Student Health & Safety

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The Safety of Your Students is our Highest Priority.

IES Abroad was the first study abroad provider to employ a full-time Dean of Students Office. This Chicago-based office establishes and oversees our health and safety guidelines, and consults with the IES Abroad Centers to maintain high standards of student support and safety. IES Abroad has dedicated student affairs staff at every IES Abroad Center.

The benefit of entrusting your students to IES Abroad is that student health, safety and crisis management is a cornerstone of what we do. In fact, we were the first study abroad provider to publish our own set of institutional standards for responding to international crises and for responding to individual student health, mental health, and safety emergencies abroad.

What to Expect

Prompt Communication - Whether your student falls ill or there is an incident in a city where you have students studying, you can expect to receive prompt and concise communication from us promptly, following the standards set forth in the IES Abroad map for student health, safety and crisis management. In a crisis that might affect our students, we also communicate with our students on site, as well as their parents, when circumstances warrant. Keeping students, parents, and university staff members like you informed of any health or crisis-related incidents where you have students on IES Abroad programs is of paramount importance.

Dean of Students Support: Pre-Departure & On-site – Based in Chicago, our Dean of Students office plays an important supportive role while students are abroad, but is also instrumental in helping them prepare for their health needs prior to departure. All students complete an IES Abroad Medical Form, and depending on how this is completed, a representative from the Dean of Students office may contact them to help make sure they are well prepared for their experience abroad.

Well-Informed Decisions – Our Crisis Management Team members and Center Directors receive regular updates from a variety of governmental and non-governmental sources that monitors any significant safety, security, health and travel-related developments worldwide, especially in those locations where we have students. Relevant alerts are shared with our students in a timely manner, in order to help them avoid, navigate and prepare for current or developing situations in or around the areas where they study with IES Abroad around the world.

On-the-Ground Support – In addition to support during an emergency, our staff members at each of our locations also help students with any day-to-day needs, such as finding an English-speaking doctor, or assisting them through an illness. We also offer access to English speaking counselors for students near each of our centers, on an as needed. Each IES Abroad center has a local crisis or contingency plan in place as well, which identifies local risks and how IES Abroad will respond to them in a crisis. Each plan identifies primary and secondary meeting points for students in a crisis. In the unlikely event that it becomes necessary, each center also has a plan for evacuating students to safety in a crisis or emergency. Our staff overseas discuss our extensive and thorough student health and safety standards, protocols and guidelines with students during their orientation, and again later, should the need arise.

Required Health Insurance – All IES Abroad students are required to have international health insurance through CISI, which provides comprehensive coverage throughout their IES Abroad program. The policy is specially designed for students traveling internationally, and it includes coverage for physical and some mental health issues, counseling, medical and other forms of evacuation, a bed-side benefit for students hospitalized for more than a few days, and more.*

Center & On-site Security - Every Center abroad has enforced security systems, and local staff have developed close relationships with local police. The Centers also receive regular updates from the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate regarding U.S. citizen safety. In general, IES Abroad Centers are not located near other American programs. We are often close to university campuses. In many programs, IES Abroad students live with local residents. Generally, IES Abroad students are not readily distinguishable from local students.


Our Health & Safety Protocols

Although it is impossible to anticipate everything, IES Abroad has extensive protocols in place for a wide variety of potential emergencies or crisis. We also have two fully staffed, well trained and experienced crisis management teams. Every IES Abroad location also has one or more designated staff members whose duties include providing student services on-site. The latter are supported by a Team of experienced student affairs professionals in our Dean of Students Office in Chicago.

These are just a few examples of the myriad ways in which IES Abroad proactively strives to promote and preserve the health and safety of our students. You can read more about our protocols and processes in the IES Abroad MAP for Student Health, Safety & Crisis Management.

IES Abroad has a very extensive set of protocols for health and safety that include:

Registering Students with the U.S. Embassy: Before departure, IES Abroad registers every student who is a U.S. citizen with the U.S. Embassy or consulate in their country of study via the U.S. Department of State’s online system. That way, in the unlikely event of a crisis or emergency evacuation, the Embassy or Consulate will already be aware of our students’ presence in the country.

Mandatory Orientation: Promptly upon their arrival at each IES Abroad Center, our students participate in a comprehensive mandatory orientation program that focuses on known health, safety, and security risks in the city or region and how best to avoid or mitigate them.

Required Cell Phones: All IES Abroad students are required to have a cell phone that works where they will be studying abroad, in order to help our staff members and students stay in touch in an emergency or crisis. Our students are instructed to keep their cell phones with them, charged, and turned on at all times, and to respond promptly to calls, emails and text messages from IES Abroad staff, especially in an emergency or crisis.

Emergency Contacts: During orientation, IES Abroad provides all students with a dedicated emergency telephone number that is available to them 24/7 for any type of crisis or emergency they might experience while they are abroad.

Provide Resources: Every student is provided with detailed information and written materials prior to and during orientation, with resources such as local maps, local emergency numbers, and specific instructions regarding various health, safety, and security issues. Each student also is given a small card to be carried with them at all times that contains the full contact information of the IES Abroad office and key on-site staff members, as well as the IES Abroad emergency phone number, and the local equivalent of “911” to reach local police, fire, and other emergency services.

Mandatory Crisis Drills: IES Abroad conducts a mandatory crisis management drill at each of its Centers at the beginning of every academic term or program. The primary purposes of these drills are to educate students on our system for reaching them swiftly in an emergency or crisis, to test how long it takes for our students to respond, and to verify the accuracy of the cell phone number our staff has on file for each student. Any students who fail to respond or are slow to respond are counseled by our on-site staff regarding the rationale underlying the drill and the reasons it is important for them to respond promptly. 

TriplTracker: Students going on independent travel are required to inform on-site IES Abroad staff of their specific travel plans before leaving town. This system is designed to help on-site IES Abroad staff locate traveling students swiftly in a crisis or emergency. They can either complete a paper travel form and leave it with on-site staff, or they can use the online web-based system IES Abroad makes available to them in order to log their travel itinerary and details into a secure, password protected website.

Local Crisis Plans: In addition to our extensive global crisis management plan, each IES Abroad Center around the world has its own local crisis management plan, as does IES Abroad Headquarters. These local plans identify key known risks and dangers in the city or region and explain what staff and students should do if and when they occur. They also specify predetermined primary and secondary meeting points for students and staff in a crisis, just in case telecommunications should be rendered unavailable temporarily in a crisis.

Prompt Communication: When a crisis occurs in a city or region where IES Abroad has a program or Center, we promptly notify our students studying in that location in order to make them aware, to provide them with instructions concerning where to go and what to do, and to confirm their location and safety. Once the students are located and their safety is accounted for, IES Abroad promptly emails their parents and the study abroad coordinators on their home campuses in order to make them aware of the situation, of IES Abroad’s response to it, and (most importantly) of the fact that their students have been accounted for and are safe.

Global Security Partner: IES Abroad partners with a global security firm that will assist in evacuating students, as well as IES Abroad on-site staff and their immediate families, from a city or region, if necessary, in the event of political or civil unrest and certain other types of crises.

Medical Consultant: IES Abroad has retained an experienced medical consultant to advise us on student health issues, to provide and review certain health-related messages and orientation content, and to help inform IES Abroad’s response in a crisis or emergency involving health issues.

Psychological Consultant: We have retained an experienced psychological consultant to advise IES Abroad on student mental health issues in an emergency or crisis, to serve on our Behavioral Intervention Team, and to help our on-site staff and our Dean of Students Office respond to serious student mental health issues.

Monitor Global Communication: Every day, members of the IES Abroad Crisis Management Team monitor multiple governmental, private security, and intelligence websites and sources to keep abreast of risks, incidents, and dangers in the countries where our Centers are located. Members of the Team promptly follow up with IES Abroad Center staff when threats appear, in case they might adversely impact our students. In these communications, the Crisis Management Team Chair often suggests proactive steps designed to keep our students well-informed and help them reduce the risk of harm to themselves (e.g., by instructing them to avoid planned protests or demonstrations as they can turn violent).

These are just a few examples of the myriad ways in which IES Abroad proactively strives to promote and preserve the health and safety of our students.

You can read more about our protocols and processes in the IES Abroad MAP for Student Health, Safety & Crisis Management.

*The coverage through CISI is subject to policy terms, conditions and exclusions. CISI an independent company and is not legally affiliated with IES Abroad.