Steps to a great pre-departure study abroad orientation

We’re sure you know how essential it is to orientate students to the study abroad experience prior to their departure. The following strategies have worked well for our partner schools over the years and seem to best prepare students for the on-site orientations:

Tip #1 - Meet multiple times

We know it is difficult to get a group of busy college students in the same room at the same time - let alone multiple times. But if you schedule more than one orientation, you’ll find that attendance will increase, students will feel that they’re being accommodated, and the information shared will be processed more effectively. This is especially true if the meetings can be less than 2 hours apiece.

Just like classes, students’ ability to take in information deteriorates after a certain point. You probably have a really good idea of how much time you get and how to hold onto attention.

Here are some ways to deal with the scheduling difficulties:

  • Schedule orientations prior to application and put the schedule on the program’s webpage
  • Put orientation meetings in the acceptance letter (or, at least tell students there will be orientation meetings)
  • Use online scheduling assistants like Doodle (LINK)
  • Schedule two meetings for each topic (particularly if your group is larger than 15 and you don’t want to do makeups)
 Students present information they've learned in spoken and written form, among others. 

Students present information they've learned in spoken and written form, among others. 

Tip #2 - Repeat information in different formats

Students absorb information in different ways, so providing the pre-departure information in as many formats as possible (oral, written, experiential) is a wonderful way to make sure it sinks in.

Of course you can’t hit every piece of information in every way, but don’t hesitate to send out summaries of what was discussed in-person, cover written material in-person and engage other teaching techniques you use in your classes.

Tip #3 - Allow time for group socializing

 Students take lunch during a city tour which is part of our on-site orientation program. 

Students take lunch during a city tour which is part of our on-site orientation program. 

The group dynamic is a critical part of any faculty-led study abroad experience.

The students sitting in a pre-departure orientation session will soon be sharing very intimate and intense experiences with each other. Therefore, it is beneficial if they can get to know each other before that experience begins. This helps create group cohesion and excitement about the program.

We're always excited to share your thoughts and ideas with our other partners. If you're willing to share we're always willing to listen! Don't hesitate to contact us with your comments and ideas.