Traveling with Students to High Risk Destinations

Faculty and staff travel guidelines for taking students to high-risk destinations.


These guidelines are for faculty interested in taking students to high-risk destinations, whether as part of a study group, extended study, independent research, athletic event, or any other Colgate-sponsored activity. “High-risk destinations” may include countries where the U.S. State Department has issued a travel warning, as well as countries without a Travel Warning but that still pose a significant threat to the safety of students/faculty and to the running of the program. 

While the university supports student travel, study, and research abroad, we want to make sure that faculty and students are fully aware of the potential risks. The approval process detailed here is intended to help the university to evaluate travel based on the most complete and accurate information available.

Please note the following explanation of U.S State Department announcements and how they may influence student travel destinations.

U.S. State Department Travel Announcements

The U.S. State Department issues three types of announcements:

  1. Country-specific information sheets
  2. Travel alerts
  3. Travel warnings

Country-specific information sheets are available for every country of the world. They describe entry requirements, currency regulations, health conditions and availability of medical support, the crime and security situation, description of the country’s infrastructure, recommendations for travelers, as well as emergency telephone numbers for U.S. consulates and embassies.

Travel alerts provide information about relatively short-term and/or transnational conditions posing significant risks to the security of American travelers. They are issued when there is a perceived threat, even if it does not involve Americans as a particular target group.

The third and most serious announcement is the travel warning. In some dangerous situations, the U.S. State Department issues a Travel Warning, recommending that Americans defer travel to a country or to a particular region within a country.

Colgate's Policies

...consider starting a new program (study group or extended study) or allow the running of an on-going program for countries for which the U.S. State Department has issued a travel warning that does any of the following:

  • orders departure of U.S. dependents and non-emergency personnel; 
  • recommends that any U.S. citizens remaining in the country should depart;
  • strongly warns U.S. citizens against travel to the country; • warns or urges U.S. citizens to defer (non-essential) travel to the country; or
  • warns that the U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide emergency consular services is limited.

If a travel warning or a travel alert is issued while a study group is in session, Colgate will weigh the best options for the students, in consultation with the study group director, Off-Campus Study, Risk Management, U.S. embassy officials, and other U.S. and on-site resources.

...consider starting new programs or running existing programs in countries for which the State Department has issued lesser travel warning levels, such as, for example, when the State Department only:

  • warns U.S. citizens of the (risks, dangers, or potential risk or danger) of travel to the country; 
  • urges U.S. citizens to evaluate carefully their security and safety before traveling to the country;
  • warns (cautions) U.S. citizens to consider the risks of travel to the country;
  • cautions U.S. citizens to take prudent security measures; 
  • urges (warns) U.S. citizens to weigh the necessity of travel to the country; or
  • urges U.S. citizens to exercise extreme caution.

If a country has a lesser travel warning, OR, if the Country-Specific Information Sheet indicates serious concerns about safety, infrastructure, available medical facilities, or on-going threats in security in the country or in certain regions of the country, the faculty or staff wishing to take students to the country must provide additional information as part of the university approval process

Proposing a Program or Trip

Before beginning a proposal, the faculty member must meet with the directors of Off-Campus Study and Risk Management to discuss general safety issues and to verify the level of the travel warning and/or the risk level as presented in the country-specific information sheet. 

Proposals to take students to high-risk destinations undergo an additional review by the Risk Assessment Committee, comprised of:

  • Director of Off-Campus Study/International Programs
  • Risk Manager
  • Dean of the Faculty
  • Faculty chair of the Off-Campus Study Committee
  • Vice President for Finance and Administration

The Risk Assessment Committee is responsible for assessing the inherent and potential security risks of a proposal's destination and will have the authority to reject a proposal if the security risks assessed are considered too high for students and faculty. Prior to making any decision, the committee will consult with and may request additional information from the faculty/staff member who submitted the proposal.

The faculty proposal for a new or existing study group, extended study, or for any Colgate-supported event (athletic competition, student research, club activities, etc.) in a high-risk location must address the following issues and questions:

Please review and attach information from the U.S. State Department with your proposal.

  • Will you be traveling in a region that the State Dept has identified as a problem area? Based on the State Department information and your local resources, describe the level of crime in any region where you will be traveling: Violent or petty? Random or targeted? If targeted, against whom?
  • How far will the group be from problem areas in the country? Please define this in estimated miles or kilometers, and also in real-life travel time.
  • What safety concerns can you identify, whether from the State Department information, from your first-hand experience, or from your local contacts? In terms of your students’ safety, what can we control and what can’t we control? For example, are there neighborhoods or activities we can tell the students to avoid? Is there rampant violent crime we might not be able to control?)
  • Is there security at the lodging? Is there a 24-hour front desk? Secure locks? Will there be a place where students can safeguard passports and money?
  • Will you need to place limits on what students can/can not do in their free time? Will you allow them to go out alone at night? Travel alone or in small groups on weekends? What are the local risks students need to be aware of if they do?
  • What are the most pressing health concerns based on your location(s) and activities? Have there been recent disease outbreaks?
  • If you are incapacitated in any way, or if you must spend significant time handling a crisis with one student, is there a local person who can oversee the group until you are able to re-join them?
  • Identify other local resources/contacts who might be able to help you in the event of an emergency. Where is there an emergency room? Health clinic? Major hospital? Police station? English-speaking doctors? Is there a local contact who can help you negotiate the “system”, especially if you are not fluent in the local language?
  • If there is a major medical emergency, how will the student be transported to a hospital?
  • Are there any insurance requirements for that country or university?
  • Are there required or recommended immunizations? (Dr. Miller in student health and the CDC website are good resources).
  • Are there any food/water safety issues?

If you will be traveling from site to site, what are the conditions of the roads? Are there recommendations for road travel, local transportation, or the use of local drivers?

  • If English is not the principal language of the country, do you speak the language well enough not to need a translator for day-to-day activities and emergencies?
  • If you do not speak the local language well, have you identified one or two translators who will be with the group (or are accessible to the group) for daily activities and emergencies?