There are many factors involved in ensuring a safe and successful program abroad. Key among these are the mental and emotional well-being of our participants. The stress of adjusting to an unfamiliar culture, different time zones, a change of academic environment, being far from friends and family, and/or adjusting to a new system of support services (and perhaps one that is not as robust as you might find at home) can bring about a variety of unexpected and potentially overwhelming reactions.
Thus, prior to applying for a program abroad, we encourage students to use the support services they have at their home institution – an academic advisor, a health clinic, a counseling center, etc. – to determine if they have the mental and emotional health to participate in a study or internship abroad program. We also encourage university staff to contact us if they have a student they feel has the potential to be at risk abroad or that may need additional support on site. Our goals are the same – for the participant to have a successful, meaningful, safe and stable experience abroad.
As part of the application process, CIS Abroad will attempt to assess the suitability of the participant through the following means:
- After the participant completes the Medical Information Form, a CIS Abroad staff member contacts the participant and discusses any known/disclosed conditions, and might request more information about related medication and information pertinent to managing the condition while abroad.
- Participant is asked if they have spoken to trusted medical professionals about traveling abroad and how the experience might alter their condition. If not, the participant is is requested to seek further independent advice from trusted medical professionals.
- We inform participant of available resources and support organizations abroad
- If CIS Abroad perceives the condition to be a concern to the participant’s’s health and safety and / or CIS Abroad’s ability to provide a quality overseas experience, this will be addressed with the participant.
- The participant’s home university may be contacted by CIS Abroad if CIS Abroad has concerns about the participant’s participation in the program.
- Once a participant is confirmed on the program, and any related documentation provided by the home university and / or independent medical professional to CIS Abroad, this information will be provided to the CIS Abroad Site Director keeping all personal information with the privacy and interest of the well-being of the participant at heart.
- CIS Abroad will make every effort to have the student attend the program and be adequately supported.
Once a participant is on site and if they are struggling emotionally, we can deploy the following resources to assist them:
- Talking with our trained, local Site Director about the issues they are experiencing. Culture shock affects everyone at some point in time and an overwhelming majority of emotional issues can be worked through with our staff.
- Referral to a trained professionals either at the host institution or through a private contracted service.
Any assessment made after a trained professional is consulted will be discussed with the participant and, if the matter is considered a threat to the well-being of the participant (or others), our emergency communication procedures will be followed.
Our goal is for all participants to have a healthy experience abroad. In nearly all cases, with prior preparation, disclosures and expectation setting, CIS Abroad can work with both the participant and their home university to make that a reality.