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For many of our Jesuit schools around the world, we are in full vacation mode – while others of course are just starting up their academic years.  Either way, for schools running international programs, you are likely in the phase of the year where you are reflecting on, and celebrating all the good that came from the transformational experiences your students had globally ….as you should be! Seeing students, and adults, with a glow in their smile after becoming a part of a community abroad, and hearing their stories, is unlike any other pleasure we find in our schools – cherish it. 


However, as we soak up the glory of another successful year of partnership creation, relationship building, skills and knowledge gained, and personal transformations that are powerful and strong, it is equally as important to take stock of where we are in terms of providing the safest, most thoughtfully planned experience for students and faculty.  While there is no fame or glory in taking proactive steps to avoid potential pitfalls with global programming, it’s this type of preparation that allows for the life-changing experiences who hope for students to be realized.


So as you review your year, tweak your itineraries, and reflect on partnerships, what else should be on your mind?  Some food for thought: it’s a great time to be reviewing all your forms and waivers, your liability coverage, your payment and cancellation policies, your leadership training programs, emergency procedures and contacts, communication protocols, and so much more.  It’s also a great time to ask yourself all the difficult questions you hope you never have to face, but will be grateful you’ve thought of in advance when you do: for what reasons would I cancel a trip; what happens if a leader can’t participate last minute; do I know what local hospitals and clinics are available for the places I travel abroad? Don’t forget to be mindful of local laws that you might need to follow – particularly when it comes to vetting host families.  Again, not real fun stuff, but probably more important than planning a trip to the Foz de Iguazu, or the Serengeti – in fact, certainly the most important part of your programming you’ll work in all year.


There are certainly far better resources for this information than this small blog, but spend the time to seek out those local resources and make use of them if you haven’t already done so!


Make no mistake about it; challenges and difficulties will always occur when traveling abroad. (The fact that we had to cancel a trip due to safety concerns this year prompted this Blog post). But it’s really about being as prepared as possible to handle them, and minimizing the frequency and levity of these challenges.  It’s NOT about letting the risks and hiccups keep you from moving forward and planning programs abroad – I hope that is never the answer!  Just imagine if as school leaders we passed on every decision that involved risk…we’d be a shell of what we are today in Jesuit education.  It’s simply about being ready.


The responsibility any trip leader assumes in traveling abroad with students is enormous.  However, met with the immense amount of care and preparation it necessitates in advance, and by taking stock now of how ready you are to deal with both expected and unexpected pitfalls, each program should be as rewarding and transformational as we all envision them to be when we create them!

Dan Carmody is Executive Director at the Hyde Center for Global Education at Boston College High School and Global Initiatives Assistant for the Secretariat for Secondary and Pre-Secondary Education of the Society of Jesus

Other articles in this series: