POL-U2105.01 Traveling Abroad for Educational Experiences

Dates and Approval

Effective Date:

May 21, 2009

Revised Date:

January 25, 2023

Approved by:

President Sabah Randhawa

Who does this policy apply to?

This policy applies to faculty, staff, or official volunteers who guide or accompany an individual student or a group of students traveling outside the United States for education abroad experiences and applies to students who participate in such travel.


The University recognizes the benefits of education abroad experiences and emphasizes that travelers maximize their health, safety, and security while engaged in such activity. While the university recognizes that safety cannot be guaranteed, whether in the U.S. or abroad, it can be enhanced. University employees advising student about studying abroad must direct students to this policy or to the Education Abroad Office in the Institute for Global Engagement.


Education Abroad Travel Status

Students engaged in academic, co-curricular, and extra-curricular experiences outside the boundaries of the United States of America as a student at or through Western Washington University. Examples may include:

  • Faculty-led study abroad programs
  • Study abroad programs at international universities and institutions, study centers, field schools, at sea, or similar, whether through direct enrollment or through third party contractors, providers, consortia, or affiliates
  • Traditional student exchange programs with an international university or institution
  • Internship and practicums abroad
  • Students engaged in independent study or research abroad
  • Co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, such as attending an academic or professional conference, attending a performance, performing or competing, engaging in service learning, or participating in a student club, organization, or team activity abroad.

This policy does not apply to traveling for personal reasons, such as tourism, visiting family, or being sent abroad by your workplace for business. Students who happen to live abroad for personal reasons and are simultaneously taking Western courses online/remotely (i.e., taught through the Internet) are not considered in education abroad travel status. Travelers who arrive abroad before the program start date and stay beyond the program end date for personal reasons are not in education abroad travel status outside program dates.

Student Traveler

A Western Washington University student in education abroad travel status, as described above.

Travel Leader

A faculty or staff member, graduate student assistant, or official volunteer who is:

  • Abroad with a group of students or an individual student and guiding or accompanying the student(s) while traveling outside the U.S. for educational experiences or
  • On-campus and advising a group of students or an individual student   travel in outside the U.S. for educational experiences abroad.

Official Volunteer

An individual who is registered with Western’s Human Resources to perform assigned or authorized volunteer duties as determined by a department of the university.

Policy Statements

1. Advisors Direct Students to this Policy

Faculty and staff who directly advise students participating in education abroad experiences with respect to their participation but are not accompanying the student(s) abroad must direct students to this policy or to the Education Abroad office in the Institute for Global Engagement to enhance their health, safety and security while traveling internationally for educational purposes.

2. Student Travelers and Travel Leaders Comply with Regulation, including those Related to Public Health

Student Travelers and Travel Leaders must comply with state and university policies and procedure for international travel. All applicable policies and procedures must be followed. Travelers who know or suspect that they have contracted a communicable disease while travelling outside the U.S must notify the appropriate university administrator as stated in POL-U1000.12 Reporting Communicable Disease

3. Student Travelers and Travel Leaders Comply with WWU’s Education Abroad Risk Management Process

In preparation of international travel, all Student Travelers and Travel Leaders must contact the Education Abroad Office within the Institute for Global Engagement to comply with the following:

  1. Pre-departure preparation
  2. Contingency plan for response to an emergency or crisis abroad,
  3. University documentation and forms,
  4. General guidelines for safe international travel, and
  5. International health insurance.

4. Student Travelers and Travel Leaders Follow Official U.S Government Travel Advice

Student Travelers and Travel Leaders who are with them abroad will follow official U.S. Government travel advice for each country outside the U.S. they plan to visit, as per the following:

  1. Follow guidance published in U.S. State Department Travel Advisories (travel.state.gov), including not traveling in education abroad travel status as a student or with students to countries with a “Level 3: Reconsider Travel” and “Level 4: Do Not Travel” advisories. The State Department issues Travel Advisories on a scale of 1 – 4 , with Level 3 and 4 countries presenting the highest travel risk. The U.S. Government tends to evacuate or restrict the movements of U.S. Government personnel and their dependents in countries identified as Level 3 – 4. University employees traveling abroad without students are not subject to this policy but are encouraged to follow U.S. State Department advice and avoid travel to Level 3 and 4 countries. An exception to this policy is noted below.
  2. Consult the country-specific information webpages prepared the U'S Department of State on its international travel website.
  3. Review traveler’s health resources specific to each country to be visited abroad on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website. Each traveler should consult with their medical provider in consideration of CDC traveler’s health advice. The CDC issues Travel Health Notices on a 1 – 3 scale, with Warning Level 3 indicating, “Avoid Nonessential Travel”. Student Travelers and Travel Leaders must avoid countries designated by the CDC as Travel Health Notice Level 3, unless an exception is granted, as described below.

Exception Requests: Student Travelers and/or employees traveling with students abroad may request an exception to items (a) and/or (c) for U.S. State Department “Level 3: Reconsider Travel” and “Level 4: Do Not Travel” advisories and CDC “Travel Health Notice Warning Level 3: Avoid Nonessential Travel” from the Provost using procedure PRO-U2105.01B Requesting Exception to Official Travel Advisories and completing the corresponding e-sign form- Requesting Exception to Official Travel Warnings.

5. Student Travelers and Travel Leaders Register with U.S State Department

Before departure, Student Travelers and Travel Leaders are encouraged to register online with the  State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in order for the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to better assist them in an emergency.

6. Student Travelers and Travel Leaders Maintain Appropriate Health Insurance Coverages

Health insurance policies meant for use in the U.S. have suboptimal coverage for incidents or illnesses that take place abroad. Travelers will maintain appropriate health insurance coverage during travel outside the U.S. including, but not limited to, coverage for medical expenses, medical evacuation, repatriation, disaster and security evacuation, accidental death & dismemberment, and emergency assistance services. Education Abroad and Risk Management determine recommended coverage and limits.

WWU Education Abroad maintains an international health insurance plan. Student Travelers are required to purchase international health insurance either through the university’s approved plan or must provide proof of at least equivalent coverage through another health insurance plan. Faculty and staff are encouraged to purchase this coverage through the EdAbroad’s Office but are not compelled to do so. University departments or programs may also elect to pay the insurance expense on behalf of the student.

7. Emergencies Must be Reported Immediately

Initial notification of an emergency may come to the University in various ways. It may come from a Travel Leader, Student Traveler, host institution, or third-party program provider, and may be received by a variety of University employees on campus including administration, faculty, staff, University Police dispatch, or campus operator.

University employees who receive notification of the following types of emergencies will report them immediately to the Western Director of Education Abroad or University Police:

  1. Serious accident or illness
  2. Serous mental health emergency
  3. Allegations of criminal activity against a participant
  4. Allegations of criminal activity by a participant
  5. Missing participant
  6. Death of a participant
  7. Political emergencies, civil unrest, natural disasters, or infectious disease outbreaks that affect the education abroad program.

    8. Senior Administrators May Terminate or Restrict Travel

    Travel may be terminated or restricted at the discretion of the President, Provost, appropriate Vice President, or appropriated Dean.

    9. Exceptions for Traveling to British Columbia

    Recognizing Bellingham’s proximity to British Columbia, the frequency and ease with which Western students travel to British Columbia, and British Columbia being part of our sense of place in the Pacific Northwest, it is sensible to allow for some exception for Western travelers visiting British Columbia for academic, co-curricular, and extracurricular purposes. However, we acknowledge that while Canada may be in our neighborhood, it is a different country. Students’ U.S.-based health insurance policies provide sub-optimal coverage and protection in Canada, and students are subject to varying Canadian immigration policies depending on a given student’s citizenship status and the duration of stay.

    As such, students traveling to British Columbia for academic, co-curricular, and extracurricular purposes related to Western for less than two weeks will complete a considerably abbreviated application process with the Education Abroad office to make a record of their plans and to complete Western risk management acknowledgement forms. When visiting British Columbia, students are required to purchase international health insurance through the Education Abroad office or provide proof of equivalent coverage through their own health insurance plan. Alternatively, university departments or programs may also elect to pay the insurance expense on behalf of the student.