Being prepared for an emergency abroad

What is COH’s position on studying abroad, given the current political and social climate around the world?

European destinations are considered safer than those in our own backyard in the U.S. and other parts of the Americas. Along with our colleagues in educational institutions, COH continues to believe in the value of intercultural experiences through study abroad for the purpose of exposing American and international students to the differences inherent in other cultures and lifestyles. By increasing cultural sensitivity and dispelling ethnocentric beliefs, peace and global understanding become more achievable. Additionally, the study abroad experience continues to provide a unique and unsurpassed opportunity for personal growth, individual revelation and maturity, as well as the possibility to master a new language!

What does COH consider to be the best response in the event of an emergency?

COH believes that the best way to face an emergency is a comprehensive emergency plan and access to specific information regarding each possible scenario. Along with other international education organizations operating in the field of study abroad, COH monitors world events and stays abreast of changing political and social climates. We carefully review U.S. State Department advisories and updates, and monitor U.S. and overseas media reports; we receive periodic updates from the COH overseas staff in each city; and we formulate and follow recommendations conceived by representatives of the study abroad profession.

How does COH account for safety when selecting apartments and program sites?

COH believes it is essential to carefully review the safety and security of a given country, city, and neighborhood before establishing any new facilities and/or program sites. For this reason, the development of a new site involves of careful research, planning, and evaluation. Once a site is ready to be opened, local resident directors are hired to conduct on-site orientations for students, provide local safety tips and insight, and serve as the local contact for students in the event of any emergency.

What procedures does COH have in place on-site to ensure students’ safety?

All COH overseas programs have emergency evacuation and response plans in place, and students are kept apprised of any changes in these plans. Even within regions of the world more traditionally considered to be “safe”, tensions resulting from local protests and unrest, new migratory patterns, and increased political pressures around the world have resulted in heightened security in train stations, airports, and other public places. To monitor the situation in each of our cities, COH overseas staff members receive regular updates via email from the U.S. consulates closest to their city, and will be notified directly in the event that immediate action needs to be taken for American students. Students are reminded, and notices are posted in each office, of COH safety and security regulations.

If a program has to be evacuated, what will happen?

In the unlikely event that the U.S. State Department issues a travel warning for one of our program countries or regions, and informs Americans to evacuate these areas, or if COH is counseled by one of our overseas staff of a specific danger in a particular city, we will take the necessary action to assist students and their host (and home) institutions as they return to the U.S.

How has COH handled emergencies on-site?

COH emergency procedures have been tested by natural disasters, political unrest, and health epidemics. In all cases, COH staff followed the emergency procedures already in place on-site to locate and notify all participants. COH staff members in our central corporate office provided updates via our website, contacted the parents and universities of each individual participant, and notified other partners of the safety of our students.