It doesn't matter whether you’re a travel pro or about to embark on your first international adventure, making the transition to live in a new city can be scary. With so many unknowns to sort out on the ground, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, but the risk is worth the reward. Live abroad and you’ll come out stronger, more curious, and more confident.
Still, we receive a lot of questions from interns nervous about living in another country and parents worried about their children traveling so far from home. We understand this, and that going abroad or sending your child overseas can be an intimidating.
Which is why we’ve developed a robust safety guide and strict procedures to ensure the safety of our interns. Here are a few “how to stay safe when you travel” tips and insights into our safety procedures.
Misconceptions about Abroad Safety
There are plenty of misconceptions about staying safe while traveling, but now is one of the safest times to go abroad.
London intern Kaylee said, “Before I left for London, there were a handful of terrorist attacks that occurred that made me unsure if going was a safe idea. I am so thankful I still went because Global Experiences and its staff made me feel safe every step of the way. GE surrounded me with plenty of resources to ensure I had a safe time away from home and I never once felt unsafe!”
Dublin, Florence, and Stockholm are some of the safest cities in Europe where we offer internship programs. Past interns said the relatively small size of the city has given them a sense of safety. Even our larger cities, like Sydney, are incredibly safe. In fact, Sydney ranks as one of the safest cities in the world. No matter what program location chosen, we stand by our strategies and protocols, and do all we can to keep our interns as safe as possible while interning abroad.
Before you Get on your Plane
U.S. STEP Enrollment
At Global Experiences, we take the necessary steps to ensure all our interns are properly prepared to travel abroad. Every one of our interns goes through our pre-departure orientation and is enrolled in our travel and medical emergency insurance. Additionally, our U.S. citizen interns are signed up for the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
STEP allows U.S. embassies to contact interns in case of emergency, natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency while in their host cities abroad. For interns from outside of the U.S., we encourage them to register for a comparable consular service for safety information if the option exists.
Our pre-departure orientation is one of our most important tools and is continually updated year to year. This is a mandatory orientation interns must attend before going abroad to learn about aspects of life in their host cities, get a chance to ask questions, and are introduced to their Global Experiences on-site location staff.
Interns are given information about the cost of living, transportation, local culture, and anything else they need to know to prepare to go abroad. GE interns find that our pre-departure orientation is full of necessary information that makes traveling abroad much more relaxed.
International Insurance Coverage
We also enroll all of our interns in travel and medical emergency insurance for the duration of the program. The insurance GE provides extensive coverage and useful resources, and interns are encouraged to familiarize themselves with it before traveling abroad. The insurance does not cover any extra time an intern spends abroad before or after their program ends, but can be extended for an additional fee.
24/7 On-Site Location Staff
From the moment interns touch down in their host cities to the second the program ends, they are provided with all of Global Experiences’ resources and staff.
Location Coordinators and Residential Advisors
Each of our program locations has a dedicated Location Coordinator (LC). Our LCs call our host cities home and are very familiar with the location. They are available 24/7 and are interns first point of contact while abroad. Watch a Snapchat Takeover hosted by our Paris Location Coordinator, Mandie!
In some of our locations, there are also Residential Advisors (RAs), who have all been GE interns in the past and are well aware of how the program should run. They are available full-time as the intern’s second point of contact and work closely with the LC to ensure that the program runs smoothly. Watch another Snapchat Takeover hosted by our Stockholm RA, Britt.
Blue Book Safety Training
Global Experiences conducts extensive blue book safety training with all of our location staff for emergencies and preparing them to respond to both individual (health) and situational concerns. They are responsible for successful program delivery.
2017 Barcelona intern Sarah Szuba said, "We thought of our GE coordinator, Inma, as our Spanish Madre! From the time I landed to the time I departed, she was always checking up on us to make sure we were as comfortable as possible and felt safe at all times.
I felt like she was not only someone that I could talk to if I ever needed to, but I also knew if I were ever sick or needed her help, she would be there asap to take care of me in any way she could. I was so thankful to have that comfort of a motherly figure at my home away from home!”
Always connected to our LCs is our central office in Annapolis, Maryland. Staff in Maryland always have a phone on and ready to address each emergency as best they can. Global Experiences also has emergency staff all over Europe that location coordinators are consistently in communication with.
Local Phone Requirement
It is essential that all interns get a local phone number when they arrive in their host city. A local number will make it easier (and faster) for LCs and RAs to get ahold interns in case of an emergency, and an additional way to communicate with family and friends.
To get a local phone number, interns typically need to purchase a new SIM card and data plan in their host city. Getting a local SIM card is easy and plans are generally affordable.
For the new SIM card to work, it is crucial interns ensure their phone is unlocked before departure as it can difficult to do once your abroad. Unlocking your phone is usually as simple as calling your phone provider and telling them what country you are traveling to. If you can’t unlock your phone, you will be need to buy a temporary burner phone in your host city.
Emergency Communication Plan
In case of emergency, there is a strict communication plan all LCs and RAs must follow. The first step of our plan is for our on-site staff to contact all interns through their local number. If the intern cannot be reached through that number, LCs will try alternative methods like email, social media, or reaching out to other interns to get a hold of the intern.
In the past, GE has even gone the extra mile to reach out to hospitals and police stations to make sure every intern is accounted for. Your LC will establish a primary location to meet during an emergency and a backup meeting location will also be set.
If either of the meeting locations were to become unsafe, LCs and RAs will reach out to each intern and establish a new place to meet. It is extremely important to Global Experiences that all of our interns are safe and accounted for during their time abroad.
On-Site Staff Knowledge of Interns' Travel Plans
We understand that during an intern’s time aboard, they may want to leave their host city and explore surrounding countries. From many of our locations, it is simple and easy to take a weekend trip to another city or country. It is vital for our location staff to know where and when interns plan on traveling outside of their host city.
Letting the on-site staff know that you are traveling is simple and only requires the intern to fill out one quick form, which asks for the intern’s host city, destination, travel details, and some other necessary information.
In the past, interns have had an emergency situation when they’re outside of their host city. Because the interns had filled out the proper travel form, we were quickly able to get ahold of them and make sure they were safe.
Emergency Protocols in Action
Our emergency protocols have been implemented in the past and proven to be effective. When our program was going on during the 2017 summer London terrorist attacks, we immediately contacted every student individually. We also got ahold of their emergency contacts to ensure them that their children were safe.
During an emergency, we continue to post on our Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #GEAlerts to keep everyone up-to-date and informed of the situation. After any emergency or safety event, we follow up with all impacted interns and assist in seeking support services for them should they require it.
Florence intern Lydia said about her GE experience, “Global Experiences made sure to give me the knowledge and talks that I needed to stay safe in my new home. Our Location Coordinator Rachel was there to support us 24/7. Her local knowledge of our host city kept us informed and prepared.
When my friends and I were in Paris during the terrorist attacks, Rachel connected us with GE’s on-site Paris LC and ensured all three of us had a flight back to Italy the next day. I’m thankful for all of the time and energy GE spent on keeping us knowledgeable and prepared.”
Safety is GE's #1 Priority
All and all, we have thought of everything possible and take necessary precautions to ensure the safety of our interns. If you’re a parent or a student interested in interning abroad, rest assured that since 2001, Global Experiences has tested and proven our strategies and is dedicated to keeping our interns safe.