education abroad

Inexpensive excursions and activities for faculty-led study abroad programs

Although the trips to the beach or famous monuments may seem the most sexy to students, keeping costs low is also very attractive. But just because the big excursions aren’t in the budget doesn’t mean fun experiences (with a little built-in education) are out of the question. Here are a few inexpensive and simple excursion or field trip ideas for faculty-led study abroad programs:

Pick a seemingly superficial theme and explore
¡Futból! Ask students to study something
 they love while abroad.
Before departure ask the students to share ideas for a theme they’d like to explore while on site.
Something simple like fountains, recycling/trash centers, traffic signals, stadiums, McDonald’s, whatever. It really doesn’t matter at all. Then ask them to interact with their theme once a day or week, whatever fits best for your program. And, perhaps you can even give them a small budget of money for travel, admission fees, snacks along the way or to explore their theme further.

Ask them to really look at their theme. What are the similarities and differences between fountains in Quito and in their home city? How do people interact with the fountains differently? What is the history of fountains in the city. What stories does the host mother have of fountains? Ask them to try to go deeper and deeper with their theme. How can they see the culture of the country or city through these theme? The point is to help students to really dive deeper into something that seems common on the surface and find the value in exploring.

Common fruits in Ecuador
It might seem a little cliche, but exploring new foods is often a big winner with students. Plus, there is a richness to stories and connections between food and culture. Pick your favorite food from the site or ask a local for a recommendation. Then grab some students and go! Small family-run restaurants are often a great stop but we always recommend trying to meet the restaurant owners or staff prior to bringing in a large group of students to feel out their interest level in hosting and speaking to groups.

Historical marker scavenger hunt
Students in a short rainstorm at a soccer game.
Pick a few historical markers around the city and write clues to see if students can figure out the site by doing research and asking questions of locals. Dividing the group up in teams is great way to inject a bit of competition and fun into the mix. Surprise them with snacks or treats along the way and prizes at the end.

As we’ve mentioned before, students gain a lot from seeing your energy and interest in the study abroad site and culture. So what is your favorite thing to do in-country? Take the students. Share your passion!

4 tips for personal and professional development while leading a study abroad program

As educators, we are always telling the students to take advantage of their time in a new country or environment and expose themselves to as many opportunities as possible. But what about faculty members guiding those students? What opportunities can we as educators and academics take advantage of during our time abroad?

Such enriching experiences should offer reflection and growth opportunities for all parties involved - including group leaders. Here are four ways we’ve seen faculty capitalize on the experience.

1 - Present at conferences
Teachers receive flowers from their students at the end of a
a study abroad program at ACLAS. 
Teaching abroad is a busy time - but also a great opportunity to network and gain exposure in your field. Conference presentations are distinctive additions to your portfolio and tend to create unforeseen alliances and opportunities.

2 - Connect with other institutions
The possibilities for your own personal and professional growth - and benefits for your institution - are immense. International collaborations are responsible for countless research programs, faculty exchanges, student exchanges, and more. Here are some examples of places to get started:
  • Engage the department of your discipline at the local universities.
  • Reach out to the international affairs office (or international education office) at the local universities - this group is often very motivated to meet foreign academics and will have many ideas and suggestions for connections.
  • Even if you are not language faculty, get in touch with the foreign language department. These departments often have a lot of international connections and are eager to make more.

3 - Explore professional associations
Beyond academics, are there many professional associations that can be fruitful to you as you make your mark in your field. For example: teaching associations, business associations, bioengineering associations - it just depends on your field and interest.

4 - Document your skill development
We often tell the students to reflect on and keep track of the “soft skills” that they are learning while abroad - beyond the academics. You’ll have a good handle on many of these skills, but it doesn’t hurt to take a minute to think about how you are putting them to work while organizing and leading a group of students in a new environment. How might you apply new insights to your teaching? What are the unexpected benefits of the experience? These lessons can touch on many aspects of your work:
  • adapting to new environments
  • leadership
  • taking initiative and risks
  • responsibility and follow through
  • stress management
  • perseverance
  • flexibility

Although there is rightfully much focus on academic achievement in our field, the “soft skills” will serve you well in future leadership positions and other roles.

Keys to Promoting Your Faculty-Led Program: Part 2

In Part I of this post we shared some strategies for getting attention for your program and buy-in from students. Part 2 continues with more details on how to create interest and encouraging students to take the next step of signing up!

Be transparent with price
There are very few students and families out there who are not concerned about the price of a study abroad experience. Answer this question for your students when promoting your program: “What am I paying for?”

Additionally, be sure to communicate what is not included in the price. It is also nice to point out potential costs that may be required for them to participate in the program, like purchasing a passport, optional immunizations or supplies for class. Listing what is included in the program price and what is not will reduce the apparent risk around money for both the students and, in many cases, the parents.
The program page on the University of Washington, Tacoma's site.
Make sure your program is on your institution’s website
Sounds easy, but doesn’t always happen! This not only will act as a recruiting tool (attracting students already looking for programs) but will help students, parents, faculty, academic advisors and others find important information about your program easily.
Start early
As soon as you have all the basic information about your program (dates, price, what is included, basic itinerary) start promoting! This allows students and their families the time they need to process the opportunity and plan for it. If students are aware of the program soon enough, they can apply for scholarships, talk to employers, and plan the rest of their life around your program - instead of the other way around.

Talk openly about credit
In our experience, programs popular with students often have one thing in common: students can earn credit towards their major or some other institutional requirement. If this is true for your program, be sure to promote it in your written materials and when speaking with students. If this is not the case, talk about the credit that will be earned and emphasize the other educational benefits, like career development and personal growth.
Talk about graduation and career development
Whether we like it or not, students and parents want to know what’s in it for them. It is simply not enough, in many cases, to remind them how formative and challenging the study abroad experience can be. They want a different kind of value.

With that in mind, connecting the study abroad experience to student’ future plans is beneficial in many ways. Most of all, it increases the value of the program in their eyes. Remind them, for example, that today’s business leaders must have intercultural competency.

It also helps students frame their experience as part of their overall education, and not just a nice “trip” that their parents (or whoever) have to pay for. And finally, when students return from studying abroad, they will be better able to articulate the meaning of their experience.

We would love to hear what has worked for you! Please use the comments section below or email Stacy at

ACLAS Committed to IIE's Generation Study Abroad

We are proud to announce we have committed to the Institute on International Education's Generation Study Abroad Initiative. In particular, we have pledged scholarship dollars to contribute to increasing the number of students from community colleges and the healthcare professions who study abroad. Additionally, we pledge to engage our alumni to share their stories of how education abroad has enhanced their lives and careers. Please contact Stacy for specific details about our scholarship pledge and alumni stories at
#Generation Study Abroad

Key to Promoting Your Faculty-Led Program: Part 1

Here are some concrete ideas for how to promote a study abroad program, specifically a faculty-led study abroad program on your campus. This is Part 1 of a two part series. So stay tuned!

Market the program effectively - and often
Even if your program is a free, month-long trip to the Caribbean where students earn credit for sitting on the beach, they still won’t sign up unless they hear about it.

So, that is step one: getting the message out there.

Here are some great ways our partner institutions reach out to their students:
  • Email to majors,
  • email to all students,
  • email to a class,
  • email to all freshman,
  • student newspaper advertisement,
  • story with student newspaper,
  • table in high traffic area,
  • information sessions,
  • information table at lunch in high traffic area,
  • advertisements/posters throughout the university,
  • short presentation to your classes and other program-related classes,
  • advertisements in bathrooms,
  • hosting a table with dessert at lunch.

Whether you pick all or just a few of these strategies, it is a good idea to do them more than once. Students are receiving thousands of messages a day from different sources, so we can’t assume they will see or hear just one message.
Know what works at your institution
When considering the list above, think about what you have seen work at your institution. What do students talk about? Where do they go to find information? A quick way to find out the answers to these questions is to ask the students themselves. You can also stop by the Student Life office – it’s their job to know these answers, and they’ll probably have some new creative ideas.
At Willamette University in Salem, Oregon they have a Summer Opportunities Fair each fall that promotes study abroad, service and other programs that will take place the following summer. 

Promote yourself!
In all likelihood, you are going to be the face of the program. Don’t shy away from that – promote it! In our experience, students really respond well to a professor’s energy and interest in the programs. (Remember: they often trust people more than organizations.)

Don’t hesitate to share your own experiences in Ecuador or on a study abroad program in order to generate interest and excitement in this program. Our faculty directors tell us that one-on-one conversations tend to be the best ways to connect with students. They’re worth the time.

Engage former students
Students LOVE hearing from other students. They trust them. Even if you do not have students from your program, bring students who have already studied abroad elsewhere to talk about the benefits of their experiences. We find that you must make these students sit down together, preferably in an information session or other formal event. Just sharing contact information hasn’t worked well.

More ideas coming in Part 2!

We would love to hear what has worked for you! Please use the comments section below or email Stacy at

A Plan for Emergencies

This post was originally published on - a great resource for faculty involved in international education.

Emergencies are a possibility on any study abroad program, and planning and preparing for an emergency can seem like an overwhelming task — so much so that faculty sometimes decide not to embark on an education abroad program because of it.
Thankfully, with a few purposeful steps, you can take comfort knowing that you’ve made the necessary steps to plan for the worst — even if the reality is that the plan will most likely never be used.

1. Make a plan

Your university or college is likely to have existing example emergency plans or protocol(s) that you can access for reference, so make sure to ask around for these materials to ensure you aren’t starting from scratch when you don’t have to. If you are using a third party study abroad program provider, ask them whether they have an emergency plan, and whether this could be integrated into your institution’s overall plan for emergencies.

If you work with a provider that does not have an emergency plan, it may be a good idea to review your provider’s overall quality and consider alternative providers who do incorporate an emergency plan.
photo 1 Car
While on an excursion outside Quito, Ecuador; ACLAS students help a family get their car started.
Another group that will have some good resources is your institution’s insurance company. If you are asking your students to purchase specific study abroad insurance (recommended, usually inexpensive) then that company will likely have many useful resources like crime and safety statistics, emergency protocols, emergency phone numbers and recommendations for hospitals, doctors and/or clinics. Many of these items will be found on your insurance company’s website but contacting your university’s insurance representative is likely to be a good path to more details.
Consider different types of emergencies, and ensure that your plan addresses what to do in each case:
  • National emergencies — weather, disasters, political unrest
  • Student emergencies — illness, assault (on the student or towards others), mental illness
  • Faculty emergencies — something happens to you
  • Group emergencies — group illness, accident

2. Get support

Photo 2 rafting
ACLAS students enjoy a rafting trip as part of an excursion to the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador.
As a faculty member, it should not be your sole responsibility to take care of emergencies abroad. You will likely be involved, but one way to make sure that all of the burden does not fall on you is to make sure that your plan is supported and approved by the “powers that be” at your institution and those onsite. This may seem like a bureaucratic step, but if there is a true emergency, these people will be involved. More importantly, if the plan is previewed and supported ahead of time, then the execution of the plan will be smoother and less restricted.
A good way to know who should see the plan before it is finalized is to consider all who would be involved if there were an emergency. Examples of potential stakeholders at your institution: the president, deans, international education staff, lawyers, media or PR people, parent relations, etc. And, don’t forget to include your onsite program provider and any relevant contacts in your destination country.

3. Share your plan

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 3.34.54 PM
photo credit: Professor Julie Veltman, Willamette University; ACLAS students interact with artwork while exploring Quito, Ecuador.
Beyond sharing your plan with those mentioned above, be sure to include your students and encourage them to share this information with their families. Not only will this step help the students be better prepared in an emergency, it also helps them remember that emergencies can happen and that they should be vigilant to avoid emergency situations.

4. Test your plan

Finally, test your plan with those involved. You can run through a test scenario making sure that all the systems work and all parties are informed. Let everyone involved in the plan know that you will run a drill. It is okay to plan an exact time for the drill – it does not need to be a surprise. The important aspect is to use the same means of communication that you would use in a real emergency (calling cell phones, mass emails, etc.) to make sure that everything is in place. Also, this exercise will help make people engage with the process and truly consider what would happen in an emergency.
Then, follow the plan.
Throughout the process take notes. At the end ask for feedback on the process and share your notes, relevant feedback and the most up to date emergency plan in a summary.
NOTE: This post is not intended to be an exhaustive resource 
for making an emergency plan. Good places to seek out 
additional resources are:

- Your International Education Office
- NAFSA: Association for International Educators 
- The Forum on Education Abroad 
- U.S. State Department 
- The U.S. Embassy in your country of travel 

FAQ: Faculty-Led Study Abroad Programs

Here are some of the basics about faculty-led study abroad programs. These FAQs can always be found on the FAQ page. Have a question you'd like to see answered? Add it to the comments or email us at

How are faculty-led programs different than other study abroad programs?
Although almost all study abroad programs involve faculty in some way—in the recruitment of students, development of programs, etc.—the term “faculty-led” has a specific meaning in the field of international education. A faculty-led program is one that is directed by a faculty member(s) from the home campus who travels with and accompanies the students abroad. These programs are usually, but not always, short-term (2 months or fewer.)

What are the benefits of faculty-led study abroad programs?
  • Customization: Faculty-led programs are often customizable to meet the faculty and institution’s educational goals or to fit specific needs.
  • University of Washington students
    with their faculty director in
    the Amazon rainforest
    Cost savings: Due to their flexibility, these programs are likely to fit various budgets.
  • Credit benefits: Because faculty are on-site with the students, academic credit can often be given as if the students were with a professor on campus. This eliminates many credit-transfer complications.
  • Accessibility: Students often find faculty-led programs more accessible because of the credit and cost benefits mentioned above, as well as the comfort and consistency of traveling with a faculty member from their home institution. Faculty-led programs are also designed specifically for students from one institution and, therefore, often meet student’s academic needs more effectively.
  • Academic interest: Because of the customizable nature of these programs, the academic possibilities are almost limitless. Curricula tend to be rich, varied and very engaging to students.
  • Relationship-building: Students experience the dual benefit of building new international relationships while also strengthening and enriching partnerships with those from their home institution.

I am a faculty member and want to lead a study abroad program. Where do I start?
The answer to this question depends significantly on your university or college. The first step would be to visit your institution’s international education (a.k.a. study abroad, education abroad, global programs, international programs, etc.) office’s website to see if they have guidelines or contact information for faculty who are interested in developing programs. If your institution does not have an office like this, it is best to see if other faculty (perhaps in other departments or areas) have developed programs. After you make a connection with the right individuals at your institution, start by asking these questions:
Colby College students with their
faculty director and ACLAS teachers.

  • What is the timeline for developing a program?
  • What are the expectations of the faculty director?
  • How will my department support me?
  • How will the international education office support me?
  • How do I make the program financially viable?
  • Are there certain program providers I must work with or may I choose my own?
  • What are the next steps?

We’re here to help at any time, of course. Feel free to reach out to us if you hit roadblocks or have further questions.

Do you need to be a tenured faculty member to lead a study abroad program?
This, again, depends on the college or university, but often the answer is no. In fact, leading a study abroad program can be a good way to promote your status and demonstrate contribution on your campus.

I have a family. Can I bring them with me on the program?
Many universities, colleges and program providers support bringing families along. However, it is important to realistically consider your ability to meet the needs of both groups. If you are working with a program provider that takes care of a lot of the details and planning, you might have time to teach, support your students and be with your family. But, if you are the lone faculty director, be sure to anticipate the possibilities. Would you be able to effectively handle a student emergency at any time, for example?

What resources are available to faculty to start, develop and improve faculty-led programs?

  • The international education or international programs office at your college or university is the best place to start. Staff there will likely have experience with faculty-led programs; if they do not, they’ll probably know where to find the resources.
  • Other faculty who have led programs are great resources, too. It is likely that there are some on your campus (even if they haven’t led programs with your institution) or in your professional networks.
  • has a number of topics and resources to explore, including a book called Faculty-Led 360.
  • The Association for International Educators (NAFSA) has collected a number of resources from seminars and conventions related to the faculty-led topic. Find those resources on their website.
  • The Forum on Education Abroad has defined Standards of Good Practice to guide program development. In addition to generic study abroad practices, the Forum has published standards for some discipline-specific programs such as healthcare. (Your institution must be a member of the Forum to access these documents—contact ACLAS or your international education office for more information.)