Several University of Minnesota student groups lead volunteer and service programs abroad each year. Before you begin planning a program for a student group, the Learning Abroad Center recommends you consider the following:
On-Site Support & Location
Location & Safety
Students groups should carefully research current safety and security conditions in potential sites they may visit. The University of Minnesota does not encourage student groups to travel to countries under a travel warning. See US State Department Alerts and Warnings. See below for additional permissions should you decide to travel to a travel warning country.
University Requirements for Student Groups Traveling Abroad
Campus Life Programs (CLP)
Campus Life Programs are directly governed by University academic or administrative departments and for which the University is ultimately responsible. CLPs are required to follow the University Student Travel & Education Abroad: Health and Safety policy, which includes the following for each student:
- Registering their travel officially with the University;
- Signing a Student Release and Waiver detailing their academic, financial, behavioral, travel risk and health-related responsibilities while abroad;
- Obtaining University-approved international travel, health and security insurance;
- Providing 24/7 personal and University emergency contacts; and
- Completing the mandatory online health and safety orientation.
Students can complete these requirements by registering their travel at the Student International Travel Registry.
University policy also requires that CLPs must receive permission to travel to a travel warning country from the University's International Travel Risk Assessment and Advisory Committee (ITRAAC).
Registered Student Organizations (RSO)
Registered Student Organizations have no direct relationship to the University and are responsible for managing their own affairs. Students participating on an RSO activity outside the US are not required to follow University policy regarding international travel. * However, it is strongly recommended that students obtain adequate insurance for all personal international travel.
*Though an RSO is not required to follow University policy regarding international travel, individual students who participate in an RSO-sponsored program to fulfill a University requirement (credit or not) or use University funds to participate in a RSO-sponsored program must complete the same requirements as CLP students listed above.
US State Department Registration
All participants should register with the US Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive information about your destination and updates about safety and security, including travel alerts and travel warnings, and to make it easier to get assistance from the US Embassy in case of emergency.
Emergency Plan & Contacts
Group leaders should coordinate with the program provider or on-site partner to develop an emergency planning form and think through contingency plans for various scenarios if there is a health, safety, or security issue.
All program leaders should obtain a cell phone with a local number. You may want to assign smaller group leaders and obtain a cell phone for each of them.
If your group is interested in a health-related program abroad, all group members should complete the Health Careers Center's Global Ambassadors for Patient Safety (GAPS) online module before researching program options. This module can help you:
- prepare for your experience abroad
- use your experience abroad to make a positive impact on your health-program application
- consider the legal and ethical boundaries that should guide your activities while abroad
- understand your own limitations as unlicensed students
The Learning Abroad Center recommends that student groups seriously consider the safety of the housing they plan to use abroad. Are there locks on doors and controlled entrance? Are fire safety and other relevant codes met? Is the neighborhood and area surrounding the building safe?
Road crashes are the leading cause of tourist death and serious injury worldwide. University policy prohibits students from driving motor vehicles (including but not limited to scooters, motorbikes, motorcycles, and cars) while participating in an education abroad opportunity. Faculty and staff may not drive vehicles in which students are passengers abroad without an approved exception from the Office of Risk Management in advance of departure from the US.
As a result, student groups should use public transportation wherever that option exists and is safe. Where vehicles are hired, student groups should use only licensed and appropriately insured/bonded professional drivers and vehicles abroad. University policy requires that CLPs use University-approved contracts to hire private transportation abroad, all of which require high levels of automobile liability insurance.
University contracts require certain levels of insurance that might be informative for student groups. The US Department of State Road Safety resource should be reviewed. Transportation plans should not include roads that the US DOS or ASIRT recommends avoiding or that are indicated as extra risky at certain times.
The Learning Abroad Center recommends that at least one in-person orientation meeting be held prior to departure and another once the group arrives in country.
Students are responsible for entering the country on the appropriate type of visa (visitor/touris, volunteer, work, and so on). Refer to the US State Department website for information about entry requirements and links to your host country's embassy web page. You may also consider working with a visa processing company, such as Perry International, which charges a fee to help you determine the appropriate visa type, navigate the requirements, and submit a visa application on your behalf.
Student groups must organize their own air travel and may work with any travel agent to make their flight arrangements. Several online travel sites offer affordable tickets, or a student group can work with a local travel agency, such as Village Travel, which may be able to provide a higher level of support in the event of flight cancellations or other issues.
Students should review the University's Student Groups Policies & Procedures website to ensure they are following all policies and meeting any requirements for student group activities. Student groups should consult with Student Unions and Activities if they have any questions.