Guidelines & Policies

Leading a course abroad requires a great amount of responsibility and planning on behalf of the Faculty Director, the Study Abroad Office, and any Program Assistants.

Defining Roles

Faculty Director

The Faculty Director is more than an instructor on study abroad programs. In addition to being an instructor, he or she is an outreach source, a tour guide, a counselor, an administrator, and overall group leader who has some responsibility in managing group dynamics. This is often a surprise to first-time faculty directors and requires a great deal of time and energy with the group, not only before the program, but also during the program, making it basically impossible to have significant time to do one's own research while abroad. However, it is this extended set of responsibilities that often makes the experience so unique and fulfilling for the directors. These responsibilities afford directors opportunities to observe and guide their students' significant intellectual and personal growth in a very short period of time, establishing a different, perhaps more meaningful relationship with the students.

Faculty Director Responsibilities

  • Obtain department and college support
  • Prepare Course Abroad Planning Form and gather budget information (use the Course Abroad Budget Form, which can be found on our Documents and Forms page)
  • Negotiate, in partnership with SAO, in-country partner contracts
  • Establish program requirements and program itinerary
  • Organize and plan all group trips and events (tour guides, excursions, farewell dinner, etc.)
  • Arrange cash advances
  • Design the academic aspects of the program
  • Design and implement, with SAO, recruitment efforts to promote program
  • Advise interested participants
  • Provide SAO with all appropriate contact information and itineraries
  • Ensure that all participants complete the appropriate paperwork
  • Organize and plan a pre-departure orientation
  • Submit grades upon return

Program Assistant (PA)

The main role of the PA is to provide support for the Faculty Director at all levels: administrative, personal, and instructional. If chosen early enough, the PA can also be of critical assistance in recruitment. The recommended number of students a program should have to include a PA is 18 or more. Inclusion of PA must be approved by the Dean's office. More information on PA selection and expectations is given below.

Study Abroad Office (SAO)

The main role of the SAO is to provide administrative and outreach support to the faculty directors.

Study Abroad Office Responsibilities

  • Provide Program Planning Form, budget form, etc.
  • Create and maintain a program webpage for programs
  • Maintain a record of student participation and completion of requirements
  • Process student applications and support faculty leader with the reviews of applications
  • Give students access to appropriate materials online
  • Advise interested participants
  • Assist in securing arrangements with providers
  • Organize a group flight (if applicable)
  • Billing and Database Management
  • Provide the faculty leader with emergency contacts of participants
  • Facilitate Risk Management Workshops in spring and fall
  • Enroll all eligible participants in International Insurance
  • 24/7 advisor-on-duty
  • Respond to issues/emergencies encountered in the field
  • Provide a program evaluation

Guidelines & Suggestions for Program Set-Up

Course Selections

Prospective students for the courses abroad are generally students who want to go abroad, but want to make progress toward their academic goals, such as fulfilling a general education, a minor, or even a major requirement. Thus, courses providing credit options that meet the hopes of a larger set of students, will more likely reach enrollment targets. Likewise, courses without major prerequisites remain open to a larger set of students. Finally, courses which take full advantage of their location through lectures from and encounters with local experts, through interactions with local students, from lectures on-site as opposed to just traditional classroom experience tend to be more successful overall.

Budget Determination

The Study Abroad Office can provide guidance with the design of program budgets. The more detailed the budget is in the beginning, the more likely students will commit to the program.

Costs likely to be incurred for each program:

  • Faculty Director's expenses (airfare, housing, per diem, insurance, entrance fees, cost of travel)
  • Program Assistant's expenses (airfare, housing, per diem, insurance, entrance fees, cost of travel)
  • Program development costs (fliers, promotions, etc.)
  • Student housing, meals
  • Student airfare
  • Program facilities costs
  • Cell phone rental/calls
  • Stipend for local help
  • Director's discretionary ($25 x number of participants)
  • Emergency contingency ($75 x number of participants)
  • SAO administrative fee
  • Other possible fees: gifts for hosts, guest lecturers, entrance fees, events, etc.)

Housing Suggestions

It is critical that all housing be checked out in advance. This means visiting the site to determine cleanliness/condition of facilities, safety of the neighborhood, proximity to sites to be used (classroom, city attractions, medical facilities, faculty director housing, etc). Also to be arranged is local support for student problems, and possible action plans in case of serious problems. Housing is usually the number one student complaint, whether well justified or not. Having a responsive, involved faculty director and good local support and contingency plans help minimize these complaints.


For SAO faculty-led programs, we highly encourage group airfare to be included in the program fees. For faculty leading a Global Studies 298 course abroad, offering a group flight is required by LAS and organized by the Study Abroad Office. Arranging a group flight is the easiest way to know when your students will be arriving. The coordinators for short-term programs in the Study Abroad Office work with a preferred travel agent of the University on coordinating group space on the best flight in regards to itinerary and price. Seats are confirmed for the group on regularly scheduled flights. The group flight is confirmed four to six months before the program departure date, and at that time a $100 to $200 deposit, per the amount of seats requested, is paid by the Study Abroad Office. Final ticketing and payment occurs one to two months prior to the departure date and is handled by the travel agent and the Study Abroad Office.

Faculty and students are strongly encouraged to leave a copy of their passport and visa with a family member back home and take additional copies in checked luggage.

Cell Phone

Faculty leaders must have a cell phone during the duration of their program and must inform SAO of the number. The better communication SAO can have with you, the happier all parties will be.

Faculty leaders have reported having difficulties trying to make and receive phone calls internationally and while on site. It is important to distinguish the difference between dialing a cell phone and a landline while in a different country, because they are often very different. can be helpful in understanding how to make phone calls all over the world.

Opportunities for Students to Interact with Locals (Informal or Formal)

When students participate in courses abroad, they like to feel in touch with the local culture, and one of the best ways to do this is to arrange for opportunities where your students can explore their new environment. Students appreciate, and look for, opportunities to interact with local peers rather than remaining in their island group. However, they commonly report it is not easy to break out of their own group.

The possibilities to arrange interaction with locals are endless. Here is a list of ideas to get you started on including opportunities for students to interact with locals during their course abroad experience:

  • Home stays with host families
  • Hosted meals (i.e. Thanksgiving - either the Illinois group could host the meal, or students or an organization from the host country could host the meal.)
  • Organize social gatherings with peers (i.e. a political science course could find another political science department to partner with and have a party.)
  • Service opportunities incorporated in course (service learning)
  • Visits with local English classes
  • Conversation partners
  • Find guest speakers who are the students' peers and organize social events for the expert with the Illinois group.
  • Course assignments that make students engage in the local culture (i.e., A language course could use some kind of scavenger hunt as an assignment.)
  • Field research assignments that make students participants/observers
  • Buddy program (Work with a specific department at a local university, even if our program doesn't have students attending there, and match our students with their university students. The course leader could host the first party for them to mix and then perhaps have a follow up event.)

Program Assistant (PA) Selection & Expectations

In order for a program to be considered for a PA, the program needs to have at least 18 participants. PAs can be a tremendous asset to the program, or they can be a serious liability. SAO helps in the selection process of PAs to ensure that the PA will be an asset to the program. Past experience has shown us that if the PA selection process is not an objective one, graduate students can feel that the process was not entirely fair. A more developed process also ensures that the PA knows and understands their responsibilities to the program and the faculty director.

Faculty leaders are welcome and encouraged to talk with SAO about the selection process for their PA. No guarantee can be given to the PA until the numbers are met. SAO and LAS must approve the budgeting for PAs in order for a program to be granted a PA. Like the faculty leaders, the PAs are required to participate in the pre-departure orientations.

Expectations of the PA include but are not limited to:

  • Assist in recruiting and keeping students interested in the program
  • Support the faculty member's decisions and plans, especially when discussing them in front of students
  • Assist in managing student issues (emergencies, late-night or other group disturbances, group dynamics, cultural adjustment concerns, etc.)
  • Assist in the course as requested by the faculty directory
  • Be a positive role model to the participants

Family Members

Faculty leaders may occasionally wish to have family members (partners, children, etc.) accompany them on a program. While students often benefit from the personal dimensions of interactions with family members, UIUC cannot financially support the participation of those family members in any way. The faculty leader must cover travel costs and living expenses. Family members should not participate in program activities if their participation might intrude in any way on the pedagogical outcomes of the program.

Program-Specific Orientation & Handbook

Students report that they appreciate having gotten to know their group before they travel, as well as the faculty contact. They also often report that they wish they had done more research on the country they visited before they traveled. Given the student feedback, directors are encouraged to:

  • Stay in frequent contact with applicants, give them information about the course and the country, and encourage students to do their own research.
  • Arrange for informal meetings for the group/PA/faculty director to get to know each other.
  • Arrange for a colleague/student/native/other expert of host country to give a short talk on the country/cultural expectations, etc. Do not expect students to read material you suggest.
  • Build in some kind of pre-departure self-orientation requirement for course.

In addition to this informal contact, directors also prepare a program-specific Orientation. SAO prepares a general study abroad pre-departure orientation, advising students on safe travel practices, basics of cultural adjustment, and what to expect in terms of final program administrative issues, including financial payments.

Course Abroad Handbook

During the program-specific orientation, faculty directors distribute a handbook for their course abroad, a type of cultural course packet. SAO has some good models from past years and is happy to help the directors put this handbook together. Suggest that students do research on the area they are traveling to, which can include providing a list of books, websites, past participants, films, etc. Plan to include helpful information, such as:

  • Suggestions on what to pack (clothes, items, medications, etc.) for the time they will be there; think about access to towels, linens, and laundry and give guidance regarding those issues
  • Suggestions on local travel details, such as how much money to bring (use evaluations from previous years), access to post office, and telephones
  • Recommendations on travel documents; e.g., international student I.D. cards, information on getting visas, if necessary, etc.
  • A brief description of housing arrangements and suggestions on living with families, if appropriate
  • Tips on cultural etiquette and/or appropriateness, especially if home stays are involved; this might include special articles on cultural artifacts
  • Advice from former students on the program
  • Course syllabus and itinerary
  • Other suggestions/information that you think might be of general interest to students going on your program (e.g., cultural or social life of the city)

A list of participants and their local email addresses so that students can get to know each other before they go