Education Abroad

In-Country Responsibilities

Arrival

The education abroad specialist will inform the host institution or travel provider of the group’s arrival time. The host institution or provider will make arrangements to meet the group at the airport or train station (for most programs).

Within 12 hours after arrival resident directors should notify their education abroad specialist (text, email or phone call) that all students have arrived safely. This is critical since the Office of International Affairs regularly receives phone calls from anxious parents who want to know if their son or daughter has arrived safely. The education abroad specialist will send a “safe arrival” email to parents after hearing from the resident director.

Encourage the students to phone or text home shortly after the group settles into their accommodation. In these times of heightened concern about international travel, families want to be assured of safe arrival.

Relationship with Host Institution, Travel Agent/Vendor or Guide

Establishing and maintaining positive relationships with host institution administrators, instructors, travel provider and/or guides ranks high among resident director responsibilities. The resident director serves as the key liaison between the Office of International Affairs and the host institution. Resident directors should be sure to meet key host institution personnel immediately after their arrival to the host institution. Be available to administrators, instructors and/or travel provider. They will have questions for the resident director and will appreciate their suggestions and insights.

In-Country Orientation

The resident director and the host institution or travel provider are responsible for providing in-country orientation to Ohio State students shortly after arrival to the program site. The importance of the in-country orientation to both students and the resident director cannot be underestimated. Please be an active participant in the in-country orientation. Orientation topics to be covered include:

The resident director should discuss and review in-country orientation with the host institution or travel provider shortly after the group arrives to the program site.

Health, personal safety, drug and alcohol issues and conduct are always included in pre-departure orientations. During the in-country orientation for the students, these topics should be reviewed again. Key points include:

The resident director should encourage the students to sharpen their observation and listening skills so that they can learn acceptable modes of behavior and other cultural nuances. The students should be encouraged to discuss their concerns and observations directly with the resident director.

Routine Communication and Weekly Reports to OIA

Winter or Spring Break Study Abroad Programs

The resident director of a winter or spring break study abroad program should have the following minimum communications (by phone or email) with the education abroad specialist

  • Arrival notification
  • 
Departure notification
  • Any student health or medical concerns, or disturbances affecting the well-being of the students
  • 
Emergency notification as needed

Summer Education Abroad Programs:

The resident directors of summer education abroad programs should be in touch with their education abroad specialist as needed. The following is the type of information that should be shared:

Supervision of Programs, Academics and Activities

Resident directors are expected to be fully engaged in all in-country activities of the education abroad program. They are expected to:

Students should be encouraged to attend all classes and required program activities. They may need reminders from time to time that they are on an education abroad program, not just a living abroad experience. Students may have concerns about cultural differences in classroom instruction and grading. The resident director can help students understand and adapt to the differences. Their presence ensures the academic integrity of the education abroad program. The insights of the resident director into course content, classroom instruction and program structure contribute to the success of the education abroad program.

Daily or Weekly Group Meetings

Winter or Spring Break Education Abroad Programs:

Many Ohio State resident directors for winter or spring break programs recommend having brief daily meetings in the morning to discuss the day’s activities and/or in the evening for reflection.

Summer Education Abroad Programs:

Weekly group meetings are strongly encouraged. Group meetings can serve as an important vehicle for good communication between the resident director and the students. Students should be encouraged to share their thoughts, concerns and experiences. Resident directors can respond, monitor group morale and share any changes in field trips or class schedule. It may also be helpful for the resident director to remind students what is expected of them during both program and free time. Weekly group meetings are a good time to ask students to complete the Off-Site Travel Form if they plan to travel away from the program site.

Group Communication

If a group will have access to Wi-Fi, resident directors should consider using a messaging app to send out reminders to the group such as departure times, daily schedules or other notifications. Some mobile apps that have been successfully used include WeChat, WhatsApp, GroupMe, Viber and Snapchat.

Students and Off-Site Independent Travel

Some Ohio State education abroad programs do not permit off-site, independent travel due to time constraints and/or safety concerns. If the program does not permit off-site travel, the resident director should inform the students of this policy in advance and in the syllabus and the Group Expectations Contract. This policy, of course, must be communicated to the education abroad specialist. If the program is one in which off-site, independent travel is permissible during weekends and/or holidays, students who wish to travel are required to inform the resident director in advance and in writing of their travel plans. The Office of International Affairs will provide the resident director with copies of the Off-Site Travel Form for students to complete prior to their independent travel. Students should always be encouraged to travel in groups of two or more. Make sure that they have the 24-hour contact information of the resident director before they leave. The resident director should retain the Off-Site Travel Forms that are submitted.

Student Conduct In-Country and Role of the Resident Director

A resident director must prepare themselves for the same questions over and over again from students. By necessity, they must be extraordinarily patient with them. Students will naturally pass through phases in their attitudes toward the resident director, the program and the host culture. At times they may become negative about the experience, so it is important for the resident director to remain positive and firm about the value of the program and the validity of the host country’s culture. Adjusting to a new culture is expressed in a variety of ways, and virtually everyone who lives abroad experiences distinct phases of personal adjustment. It is important for resident directors to teach by example; students will watch to see how the resident director handles cultural differences and challenges.

Responding to the emotional and mental adjustment issues that some students develop is a challenge for every resident director. Should the need arise, the resident director is encouraged to contact the Office of International Affairs for advice. Here are some suggestions which may minimize problems experienced by students:

Group Dynamics

Education abroad programs by definition are intensive in nature. Group tension can occur after extended periods of time together. The resident director may need to settle conflicts or boost the morale of the group when it is low. The resident director will have to remind the students that they need to be respectful of their classmates, give each other space, keep frustrations to themselves and speak up when something is bothering them.  

Students may need occasional reminders to keep things in perspective. Time and energy spent on small concerns can distract from the experience of living in another culture. The resident director should remain aware that their own behavior and actions are being observed at all times by the students.