Planning your faculty-led trip: a guide for teachers and coordinators

Faculty-led planning made easy

At Alandis, we realize that organizing your first study abroad trip can be tremendously overwhelming. Many study abroad veteran faculty members still benefit from a solid to-do list to help get themselves organized.

With you in mind, we have put together the following list of great ideas for planning faculty-led trips to get you started.

Faculty-led trips have tremendous benefits for students.

Studying abroad gives faculty and students the rewarding opportunity to learn and grow outside their comfort zone. While abroad, students expand their networks, learn about other cultures and improve a second language

The results can positively transform faculty and students by improving their interpersonal skills, developing open-mindedness, improving their cross-cultural communication skills, and, what’s more, improving their strategic thinking and problem-solving ability.

Downloadable Step-by-Step Excel checklist to plan study abroad trips

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Trip Administration

How far in advance should we start planning a faculty-led trip?

Planning is essential while planning a faculty-led trip. 

Most professors don’t realize there can be many steps to getting approved, involving department heads, provosts, general counsel, and even the school dean. 

After that, it’s time to promote your trip, handle student applications and payments, and reserve flights and accommodation far enough in advance to get the best rates.

These require time; some trips take between 18 to 24 months, from beginning to completion. That’s why at Alandis, we like to get to it as soon as possible.

Meet with your Study Abroad Office

Find out all administrative steps to the study abroad process: 

All faculty leaders must submit a course proposal for Faculty-led Programs, outlining the course description, syllabus integrating how site visits enhance learning objectives, previous site experiences, role in the teaching load, and a signature approval by the department dean or program director. The OIP should provide the guidelines for developing it. 

It is also important to determine the submission deadlines for such proposals.

Get approval from your educational institution ASAP.

Normally, once a program has been approved, it will not have to seek approval yearly, only if there is a program update or an updated budget. But suppose it is your first time planning a faculty-led trip. 

In that case, firstly, you will need to get approval from your academic department before submitting your proposal. Then, the Faculty-led Study Abroad Review Committee will review and approve proposals. Keep in mind that in some institutions, it is needed to fill out a “Study Abroad Request for Approval” form.

Ask what study abroad providers your institution works with.

It is important to find out if you have to use these providers, or you can interview others too. Designing your program with their support to define which activities fit best with the course or program focus is a great help.

Study Abroad providers will help tremendously on-site, with contacts and local knowledge normally far beyond the faculty team. They also provide advantages such as increased liability cover, emergency plans, last-minute crisis avoidance, local vaccine knowledge, visa and passport guidance, and many other great benefits. 

Want to find out how Alandis can help make your study abroad trip a success?

Purchase students (and faculty) study abroad insurance.

Most study abroad offices already have insurance; read the policy in detail to see whether it is up-to-date and if it will cover what you have in mind for your trip.

The Faculty-led Coordinator will complete the health-insurance enrollment before trip departure for faculty leaders and students.

Find out how to market your program to students and what requirements to ask of them.

There are many ways to promote and market your program to potential participants; here are some ideas. Keep in mind that the recruiting strategies that are most successful are direct and personal.

  • Print materials, such as brochures, flyers, or posters. They should be simple and provide only the most important information and appealing images about the program. 
  • Website, blogs, and social media. These are great tools to share information with students by adding a link to the program website, where you can go more in-depth about the trip, such as dates, the travel plan, expenses, or even testimonials. 
  • Classroom visits. Visiting classes within your department or ones that may cover material related to your program syllabus is a great way to spread the word.
  • Informative sessions. These are the perfect opportunity to elaborate more about your program and answer any students’ questions.
  • Department outreach. Reach out to other departments with similar curriculums and share information about the program and its suitability for their students.

Ask about available funding.

Ask your educational institution what funds may be available to support students and faculty members on the trip. Such as if tuition fees cover some or all of this trip or if there are any scholarships or grants available.

Set a minimum and maximum of students for your trip

All the parties involved in the development of this trip (academic department, faculty leader) must collaborate to determine the minimum and maximum of students necessary for the program’s right outcome.

To decide how many students consider the draft budgets, departmental requirements and restrictions, lodging and transportation limitations while abroad, and how many students faculty members can manage effectively abroad.

Some institutions set a minimum number of students for a program themselves. In some cases, faculty are compensated based on that minimum number.

Finalize your budget

What budget can your students realistically afford? 

Make this a range that you’d be happy to work in, say on a 5-day program at $1500-2000 per person or a 12-day program at $3000-3500 per person.

What does the budget need to take into account? 

Generally, the program fee includes lodging, faculty expenses, health insurance, and academic-related costs. Other expenses like meals may or may not be included, but you should give your students a rough idea of out-of-pocket costs. 

Most program expenses are covered under one all-inclusive fee if you use a provider. Faculty flights, accommodations, and transportation should be of the same quality as students.

Organize your communication plan for students and their parents

It is important that you figure out what you need to communicate and how because there are different ways to do this, such as by email, letter, or phone call.

Email tends to win since it is quicker and easier, and you can make a spreadsheet with dates and messages to help you keep track.

Request student personal documentation

Our recommendation is to create a file or a spreadsheet where you can organize and easily access the required documentation such as health form, liability release form, passport number, and emergency contact information from all your students.

Organize necessary visas as early as possible

Visa requirements vary depending on each student’s citizenship, the country they are traveling to, and the length of the program.

If necessary, you should organize them as soon as possible because the process of getting them is long.

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Book airfare

Booking flights should be done far enough in advance to get the best rates. Flights are the main reason for significant price increases.

Organize for-credit swapping where appropriate

You may pay extra fees if you travel abroad and purchase with your credit card. 

Our recommendations to avoid foreign transaction fees are the following:

Exchange Currency Before You Travel

Visit your bank in the U.S. before you set off and exchange the dollars in your account for your destination’s local currency. 

Even though it is possible to exchange the money at your destination, the fees are way lower in the U.S.

Open a Credit Card That Doesn’t Have a Foreign Transaction Fee.

Many credit cards don’t have foreign transaction fees, and others offer extra benefits that can be helpful while traveling.

This option is a bit of a hustle, so we only recommend it for longer trips.

On another note, we suggest you let your bank know you’re traveling abroad if you need to use your usual credit card. On some occasions, banks cancel payments made abroad.

Organize and communicate a health and safety plan

At Alandis Travel, we have put together an in-depth guide if you’re unsure how to plan your study abroad health and safety protocols.

First, we recommend consulting the many reliable websites where travel requirements or alerts appear: U.S. State Department, embassies, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Then, inform the official authorities that you are on a study trip abroad. Register with the local U.S. Embassy through the STEP program, program-related travel registration, and get independent student travel tracking.

It would be a good idea to sign up for travel warning notifications, so you could always be up to date with the possible changes.

Downloadable Step-by-Step Excel checklist to plan study abroad trips

Where should we send you the brochure?

Planning the content

State your program objectives

The first step of planning the content is to state your objectives for the trip. What are the learning objectives of the course?

When designing your course, ensure students complete assignments you can grade. Methods for evaluation of performance might include research or reflection papers, essays, reports, projects, or journals.

Brainstorm how to achieve your stated objectives, including locations, themes, specific activities, and necessary expert knowledge

When you’ve already started the learning objectives, you’ll have to brainstorm how to fulfill them. 

Here are a few things to take into consideration:

  • How site visits enhance the learning objectives of the course.
  • The facilities and equipment you’ll need to deliver program content.
  • The types of visits, excursions, and cultural activities you’ll be doing in the curricular part of the program.
  • If you’re going to need a local expert or a guide.

Fix the best dates for your students and program

While figuring out what the best dates are for your program, there are a few things to take into account, such as:

  • If the destination is better at a certain time of year.
  • The academic calendar, when the student’s exams are fixed, and if they would be available for the trip.
  • When it would fit in best with the course syllabus.

Usually, dates for trips revolve around breaks from school. Therefore, the task of setting departure and return dates is simpler. 

Organizing your students

Collect, review and process student applications

Faculty members should interview the applicants after collecting and reviewing the students’ applications. The interview is important to get to know them, answer their questions, and see if they would be a good fit for the program.  

Confirm students on study abroad trip

After reviewing all the students’ applications, acceptance and denial letters must be written and sent. You’re ready to go when all accepted applicants have submitted a confirmation deposit!

Remember that the acceptance or rejection to join the program mustn’t discriminate based on gender, race, color, nationality, religion, age, disability, or sexual orientation.

Organize vaccinations

Vaccinations may be necessary for travel to certain locations. A local health professional is the best person to give these recommendations.

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Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash

Collect student payments

Students must pay for their program fees by the deadlines so that the institution can make timely payments for logistical arrangements. 

Hold a pre-departure meeting for students to know what to expect on the trip and be prepared.

Holding a pre-departure student orientation is usually mandatory for faculty-led programs. 

Students need to be oriented on cultural and logistical aspects of the program before departure and upon arrival. Also, it’s great to answer any immediate questions students have to put their minds at ease.

Don’t forget to include these points in your presentation:

Drinking and drugs

Discuss local laws concerning drug use, political activism, and other risky behavior; also, discuss local alcohol laws and culture and risks associated with excessive drinking.

Walking and physicality of the trip

It is important to inform your students about how much walking you’ll be doing daily, especially if they have any disabilities or difficulties.

Check your itinerary – what do students need to be aware of at each stop?

Are they required to wear certain clothing, or is it necessary to bring any equipment? 

Please ensure your students know what they need to bring on every visit or activity.

Standards of accommodation

Make a small summary of the accommodation, including the local area, the schedule, and the rules. If possible, include some photos too. There’s nothing better for getting everybody excited about their trip!

Shared bathrooms

Sharing bathrooms and rooms is a deal-breaker for some students. It is critical that you show complete transparency concerning accommodation.

Cultural tolerance and flexibility

While traveling abroad, cultural shock is pretty common. It is key to explain to your students the differences your destination has so they don’t take them by surprise.

Financial (what’s included and what’s not? What will they need extra money for?)

Tell them what meals and activities are included and which ones they need to bring money for.

Internet access and communication with home

Connecting to the internet and staying in touch with home is one of the essential points to bring up, especially while traveling abroad to another country or even a different continent. 

Internet access and phone call fees vary for each country, so let them know how it works.

Time changes, jet lag, and cultural timetable differences

When traveling abroad, time changes and jet lag are very common. Our recommendation to beat jet lag is to avoid taking long naps in the middle of the day; this way, you’ll adjust faster to the new time.

Timetable differences are also very typical, so don’t forget to let your students know about what times meals are. 

Organize social meetings between students to get to know each other and maximize the benefits of the trip

Often, students that join these programs don’t know each other. Therefore, organizing activities and meetings before the trip helps create a good environment.

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Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash

Get together to learn some basic cultural rules and language tips to make your arrival as smooth as possible.

As mentioned above, cultural shock is pretty common. So having activities and classes where they can all learn about their destination’s culture and language helps build community and is also educational.

Organize classwork before or after a trip to learn more about the destination or to help assimilate and deepen students’ understanding of essential elements of your trip

Organizing a meeting before or after the trip to put their heads together and share what they’ve learned about the culture of your destination is very helpful. These activities help them understand better what they have seen or are about to see and dissipate any questions they may have.

Let students know what to take with them (study abroad packing list)

Before the trip starts, sending the students recommendations about what to pack is a good idea. Remind them what the weather will be like, so they know what clothes to bring and if there’s any equipment they need.

Here’s a list of things they can’t forget:

Travel documents and copies: I.D., passport, insurance, and accommodation information.

Having paper copies and digital copies of these documents is highly recommended. 

Carrying your I.D. or passport with you throughout the trip is dangerous in case you lose it, or worse, it’s stolen. On most visits, it’s more than acceptable for you to show a copy of your passport instead of the original.

Required visa or travel waiver 

Most U.S. passport holders can enter most countries for a short-term stay without a visa, but there are exceptions. If your stay is longer than 90 days, you must obtain a student visa from the country where you will study abroad.

Keep in mind that requirements can change frequently. 

A list of critical telephone numbers: 

  • an emergency contact
  • the travel insurance provider
  • local authorities
  • the embassy or consulate
  • credit and debit card companies

We recommend writing all the emergency contacts on a card or a small piece of paper and carrying them in your wallet.

Local currency

Keep your cash safe while out and about with a money belt, and leave any you don’t need at home safely locked up with your luggage.

Prescriptions

Don’t forget to ensure you have enough to last the entire length of your trip.

Power adaptors

Your chargers or plugs may not work with international outlets, so check what plug you need for your destination.

Clothing and day pack with school supplies

Make sure you’re packing correctly concerning the weather and the activities you will be doing.

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Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash

While on the study abroad trip.

Do a quick headcount.

On some occasions, students travel on different flights. On other occasions, students disappear. Don’t forget to do a head count as often as possible; you don’t want to lose anyone yet!

Have an orientation meeting immediately upon arrival at your destination

As soon as you get to your destination, it is important to have an orientation meeting. 

During this meeting, at Alandis, we like to remind the students what their schedule will look like during the trip, some rules, and answer any questions they may have.

These kinds of meetings cover similar content to the pre-departure orientation.

Communicate your safe arrival.

Confirm the safe arrival of all program participants with the Study Abroad Office. 

Also, communicate to the parents that you’ve arrived; they always appreciate being kept in the loop.

Have exercises organized before/after each new location/activity to help students better assimilate new information and integrate it into their learning?

You’ve traveled halfway around the world to see the most amazing sites and do wonderful activities. You’ve chosen these places because they work wonderfully with your program syllabus. 

Creating meaningful exercises, breakdowns, talks, and summaries is essential to help students maximize their learning experience.

After your study abroad trip

Post-trip administration

Collect receipts and documentation for program expenses after the program is completed. Write and submit a final report on your project, including what went well and what didn’t, and what you will keep or change in future projects. Also, report any incidents that occur during your program.

Incorporate trip experiences into the program syllabus

Once back on campus, you’ll want to quickly work in any new student knowledge on relevant subjects into coursework so that they take on board as much from their trip as possible.

Schedule a post-trip debrief or series of meetings upon returning to campus to help students incorporate what they have learned into their ongoing academic experience on campus.

Request feedback from students, parents, faculty, and study abroad providers to look for possible improvements to your process on future trips

One of the most important things about the trip is ensuring everybody enjoyed it and thought it was worthwhile and meaningful. 

To ensure this, sending feedback questionnaires to students, their parents, faculty, and even your study abroad provider is an excellent idea. With feedback from various sources, you’ll quickly get an idea of what you did well and areas for improvement on future trips.

FAQs

Can I or any students travel before or after the trip?

In most cases, traveling on your own before or after the trip is possible. However, check with your educational institution to ensure this is not a problem.

Can students’ family members request to join the trip?

In most institutions, friends, family, and former students are not permitted to participate in organized group activities in study abroad programs.

But, if allowed, it should be discussed fully with the Faculty-led Coordinator before allowing program participation.

Do my students need visas to study abroad?

Visa requirements vary depending on each student’s citizenship, the country they are traveling to, and the length of the program. 

Check visa requirements on appropriate government websites, or ask your study abroad provider to give you information on the passport and visa process. Many study abroad providers will even manage this for you.

How do I get (or renew) a passport?

Passport renewal depends on your country of origin. 

For more in-depth information, go to your government site. Here are some examples:

Do all my students need a vaccination?

Vaccinations depend on the travel destination. A health professional is the best person to give these recommendations.
Proof of COVID vaccination, on the other hand, isn’t normally mandatory, but you would have to present a negative test.

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