ISA’s Custom Programs division is celebrating its 15th year in service to U.S. universities for their faculty-led and partnership study abroad programming. Join us for this series of 15 things as you imagine, develop, and implement your own custom programs abroad.
1. Maybe your students got spooked, or maybe they just didn’t hear about your program in time.
Utilize ISA’s marketing support on-campus, regionally, and nationally, and we’ll help you make your program a success.
2. Embassies, Consulates, and Visas – oh my!
Did you know that some countries require transit visas for foreign visitors, solely to have permission to land in the airport? Last year, two non-U.S. citizens were supposed to fly to Europe via Canada on a group flight for their faculty-led program. One student opted out of the group flight, and flew directly to her destination; the other spent the weeks leading up to her departure anxiously awaiting the return of her passport and Canadian transit visa, which incredibly arrived the day before her flight!
If you have international students who will be participating in a custom program, make sure to put them in touch with their ISA program manager as early as possible for visa advising!
3. Unfortunately, there’s no crystal ball for the futures market.
Currency fluctuation can be a mystery, but with ISA, all of your program prices are guaranteed and given in U.S. dollars.
4. It’s looking grim when your housing reservation falls through, and unfortunately, that’s an all too-common problem in the world’s biggest tourist locations.
Have you experienced the ultimate frustration and immediate panic of losing a housing reservation for your group once it is already down to the wire? We sure hope not. But it has happened and does continue happening with some of the student residencies in the most-frequented destinations around the world.
ISA, however, has a long-standing history with our options for accommodation in the majority of our sites around the world, and they know better than to mess with us.
5. The idea of arriving abroad with no support other than a letter of enrollment can be hair-raising for some of your students.
Avoid the horrors of independent housing and missing orientation week by setting up a partnership with ISA. We can support your bilateral exchange agreement in any of our program sites, and your students receive the benefit of a supportive environment and well-rounded program.
6. Whether it’s supernatural or not, flight delays happen and we don’t want you to be left out in the cold!
ISA maintains a 24/7 emergency on-call phone here in the U.S. If an individual student or your entire group flight is delayed or canceled, give us a call and we will reschedule your airport reception.
7. Don’t be haunted by last-minute itinerary changes.
We always hope everything goes as planned, but sometimes that is just not going to be the case. With ISA’s full-time, local resident staff abroad, finding a guest lecturer to fill that spot or switching the order of activities can help facilitate eleventh-hour transitions smoothly.
8. What happens when your professor is out of commission, and there isn’t another program leader?
Once upon a time, a faculty leader got sick and had to eventually return home, leaving her 12 students in Spain. Fortunately, ISA resident staff was able to take over, leading the students on their academic visits until a university staff person came over to resume leadership over the program.
9. We have all seen the real-life havoc that natural disasters can wreak around the world. What would you do if your students were caught in a country amidst a crisis, far from home?
ISA has a course of action in place for emergency response in each of our sites abroad. We’ve established a proactive protocol that includes collection of student information and formulating a plan; it is also very effectively reactive, utilizing ISA’s award-winning World Wide Alerts through our website and social media platforms.
10. It’s a sinister feeling to look back through your bags and realize that your passport is gone.
An ISA student was in his departing airport at the end of his program when a thief swiped his passport from his bag. When our story’s hero noticed his missing passport a few hours later prior to boarding, the thief had already left the country. ISA was able to liaise with international and local authorities to flag the thief, who had been caught on surveillance, and a few escorted flights later, the ISA student was reunited with his passport.
We collect electronic copies of all student and faculty passports, so in the event of a [most often less dramatic] passport emergency, we can liaise with the local embassy to get a speedy replacement.
11. Wicked cool or just plain wicked?
A code of conduct violation can prove to be a sticky situation; with ISA help mediating the conflict, and coordination with your home campus, you can be confident we can move forward with a resolution while you move forward with your program.
12. Are those chills a result of the local ghost tour or from a fever?
If you have a sick student, you can rely on ISA’s full-time resident staff who are available 24/7 for such emergencies on-site and back here in the U.S., which allows you to stay with your group and focus on your instruction.
13. International train delays can feel apocalyptic if you don’t have a way to get in touch with anyone.
We learned the importance of faculty international cell phones early on, when a group missed a connecting train between program sites. ISA can get a local phone situated for you and loaded up with a local service plan even before arrival, so you can keep your group on track.
14. Keeping up with a folder of paper student forms can be more like a binder of burden, and – gasp – what if you lose it?
ISA stores student and faculty forms electronically, so you don’t have to hold on to a printed list of food allergies, passport copies, or emergency contact information. All resident directors have mobile as well as office access to all student and faculty basic and specialized information.
15. It can be a terror to keep up with program receipts and turn in your expense report to accounts payable on campus.
Fortunately for you, ISA provides one simple invoice to your university, coordinates any necessary paperwork [W9, Purchase Orders, etc.], and collects one simple payment for the program fees.
Let us have your back for your 2014 custom programs, whether they’re faculty-led or international partnerships, and we’ll do our best to make your program a dream!
Melissa Stone is a Program Manager for ISA Custom Programs. Melissa works with programs in Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, and Jordan.