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Pre-Departure Preparation

U.S. Department of State and Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

Buckeyes in Rome, ItalyEvery Ohio State education abroad resident director who is a U.S. citizen is asked to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at step.state.gov. Registration will make your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an emergency. U.S. embassies and consulates can provide both emergency and nonemergency services to American citizens who encounter problems while abroad.

Non-U.S. citizens can register through the U.S. Department of State travel registration website for travel alerts and travel warning updates only. Those travelers are encouraged to check the website of their home country embassy to find out if they can register their overseas travel.

Ohio State resident directors should carefully review the “country-specific information” for their host country at travel.state.gov. This includes the contact information and the location of the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate(s) in the host country in the event that a situation arises that necessitates consular assistance. Such situations may include reporting and replacing a lost or stolen passport, locating a medical facility or even seeking legal assistance. Resident directors should also be familiar with the country-specific information and advice in the Safety and Security, Health and Travel and Transportation sections.

Student Orientation

All students are required to view an online general health and safety orientation and take three assessments, along with the program-specific orientations. Your presence is important at the program-specific orientations. The students will want to meet you, hear your enthusiasm for the upcoming experience and ask you questions about academic work in-country.

In general, you will work with your education abroad coordinator to prepare at least two predeparture orientation sessions during the semester immediately preceding departure. Since resident directors typically have extensive knowledge of the host culture, you should prepare students by sharing relevant reading recommendations or current event news. Resident directors should also acquaint students with the cultural norms and taboos of the host culture.

OIA pre-departure orientations have three main goals:

  1. To provide orientation on program policies, itinerary, travel, passports and visas, health, housing, safety and other in-country
  2. To review academic expectations and requirements of the
  3. To help students understand broad cross-cultural perspectives and develop cross cultural

Due to time constraints, the orientation sessions do not always lend themselves well to the resident director and the group becoming acquainted. You are strongly encouraged to organize a social event (movie or a group meal) or invite students to stop by your office hours to discuss their goals and interests in your program.

Group Expectations Contract

Exploring the United KingdomMany resident directors create a Group Expectations or Behavior Contract prior to departure and in consultation with the students. A Group Expectations Contract is a nonlegal, program-specific document in which the students and the resident director express their expectations for each other and as a group during the education abroad program. Development of the contract with your students can be a very useful exercise and an important way for you to establish appropriate behavior norms and expectations for the group. Examples of these contracts can be found here (link forthcoming).

Typically, Group Expectation Contracts are short and to the point, expressing group rules such as:

We agree to:

  • Be on time and not keep each other waiting
  • Speak in quiet voices and not draw unnecessary attention to our group
  • Exercise restraint and discretion when taking photos
  • Never listen to music when we are on a tour
  • Not complain
  • However, for certain programs, the Group Expectations Contract is where the program can establish protocol for group conduct that might be relevant to the program location or in-country partner, including curfews
  • Limitations on independent travel
  • Restrictions or guidelines on the use of alcohol
  • Limitations on forms of transportation

Other behavioral expectations might be inserted on account of the program partner or for the health and safety of the students. If a contract includes sanctions or potential consequences leading to dismissal from a program, it should be reviewed by the international risk manager, the Office of Student Conduct and the Office of Legal Affairs.

Campus Resources

While most orientations are conducted by the resident director and education abroad coordinator, there are a number of campus units that are willing to lend their expertise, including the international risk manager, Student Conduct, Student Wellness Center and Counseling and Consultation Service. Additionally, you may want to consider contacting The Ohio State University Alumni Association which can put you in touch with alumni living in your host country.

Resident Director and OIA Program Coordinator Pre-Departure Meetings

Hugging a mountain goat

You will likely have several meetings with your education abroad coordinator throughout the lifecycle of your education abroad program. In your first meeting, your coordinator will review the roles and responsibilities of a resident director and will provide you with helpful resources. Other meetings will be necessary to finalize program details, program budget or cash advance questions, plan orientations and discuss any student issues or challenges that may be present. A final “hand-off ” meeting will also be necessary. Your education abroad coordinator will give you the following items as well as review their use:

Student Information

  • Relevant allergy and dietary information for each of your students
  • Copies of student passports
  • Copies of student GeoBlue insurance cards or certificate numbers
  • Student cell phone numbers

Itineraries, Flight Information and Program-Specific Materials

  • Coordinator contact information for arrival notification
  • Program itinerary
  • Student travel and flight information (including 24/7 phone number of travel agent who booked the group flight, if applicable)
  • Contact information for host institution and/or travel provider
  • Contact information for U.S. Embassy in your host country(ies)
  • Cash advance breakdown (how much is reserved for specific payments) and per diem breakdown
  • Other material specific to your program

Your coordinator can also provide you with Off-Site Travel Forms and Incident Report Forms

Resident Director Orientations 

All resident directors are required to attend an orientation which will cover emergency response and health and safety overseas. If a partner and/or dependent are traveling with the resident director, we strongly recommend that they also attend the health and safety resident director orientation.

If the resident director will have a cash advance, the OIA business operations unit will provide a GET Card orientation as well. The resident director will receive notification of the time and date for the orientation you are expected to attend. A flash drive with an Excel spreadsheet to record all expenditures will be provided.