Health & Safety
The health, safety and security of all participants is LeadAbroad’s highest priority. Our risk management guidelines follow industry best practices and we advise students of the health and safety risks associated with studying abroad based on information and guidance from the U.S. Department of State, World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and expert consultation. Additionally, domestic and international staff members continuously monitor and evaluate real time information from our local partners and authorities, the Overseas Security Advisory Council and news reports.
We are focused on preventative measures and we also have extensive emergency and communication response plans to activate when the need arises. The following provides an overview of our strategies to reduce risk and general response in an emergency. For more information and to speak to one of our leadership team members, please schedule a meeting below.
Finally, in the wake of COVID-19, we are committed to going above and beyond for the health and safety of our students and staff. We are in constant communication with local experts, agencies and risk advisory consultants to best understand how we need to design our programs to optimize the students’ experience.
Years of International Programs
Students from Universities Across the U.S.
Iconic Locations Across the World
Student Support & Education
The LeadAbroad promise always focuses on support, learning and community and this commitment applies to health and safety as well. Prior to departure we take active measures to communicate and prepare students for their program abroad. During our pre-departure orientation we review general health and safety risks and appropriate emergency response measures. Additionally, we educate students about personal wellness, cultural expectations, logistics and many other topics. LeadAbroad provides all participants with medical insurance. We also strongly encourage students to visit a physician prior to travel and to submit their health form which provides detailed information enabling us to support each student abroad. We enroll all participants in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) which allows US citizens traveling abroad to receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions and emergencies. Finally, students enroll in our technology services such as RAVE, Find My Friend, etc. to provide various channels to communicate and locate students in an emergency.
Upon arrival abroad, we host another orientation to reiterate and reinforce the health and safety information we presented prior to departure. We also practice our safety and communication drills to simulate an emergency and ensure students are prepared to respond. All students are provided emergency contact information which details local contact and physical address information for our students and staff. A city tour is conducted to familiarize students with the local areas and give them confidence to explore in small groups. Our staff members always support and accompany students when a medical need arises. And, we continue to reiterate health and safety recommendations during the program to ensure participants’ always stay vigilant.
We also communicate with parents during the program to let them know that all students arrived safely and how to best support their student abroad. After leading more than 5,000 students abroad since 2009, we are happy to share our experience with parents so they know what stages of culture shock to expect and how to support their students.
Studying abroad is often a personally transformative experience yet the opportunity is not without risks. As our partners, we emphasize to students and parents that all program participants must take personal responsibility for their own health and safety. This includes following our rules, making common sense decisions and avoiding risky behaviors. Our team is always available and we expect open and honest communication.
On Site & Domestic Staff Support
Our innovative staffing model and personal support creates a unique, community-driven environment abroad. We believe our staff and culture of caring more than others think is wise fuels our desire to always go one step further. Past students will attest that our faculty, program directors and interns differentiate LeadAbroad from all other programs.
The LeadAbroad team creates a trusting environment abroad that maximizes students’ potential. The benefits of this environment are often that we learn about potentially unsafe behavior or conditions before the situation worsens. For example, our on-site team often becomes aware of homesickness, roommate issues or an illness at an early stage. With this knowledge, our team can help students create new friends, mediate difficult conversations and accompany students to the doctor.
In addition, we understand parents’ desire to let their students go abroad is often complicated with their concerns about students’ health and safety. Our domestic team is available 24/7 and will coordinate with our on-site staff to offer support. By working together we can deliver a powerful and safe experience to all students.
Program Design & Safety Features
LeadAbroad programs are designed with safety and security in mind. This begins with the selection of our program destinations and local partners. All locations and partners are evaluated by our experienced risk management team to ensure they meet our standards for safety, services and excellence. Evaluations of all program components and partners are conducted on an annual basis to ensure our quality standards are upheld.
Our programs generally feature a centralized housing model which is unique in the study abroad program community. Rather than scattering students throughout the program city, we partner with universities, student housing companies and hotels to house students in one or several large groups. These accommodations are located in safe neighborhoods, proximate to medical facilities and most locations maintain 24-hour security and front desk support. LeadAbroad staff usually stay on premises or in nearby neighborhoods to serve as a resource and trusted mentor. Program participants enjoy the camaraderie and community which is created when the entire program is living together and parents rave about the added security benefits.
Another important safety feature of our programs is our transportation services. We offer recommended flights through trusted airlines to reduce the challenges associated with flying alone to your program destination. Upon arrival, our group transportation abroad is operated by our partners who are selected based on their safety records and third party references. In addition, transportation partners must use high quality vehicles, maintain a robust insurance policy and agree to our ethical code of conduct.
LeadAbroad’s preventative measures are strengthened by our emergency planning and response plans. Though each emergency is unique, our team has created three levels of emergencies which serve as a foundation for our response. Level one emergencies are general incidents which are small scale, minor and directly affect a student such as a student illness or delayed flight. Level two emergencies are small scale, major and directly affect a student. These emergencies may include a missing student or a student who is the victim of a crime. Finally, level three emergencies are large scale, major and indirect meaning our program participants are not directly impacted. These types of emergencies may include a natural disaster or terrorist attack.
Our team is trained to identify and respond in a calm and calculated manner during an emergency. We will seek medical attention as needed and support students during the duration of the emergency. In level three emergencies the most important goal is to locate all students quickly, ensure safety and communicate this information to parents and other stakeholders. If medical or other emergency necessitates evacuation we will work with the various stakeholders to coordinate, facilitate and support.
LeadAbroad includes international medical insurance in the cost of the program to protect all students. This mandatory inclusion is beneficial; however, we also recommend that all program participants maintain comprehensive health insurance while abroad and review our policy to ensure it meets their needs. The details of our medical insurance can be found here. When necessary, we encourage students to submit claims to ensure reimbursement for included medical costs incurred during the program.
In January 2018, the U.S. Department of State replaced its existing advisory system and created a new rubric for travel advisory levels. This system issues a travel advisory for all countries in the world ranging from level one to level four. A summary of each advisory level is as follows:
Level 1 – Exercise Normal Precautions: This is the lowest advisory level for safety and security risk. There is some risk in any international travel. Conditions in other countries may differ from those in the United States.
Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution: Be aware of heightened risks to safety and security.
Level 3 – Reconsider Travel: Avoid travel due to serious risks to safety and security.
Level 4 – Do Not Travel: This is the highest advisory level due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. During an emergency, the U.S. government may have very limited ability to provide assistance. The Department of State advises that U.S. citizens not travel to the country or to leave as soon as it is safe to do so.
To see a complete list of travel advisories for every country in the world click here. Note that country conditions can change at any time and the US Department of State reevaluates all travel advisory levels at least once a year. For more information on safety while studying abroad click here.
The US Department of State issues an overall Travel Advisory level for a country, but levels of advice may vary for specific locations or areas within a country. For instance, they may advise U.S. citizens to “Exercise increased caution” (Level 2) in a country, but to “Reconsider travel” (Level 3) to a particular area within the country.
Travel Advisories at Levels 2-4 contain clear reasons for the level assigned, using established risk indicators and specific advice to U.S. citizens who choose to travel there. These are:
- C – Crime: Widespread violent or organized crime is present in areas of the country. Local law enforcement may have limited ability to respond to serious crimes.
- T – Terrorism: Terrorist attacks have occurred and/or specific threats against civilians, groups, or other targets may exist.
- U – Civil Unrest: Political, economic, religious, and/or ethnic instability exists and may cause violence, major disruptions, and/or safety risks.
- H – Health: Health risks, including current disease outbreaks or a crisis that disrupts a country’s medical infrastructure, are present. The issuance of a Centers for Disease Control Travel Notice may also be a factor.
- N – Natural Disaster: A natural disaster, or its aftermath, poses danger.
- E – Time-limited Event: Short-term event, such as elections, sporting events, or other incidents that may pose safety risks.
- K – Kidnapping or Hostage Taking: Criminal or terrorist individuals or groups have threatened to and/or have seized or detained and threatened to kill, injure or continue to detain individuals in order to compel a third party (including a governmental organization) to do or abstain from doing something as a condition of release.
- D – Wrongful Detention: The risk of wrongful detention of U.S. nationals by a foreign government exists.
- O – Other: There are potential risks not covered by previous risk indicators. Read the country’s Travel Advisory for details.