Stage 3: Preparing to Depart


As you and your students get ready to depart, you should to consider hosting a program specific pre-departure session. This may take place in class a few months before you leave, or you may want to host a session during the evening after classes.

Below are a few suggested locations:

Template Presentations

You may use our template pre-departure presentation for hosting your program specific pre-departure session. Feel free to edit as you see fit. If you have any questions about these templates or pre-departure requirements, please contact the Safety Abroad Coordinator at Western International. 

Safety Planning and Mitigation

Pre-Travel Security Brief

Once you have finalised your detailed itinerary (including transport, accommodation and location of site/host visits), be sure to send this to the Safety Abroad Coordinator at Western International for ISOS’ pre-travel security brief. ISOS will provide information regarding the safety of your routes, locations and overall plan. Be ready to make changes as appropriate to ensure your trip is as safe as possible. View an example of an ISOS pre-travel security brief for locations in Colombia

Safety Abroad Steps for Students

Any Western student undertaking University sanctioned travel abroad must adhere to Western’s Safety Abroad Policy by carefully completing the safety abroad steps for students. Two steps in particular must be met. These include both steps of the Travel Registry and pre-departure training.

Step 1: Review Government of Canada travel advisories

If your destination is allocated an official advisory of “Avoid non-essential travel” or “Avoid all travel”, each student must submit a special authorization to travel form. This form must be submitted to the Safety Abroad Coordinator as soon as possible. The approval process may take up to 3 weeks and permission to travel to locations with these advisories is not guaranteed.

Step 2: Complete pre-departure training session (optional for conference travel)

Pre-departure training, also called the Foundations for International Mobility/Engagement or FIME, provide students with vital information and resources that prepare them for their travel abroad. Two modules (Gender Norms & Sexual Violence and Critical & Ethical Global Engagement) have face-to-face workshops to complement the online modules. Depending on your individual program, mandatory completion of the face-to-face workshops can be decided by the Coordinator of the program.

FIME is available through OWL. Students must join the site, by searching for ‘Foundations for International Mobility and Engagement’, and review each module before attempting the final quiz. Students get two attempts to achieve 80% or more in the final quiz. Students who are unable to complete the quiz in two attempts must contact the Safety Abroad Coordinator at Western International.

Further information on each module can be found below:

  • Health and Wellness

    This health module enables learners to think about their own mental and physical wellness while abroad. It also provides general health tips and recommendations that are beneficial for all travellers. The modules covers out-of-country medical insurance, tips for healthy travel, mental health, and other useful resources for wellness abroad.

  • Travel

    In this module, the key practicalities for international learning experiences are discussed. This includes essential documentation needed for travel, requirements and recommendations from government officials, and general travel and safety tips.

  • Academic Preparation (optional for non-exchange students)

    Students will learn about academic preparation steps, including scholarships and the course approvals process (if students are receiving academic credit for their international learning experience).

  • Risk Management

    With the safety and well-being of students travelling abroad a priority for Western University, this module will outline the safety abroad steps students take to mitigate risks abroad. These steps include complying with Western’s Safety Abroad Policy, completing the Risk Management & Safety module, and reviewing information from Western University’s Safety Abroad webpage.

  • Intercultural Engagement

    This module is intended to encourage learners to begin to think about themselves in an international context and will introduce concepts of culture, intercultural competence, cultural self-awareness, cultural identity, and cultural adjustment process as they relate to travelling and living abroad.

  • Gender Norms and Sexual Violence

    This module was developed in collaboration with Sexual Assault Centre London (Anova), Western International, and Mikono Yetu (Tanzanian women’s empowerment NGO). This module is not a guide to prevent sexual violence—that responsibility is of the perpetrators. Rather, this module is intended to create awareness, critical thinking, and discussion around cultural gender norms and how these can contribute to the perpetuation of sexual violence.

  • Critical and Ethical Global Engagement

    In this module learners will examine global engagement both critically and ethically in relation to their international learning experience. The module is divided into two parts. Part A addresses critical global engagement which requires an analysis of social, political, economic and historical contexts when students from the global North are interacting with partners in the global South. Part B addresses ethical global engagement with host communities which involves hyper self-reflexivity for students to mitigate the asymmetrical power relationships that exist due to issues such as colonial history and global politics which lead to ethical dilemmas. In this module learners will examine the ethical dilemmas which exist in North-South relations in order to help avoid unintended negative consequences and to ‘do no harm.’

When do students have to complete this?

As soon as possible, or at least six weeks before departure

Instructions for Students

You will need to join the online modules through OWL by following the steps below:

  1. Log onto OWL
  2. Click "Membership" on the left bar
  3. Click the "Joinable Sites" tab at the top of this page
  4. Search for "Foundations for International Mobility"
  5. Join "Foundations for International Mobility/Engagement"

Once you have gone through each module, you have to complete the final quiz. You must successfully achieve 80% from 2 attempts in the final quiz to pass. When you achieve at least 80% in the final quiz, you will be issued with an electronic ‘Certificate of Completion’ under the ‘Certification’ tab on the left bar.

How will I know when students have completed this step?

Students will receive an electronic Certification of Completion once they successfully complete the final quiz. They can provide this certificate to you electronically, or if your application is in Atlas, you can check to make sure they have uploaded this to their application.

Step 3: Enter information in Western's Travel Registry

What students sometimes forget is that the Travel Registry has two components. Students must first carefully enter their travel details through Atlas. After successfully submitting their entry in Atlas, students are then issued with an email with a unique link to ISOS MyTrips. By clicking on this link, they are taken to Western’s ISOS MyTrips portal, where students must enter their travel details in again.

Students will be asked to submit their personal details, travel details, program type, emergency contact/s, insurance information and agree to a range of consent statements.

It is important for students to complete both components.

When do students have to complete this?

As soon as they confirm their travel plans (i.e. flights, accommodation, etc), and at least three weeks prior to their departure date.

Instructions for students

Travel Registry Step 1 - through Atlas:

  • Make sure to carefully review and complete each question, before hitting ‘Submit’ at the end.
  • If you do not receive an email with a unique link to Step 2 (through ISOS MyTrips), this means you have not completed Step 1.

Travel Registry Step 2 - through ISOS MyTrips:

  • Using the link provided in the email generated after completing Step 1, register as a new user and enter your travel details.
  • If you receive a country profile for your location/s from ISOS, this means you have successfully completed Step 2.

View the user guide for both steps of the Travel Registry

How will I know when students have completed this step?

Students can forward you a copy of the emails they receive after completing both the Atlas and ISOS MyTrips entry. Or, if your program’s application is through Atlas, you can access their workflow and check to see if the “Travel Registry Complete” flag is attached to their application.

If your application is not through Atlas, students will need to complete a separate Travel Registry entry in Atlas. You may want to fill in the Safety Abroad for Students Checklist and send this to the Safety Abroad Coordinator to request a check for compliance. Please provide this to the Safety Abroad Coordinator at least 3 weeks prior to the departure date.

Step 4: Review insurance coverage for out-of-country travel

As part of the Travel Registry, students are required to submit details of their out-of-country health and travel insurance. It is important to note that students are responsible for arranging their own coverage and should be cautioned to be familiar with exactly what their plan covers, how long it lasts, and where and how it works. Students must ensure their coverage includes any pre-existing medical conditions, including mental illnesses.

All full-time Western students are automatically enrolled in the USC Health and Dental Plan (undergraduates) or SOGS Health and Dental Plan (graduates) which provide out-of-country health insurance (some conditions apply). Students who have opted out should check to see if they have out-of-country coverage through another plan, such as their parents’. It is important to note that the USC and SOGS Health and Dental Plans do not include travel insurance (i.e. cancellations, lost luggage, etc). If students are travelling on solely USC or SOGS health and dental plans, they are responsible for arranging travel insurance also.

Step 5: Register with Canadians Abroad

Canadian citizens are advised to register with Registration of Canadians Abroad (ROCA), which is a free service that allows the Government of Canada to notify them in case of an emergency at home. This service also provides alerts in times of emergencies such as before or during a natural disaster or civil unrest.

Non-Canadian students should research similar services with their country of citizenship.

Step 6: Obtain any required vaccinations or health checks

All students planning international travel should take initiative to learn about their host country and take reasonable precautions to ensure they stay healthy and safe. This includes visiting a travel clinic or consulting your own doctor about any preventative measures you can take.

It is recommended that you be vaccinated a minimum of six weeks prior to departure so you must book vaccination appointments well in advance of the six-week minimum timeframe. Please note that certain vaccinations may require more than six weeks to administer before you travel.

The Middlesex London Health Unit's Travel Immunization Clinic offers personalized risk assessments, onsite immunizations, and prescriptions for preventative medications.

Step 7: Learn how to stay safe abroad

As part of Western's commitment to our travellers, we have invested in global medical and security assistance through International SOS. This program is designed to keep our students healthy, safe and secure while they are travelling or living abroad. Resources are also available to you prior to travel to help students plan ahead.

Safety Abroad Steps for Faculty and Staff Members Leading Students Abroad

View our safety steps for faculty and staff leading trips abroad. Notice that one of the steps is ensuring your students are aware of and complete Western’s Travel Registry and pre-departure training!

International SOS Resources

Western members can take full advantage of a range of ISOS resources before and during their travel. Remember to quote Western’s membership number when accessing ISOS resources. You may also want to arrange to have plastic ISOS membership cards delivered to you through inter-campus mail or have them available for pick up at Western International (IGAB, level 2). Please contact the Safety Abroad Coordinator for more details.

Some of the ISOS resources you will find useful are:

  • Pre-Travel Security Briefs

    As discussed earlier, ISOS provide comprehensive pre-travel security briefs for any trip outside Canada. All you need to do is provide your itinerary to the Safety Abroad Coordinator and they will request this report from ISOS on your behalf.

  • ISOS MyTrips

    Faculty and staff leading a group of students abroad will need to register their travel details in ISOS MyTrips, along with all students on University sanctioned travel.

  • Health, Safety and Security Alerts

    ISOS issue alerts to subscribers relating to health, safety and security updates around the world. Users can register to this service by visiting the International SOS website using Western’s membership number. By selecting your country/ies of interest, you will receive immediate alerts from ISOS should anything happen in those location/s. For example, natural disasters, civil unrest, terrorist attacks, etc.

  • Country profiles

    Western members undertaking University sanctioned travel have access to ISOS’ vast database of safety resources. To view this information, users will need to visit International SOS website and enter Western’s membership number. Users can then find their destination country’s security (personal risk, country stability), medical (standard of care, vaccinations, clinics & hospitals, food & water and health threats), travel (getting there & around, language & money, cultural tips, phone & power, geography & weather, calendar) and city (specifics about major cities in country) information.

  • Immediate assistance

    ISOS provides Western members with immediate assistance both before and during travel. This means users can contact ISOS at any time with their questions, whether it be an emergency or not. ISOS can be contacted either by phone, email or through their Assistance app.

First Aid Training

Most accidents and injuries are unpredictable and can occur any time. It is recommended that any staff or faculty leading a study abroad program is trained in Standard First Aid and CPR. Training is provided through the following campus units:

Accident, Illness and Incident Form

There are a variety of safety and security issues that can occur while abroad. Whether it is an emergency or non-emergency, documentation of the incident should be completed by a staff or faculty leader. The Accident, Illness and Incident Form will be available shortly. Please contact ISOS for immediate assistance.

Student Code of Conduct

The Code of Student Conduct at Western covers both on and off campus conduct and can be used when behaviour is excessive, frightening or causes a personal safety concern. Discipline ranges from a warning to expulsion. The main purpose of such discipline is to address negative behaviour, promote a safe and harmonious environment and to return students to the focus of their studies. The Code of Student Conduct should be reviewed by the faculty or staff member with the student before departing and upon arrival.

Emergency Response/Action Plan

It is often difficult to predict all risks that could occur while on study abroad. Despite all possible precautions, there are still unforeseen risks that can occur. As staff and faculty, it is important to be prepared for some of the potential risks and have an emergency action plan to follow.

  • Have emergency contact information (ISOS, Western, services in-country) handy
  • Include plan of action for multiple issues (injury, sickness, lost travel documents, natural disaster)
  • Designate an alternate faculty leader should the primary leader become incapacitated during the program

Tips for emergency planning

  • Review ISOS resources available on their website:
  • Familiarize yourself with region-specific health and safety concerns.
  • Prepare students for a safe program, both physically and emotionally, by encouraging students to consult with their health care providers prior to departure.
  • Conduct pre-departure orientations covering region-specific health and safety precautions and procedures.
  • Distribute emergency contact information (i.e. ISOS) to all participants.
  • Conduct an on-site orientation that familiarizes students with in-country medical procedures/ facilities, reinforces emergency protocols, and revisits the code of conduct and behavior expectations.
  • Be available 24/7 to respond to the needs of the students.
  • Carry emergency information, a student contact list, and a cell phone always and be prepared to communicate via phone or email with ISOS and Western in the event of an emergency.

Responding to Emergencies

  • Remain calm. Assess the situation
  • Ensure safety and wellbeing of students. Account for the group
  • Call International SOS
  • Contact Canadian Embassy
  • Contact Western International (WI)
  • Continue to monitor the situation
  • Maintain communication with WI
  • Complete Accident, Illness and Incident Form