Health, Safety, and Support
|Statement on Zika Virus: The Experiment in International Living is deeply committed to the health and safety of our participants and staff. As such, we are closely monitoring the current outbreak of the Zika virus. Although the virus is a risk to pregnant women and those who plan to get pregnant in the near future, we feel that any serious risk to our participants is extremely limited. However, our understanding of the situation continues to evolve. We recommend that participants bring effective bug repellent to all program locations where Zika and malaria are present. Participants returning from affected areas should be aware that the virus can remain in the body for several weeks upon return and can be spread through sexual contact and mosquito bites. For additional information on the virus, mosquito precaution, and travel recommendations, we recommend that you visit the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/.
The Experiment’s risk management record is among the strongest in the international experiential education field. With more than 80 years of experience conducting cross-cultural youth programming, The Experiment is deeply knowledgeable about the myriad issues posed by operating in international environments as well as the social dynamics of young adults. As with any travel experience, we cannot completely eliminate risk, but we place the highest priority on health, safety, and security.
Each of our high school summer abroad programs follows a comprehensive structure designed to maximize the well-being of all participants while they engage in dynamic cross-cultural experiences. We have implemented specific risk management strategies that include a 24-hour emergency on-call service and regular safety reviews. We hire and train experienced adult group leaders and maintain longstanding partnerships with in-country offices to support each of our programs.
Because socioeconomic, political, environmental, and medical conditions vary widely across the more than 20 countries in which The Experiment operates, health, safety, and security measures are specifically tailored to each location and to current circumstances.
Support in the areas of health, safety, and security includes:
Our homestay families take their role in health, safety, and security of program participants very seriously. The Experiment works closely with local homestay coordinators through our partner organizations, and these homestay coordinators identify and select host families using a set of standard criteria.
- Pre-departure preparation. The Experiment helps participants prepare for their program throughout the pre-departure process by providing sample itineraries, a student handbook, packing lists, travel logistics, and health guidelines that include recommendations related to immunizations and medications.
- Thorough pre-departure medical screening. As an industry standard, The Experiment conducts thorough health reviews of admitted participants prior to departure. We want to ensure that participants and their parents understand the realities of their Experiment program and travel abroad informed and prepared. We operate from a position of inclusion with respect to health conditions and will work with our group leaders and international offices to accommodate just about any health-related need. In some cases, it may be difficult or impossible to accommodate a participant’s health needs, but usually the participant and his or her parents come to that conclusion on their own when we explain the program. By collecting relevant health information, our group leaders and international partners are equipped to prevent health emergencies from happening and can quickly respond if they do. The Experiment has experienced physicians and staff who advise, review, and inform professional staff about current health trends, including ADA needs, both in the US and abroad.
- In-country partners. Each Experiment group is supported by an extensive professional network of in-country resources that can include partner offices, international educators, homestay coordinators, in-country co-leaders, and program guides. Our partner offices help us design each program and support our groups throughout the program period. These in-country professionals have access to communications, healthcare, and transportation infrastructure to make sure that each student receives the highest quality attention and support.
- Two group leaders. Each Experiment group is accompanied by two trained adult leaders. Group leaders maintain ongoing contact with all participants throughout the program and work collaboratively with our in-country partners and The Experiment office in Vermont. For more information on Experiment group leaders, please see our group leader web pages.
- Comprehensive in-country orientation. Each program begins with an orientation. The orientation focuses on increasing cultural knowledge—e.g., survival language skills and in-country norms—as well as developing participants’ cross-cultural communication skills and self-awareness, specifically within the context of the host country. Whenever situations change in-country, group leaders and local partners conduct additional safety briefings to raise awareness among participants.
- Travel insurance. Each student is covered by the World Learning medical insurance policy that provides accident and sickness coverage and emergency evacuation coverage. Please note that this insurance is intended to act as a secondary policy for participants who are already insured. In addition, we have access to medical advisors and other experts in international education as resources.
- Ongoing monitoring. The Experiment monitors US government advisories, considering those issued both by in-country embassies and consulates and by the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC. The Experiment also consults with academic and nongovernmental organizations through the global networks of World Learning, The Experiment’s parent organization, and receives strong support through World Learning’s institutional risk management committee.
- Homestay Standards: The homestay is a central element of any Experiment program. Families welcome and integrate program participants into the host culture through activities, events, and simple day-to-day living. By becoming a part of a local family, students are empowered to understand cultural norms and therefore are better able to navigate their intercultural experiences safely.
- Twenty-four-hour on-call support. The Experiment in International Living is supported by professional student affairs staff based at The Experiment’s headquarters in Brattleboro, Vermont. Our staff maintains a 24-hour on-call safety and emergency response system for any health, safety, or security concerns that might arise throughout the program. The Experiment can be reached toll-free within the US at 800 345-2929 or at 802 258-3481.