• Morgan Schaening

Student Travel and Risk Management

Travel is fun. Travel is enriching. Travel is informative.

Traveling abroad and immersing yourself in a new culture is revelatory as you not only learn about a new place but, through the experiences you have, unravel facets to your personality you didn’t know existed before.

The most important question to ask whether you're doing your students the fair justice of managing the natural risks associated with travel.

Risk is inherent in any form of activity, and the steps to be taken when traveling outside of the country with students are critical to ensuring the experience and benefits outweigh those risks. Risk Management is about constantly addressing the "Risk vs. Reward" paradigm appropriately. (Simply carrying an extensive insurance policy isn’t enough to manage the risks associated with travel. Risk Management means helping to identify potential risks and manage them in such a way to avoid them becoming incidents.)

Understanding the Risks

The first step in risk management while traveling with students is to understand and anticipate the kind of risks that you may encounter, which may range from losing your travel documents to a serious medical incident.

Some of the possible risks that a traveler must prepare for are:

  • Lost passport

  • Lost baggage

  • Injury or illness

  • Unable to understand the culture and language

  • Lack of proper research on the place of visit

  • Natural disaster

  • Becoming lost

  • Emergency evacuation

When traveling both as an individual as well as a group, it is paramount that the group is well prepared for possible risks and has a game plan for addressing even the most out-of-the-box chance scenario.

Mitigating the Risks

The next step is to mitigate these risks – to take measures to ensure that students remain safe through the duration of their travel.

A travel company which organizes tours for students needs to be adept at anticipating and handling any exigency that may arise. Such exigencies include basics such as accidents, sickness, misplaced documents or baggage and so on.

The following basic steps can go a long way in mitigating the risks:

  • The students must be sensitized and briefed about the various risks that may arise on their trip and ways in which they must react to be safe.

  • The students must be given emergency contact numbers, which they can dial in case of an emergency, such as contact person, hospital, police, embassy and so on.

  • The students must be asked to stick together with the group at all times and not wander off alone.

  • The students must be asked to stay alert at all times, for they would be traveling to an unfamiliar location, which involves an element of unpredictability.

  • The students must be sensitized about the local customs and traditions and must be respectful toward them.

  • The students must secure all their valuables.

  • The students must carry their medicines and prescriptions that they may need abroad.

  • There should be a mentor or group leader accompanying the students at all times.

These steps help cover the fundamental, common risks and ensure that the students can focus on enjoying their trip without having to worry about anything else.

Insurance Against Risks

While traveling, there are some risks that are unexpected or cannot be managed. For instance, delay in flights, health scare in the host country, civil unrest, terrorist attack, natural calamities such as tsunami, earthquake and the like, cannot be controlled or brought down to manageable levels. Such risks cannot be prevented but the losses arising due to them can be reduced to a great extent. It is essential that students be insured through a holistic travel insurance plan that covers such risks.

Establishing Clear Roles and Responsibilities

Every Risk Management program should clearly outline the expectations of students, traveling teachers and program leaders, often resulting in a group agreed upon Code of Conduct. The adult duty of care for students should be represented as "in loco parentis" meaning the legal responsibility of a person or organization to take on some of the functions and responsibilities of a parent.

Most reputed travel companies prepare a carefully thought out risk management program, which usually begins with an assessment of their clients’ exposure to risk and the responsibilities of each member of the team. They employ experienced staff members, trained in handling risks while traveling and ensuring a smooth experience, to cover all risks and ensure that all the safety measures are in place.

Proper risk management ensures that the trip remains focused on providing an enriching and enlightening experience for the students.

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