Changes have recently been made to the University’s international travel policy in hopes of improving the study abroad experience for University members traveling overseas.
According to John Godfrey, chair of the International Travel Oversight Committee, there are three major changes being made to international travel policy at the University, including an alteration to the University’s risk assessment of possible study abroad locations, a mandate that all student travelers have insurance and a requirement that students register with the University’s travel registry.
Godfrey said previous study abroad sites were determined based on State Department travel warnings, while the new policy allows the University to evaluate the risks of locations themselves and be more involved in the decision-making process of where to send students.
“The benefits are going to be enormous, as far as the University’s ability to support all of our travelers overseas in case they have any problems,” Godfrey said. “Study abroad is evolving … with this new policy at hand, we might be in a position to better evaluate current risks and conditions and make recommendations under certain circumstances for study abroad programs going forward.”
He added that the State Department travel warnings are useful, but can limit the study abroad experience of students.
“We’ve been considering this for a number of years — that our use of state travel warnings is easy for us to use … on the other hand it comes at considerable costs,” Godfrey said. “As a policy, we found ourselves ending programs in countries that did not have any considerable risks.”
According to a June 15 University press release, changes to the international travel policy were decided after Mark Tessler, vice provost for international affairs, consolidated a review of peer university study abroad policies.
“Knowing where our students and their mentors are and being able to reach them is absolutely essential in an emergency,” Tessler said in the release. “The low-cost insurance coverage provides a means to get assistance to them when needed.”
Godfrey said the required study abroad insurance may ease concerns of travelers and their families, particularly because it’s cost efficient since it’s valued at “a little over a buck and a quarter a day.” The insurance will provide full coverage, 24-hour emergency toll-free calls to English-speaking personnel and evacuation if needed.
While undergraduates have been required to have University study abroad insurance since 2008, the new policy requires everyone traveling through the University to have insurance, including faculty members and graduate students.
Godfrey said that while changes will be implemented in the fall, work must be done in the meantime to ensure the policy changes are managed well, including making the process of attaining insurance easier.
Andrew Miller, faculty director for the Center for Global and Intercultural Study, wrote in an e-mail interview that new policy changes will not negatively impact CGIS, but instead prove to be a great advantage for the University.
“Since these requirements to have travel registered and to have University international health and safety insurance have been in place for undergraduates since 2007, there really is no change for CGIS,” Miller wrote. “The change is to include graduate students, faculty and staff traveling on University business in the same requirements for health and safety reasons.”
Miller added that due to a number of international conflicts and natural disasters over the past year alone in locations such as Egypt, Japan and Syria, the changes to University policy will make it easier to locate individuals in these locations if disaster strikes.
“It is obviously much easier to deal with these situations if you know who all is there and what insurance they have — so it is a big benefit in being able to serve those who travel on University business and for academic reasons,” Miller wrote.