As the world opens up again, study abroad program leaders will be back in more regular action. We asked Whitney Longnecker, Director of Study Abroad at Texas Tech University, about potential challenges these professionals may encounter. She said, “Study abroad program leaders must not only be academic instructors, but must also take on the role of counselor, mentor, travel-planner, disciplinarian, emergency responder, and more. These are often new and additional responsibilities as compared to a program leader’s on-campus duties and as such, program leaders must be properly trained to wear these new ‘hats.’ Program leaders are often the first line of defense in response to both academic and co-curricular concerns on a study abroad program.”

“Challenges faced by program leaders could range from student homesickness, travel delays and schedule changes, mental and physical health concerns, disciplinary issues, and many more. The on-going COVID-19 pandemic adds an additional challenge to the work of study abroad offices and program leaders. A robust, intentional training program for program leaders will reduce liability for the institution and help ensure the success of the program for students and program leaders alike.”

She then discussed types of strategies that can be put in place to mitigate risk. “All of your institution’s travelers (students, faculty, and staff) should receive pre-departure travel training but this is especially important for your study abroad program leaders. Program leaders are often the first line of defense when an emergency occurs abroad and as such, they need to understand how to effectively and appropriately respond.”

To learn about pre-departure travel training and much more, please join Whitney during our upcoming webinar on Study Abroad Trip Leader Selection & Training this February 24 from 2-3:30 pm ET.