Health and safety for secondary school programs abroad

January 2, 2018

By Shoshanna Sumka, Coordinator of Global and Community Engagement, Sidwell Friends School

Moving from higher education to secondary global education two years ago was an interesting shift in my career. The content was the same, but applying it to students under age 18 for faculty-led travel programs was a bit different. Secondary educators are just as passionate about developing students into global citizens and have similar learning goals for their students as higher ed instructors.  Trip implementation, however, especially around issues of health and safety, needs to be done in a way that includes parents and takes into consideration the special requirements of traveling with minors.

My colleague Melissa Brown and I have written a guide for secondary global educators who travel with groups of students under age 18. The guide includes chapters focusing on the following topics:

  • How to plan program goals and logistics and how to vet partner organizations.
  • Essential health and safety documents required for travel, including legal documents, medical documents, and student information.
  • Emergency preparedness plans, with a sample emergency action plan.
  • The importance of setting expectations and procedures for healthy, safe, and culturally competent student behavior abroad.
  • How to train faculty program leaders, with an appendix of real-life case study scenarios to discuss.
  • Student and parent orientation meeting content.
  • The actual journey, including tips on holding daily morning and evening meetings with the students.
  • The trip home, debriefing, and reconciling all loose ends upon return.

We hope Health and Safety for Secondary School Programs Abroad is useful to fellow educators and brings to light the special circumstances of secondary education abroad.


Shoshanna Sumka is Coordinator of Global and Community Engagement at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC. Shoshanna has a BA from Earlham College and a Masters of Applied Anthropology from the University of Maryland. She currently overseas global education and social action programming at a PK-12 independent school that includes inside and outside the classroom learning experiences.  She has worked in international education for over 18 years with the University of Idaho, American University, and the Experiment in International Living. She is the co-author of Working Side By Side: Creating Alternative Breaks as Catalysts for Global Learning, Student Leadership, and Social Change.

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