend class. These guidelines include caps on class size to allow for social distancing, the spacing of desks to comply with current requirements, cleaning of classrooms and high traffic areas regularly, access to hand sanitizer at entrances and enforcing mask-wearing where obligatory. In our own facilities, we will follow the same guidelines as required locally. These may change as local circumstances dictate. 

If face-to-face classes need to be suspended for any reason, we will continue with a virtual delivery model, allowing participants to finish the academic portion of the program (thereby not losing progress towards degree completion).

We are constantly monitoring the entry regulations for our countries which are fluid and in all cases, we would defer to local regulations. These are legal requirements, not imposed by AIFS. It is in your best interest to continue to monitor entry and exit requirements.

As vaccinations continue around the world, evidence collected by a variety of health organizations indicates that fully vaccinated people are less likely to be impacted by significant symptoms and therefore potentially less likely to transmit COVID-19 to others.

We continue to monitor the information from our host countries and advise participants as entry protocols change. Starting with our Spring 2023 programs AIFS will be strongly recommending participants have COVID-19 vaccinations (including booster doses) but will not be mandating vaccinations.

While AIFS Abroad recommends a COVID vaccination/booster it may be a requirement of your host country or host institution. It is in your best interest to research and be aware of country protocols when you are looking to apply for abroad programs.

Covid-19 Boosters

AIFS Abroad continues to monitor US government and host country government policies regarding international travel and related restrictions to ensure the health and safety of our students abroad. The booster protocols add increased protection from breakthrough cases.

In accordance with our vaccination policy, AIFS will be recommending that students obtain booster doses (based upon timing of your final vaccination) to be considered fully vaccinated. Please work with your Program Manager or Program Advisor directly if you have questions.

Based on regulations that are changing daily, without a booster your movement in your host country may be restricted, your ability to travel independently may be negatively impacted and AIFS/GE will not be able to deliver the educational program for which you enrolled.

As such it is AIFS Policy that should you remain either unvaccinated or un-boosted against COVID-19 at the start of your AIFS program, you are fully and solely responsible for any additional costs.

Incident Response Protocols

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. 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. 

The majority of our RDs are native to the area they are working in. The networks that they’ve established with local authorities, U.S. Consulate and Embassy personnel and local resources help to ensure the highest level of care and ability to respond to unexpected events

Students, parents, school administrators, and our Resident Directors can reach a Duty Officer in our Stamford, CT office to report an incident and/or initiate further response protocols. 

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.  

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. A case officer is assigned and will manage the care required all the way through to evacuation, should that become necessary. 

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/military unrest. Daily, 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.  

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. 

AIFS will consult with students’ home schools in situations where a student cannot complete their program due to a health or behavior incident in order to discuss the appropriate course of action. 

AIFS also reserves the right to contact the families of students involved. 

We recognize that in the internet age, emails and social media posts from students abroad to friends or family at home can occur almost instantly when an incident occurs. 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. 

Safety Compliance

All participants who are over the age of 18 are legally responsible for their own behavior while abroad. We regard the opportunity to live in a new city as a privilege that also comes with the responsibility of being a good representative of your home country, your university and yourself.  

To ensure the personal safety of all participants on our programs, AIFS has set forth standards of behavior that we expect students to uphold while participating in our programs. Failure to adhere to these standards may result in expulsion. These standards can be found in our terms and conditions which all participants sign as part of their application. 

Safety Resources

Each student is provided with a handbook that includes 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. 

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. 

During this orientation, RDs will begin encouraging students to travel in pairs or groups and to familiarize themselves with a variety of ways to travel around their new city, including public transport, taxis and Uber. Students will learn about well traveled routes.  

Participants will be advised to make a copy of their passport and keep it on their person while leaving their hard copy passport in a safe place in their accommodation. They should also keep medical insurance information with them. 

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. 

Safety Contacts

Each intern is required have an emergency contact listed on their application whom AIFS can notify in case of emergencies. It is equally as important that each intern keep their contact information updated and have the on-site Location Coordinator’s contact information on-hand.