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Parents & Families
SIT Study Abroad has a team of trained Student Affairs duty officers available 24 hours a day to respond to potential threats to student safety and manage emergency situations.
Communication with Family & Friends
SIT encourages families to maintain good lines of communication with their student and to encourage students to remain at the helm of the study abroad process, whether through the application, the visa process, or during their program. SIT programs require strength of character and independence, and families can help students recognize that early. That said, SIT staff in our Vermont headquarters are available for parent questions, comments, or concerns at any point before, during, or after a student’s program.
We recommend that families create a communication plan that enables regular contact but does not rely on daily communications. Many SIT programs take place in remote locations and involve extensive travel. These conditions can make regular communication difficult. We also ask that students and families consider the impact constant communication with friends and family at home has on the cultural adjustment process. In the digital age, the pressure of connecting with family and friends at home can distract from engaging locally. While all students are encouraged to share with those close to them and utilize contacts at home for support whenever necessary, it is also important to remember that those who are often best situated to help resolve problems or assist students in working through barriers are on site with them. We encourage students to remain aware of the cultural adjustment cycle and the value in SIT staff who can help identify ways to resolve challenges locally.
It is not uncommon for families to hear from students in challenging or frustrating moments for their student. The encouragement and support of family at home is a powerful tool in the adjustment process. We encourage families to ask students what type of support they feel would be most useful and who on the SIT staff might be best positioned to provide that support. Students who successfully navigate their experiences abroad are cultivating lifelong skills and confidence.
SIT strongly discourages and will not provide support for any visitors to students during the term, due to the rigorous nature of the programs and the disruption that such visits cause in program flow and group dynamics. Students must be sure that relatives and friends are aware of this policy and that visits are scheduled for dates after the formal conclusion of the program.
Cell Phone Requirements
As part of SIT’s commitment to student safety and security, all students are required to have a working smart phone capable of making and receiving both local and international calls throughout the duration of the program. For that purpose, students are required to either a) bring an open, unlocked smart phone from home that can accept a local SIM card and is compatible with and usable at the program location; b) work with the program staff upon arrival in country to purchase a smart phone locally; or c) bring a dual SIM card smart phone. During orientation, with assistance from SIT staff, students will learn how to purchase and use an appropriate local SIM card and how to acquire minutes/credits for calls and texting. SIT requires that each student have a local number for communication with homestay families, research, or internship contacts, and program staff. Students must maintain a minimum amount of phone credit at all times for emergency calls.
While we recognize that alternative communication methods can be free or less expensive than cell service (i.e. Facetime, WhatsApp, Skype, etc.) those applications alone do not satisfy our requirement for regular communication with the local community, nor do they meet our standards for emergency communication. Therefore, local cellular capacity on each student’s phone is required for the duration of the program. International plans with US numbers do not meet our requirement. Full compliance with this policy is expected on all programs.
International Honors Program participants are required to bring a smart phone from the US that is open or unlocked and therefore able to accept local SIM cards in each country location. This phone must be compatible with and usable at all program locations.
Family and friends needing to urgently contact a student during an SIT program should do so through the Student Affairs team in Vermont. Student Affairs duty officers maintain a 24/7 emergency number throughout the program calendar. The emergency number, 802.258.3366, is answered by SIT staff during business hours, 8:30 AM-5 PM Monday through Friday (Eastern US time zone), with emergency service off hours and on weekends and holidays. Families can also contact firstname.lastname@example.org in non-urgent situations.
Should a serious emergency situation arise, the Student Affairs team will reach out to a student’s emergency contacts to discuss next steps.
Frequently Asked Questions from Families
Can I visit my student while they are on the program?
Visits from family and friends during the program are not possible. Instead, we recommend that families schedule a visit after the formal close of the program. SIT semesters are very full and intentionally immersive with homestays, a heavy travel schedule, and independent research and internship opportunities. Unless your student is on an IHP program, there are no breaks or vacations, and we want all students to be fully engaged in their experience. If your student is on an IHP program, there is a one-week vacation when you could plan a visit.
Can my student travel independently during the program?
We encourage students to travel before or after, but not during their SIT Study Abroad program. Some programs have built in international excursions. Otherwise, travel is restricted during the semester.
Can I send mail to my student? Will it get there?
You will find mailing instructions and addresses in the Pre-departure Materials. To find them, visit the Pre-departure Program Listing page and find your student’s program. Some mail systems are not reliable and it could take longer than expected for mail to arrive. Additionally, we ask families to note that some items, such as medications and phones, can be restricted and may not pass through Customs.
How do you know the homestay family is safe? Do you do background checks?
We go to great lengths to ensure each student is with a safe and caring family, and for most students the homestay is one of the most memorable experiences of their semester. We work with many families who have hosted SIT students for years. Families are selected, screened, and trained by our homestay coordinators, and receive several visits from the homestay coordinator and/or program director.
SIT Study Abroad intentionally selects families from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds to provide valuable gateways into the community. Our host families care for our students as if they were family members. This role differs culturally throughout our portfolio of programs, and no two homestay experiences are exactly alike. Our homestay coordinators are in regular contact with families and are prepared to address any issues that may arise. If an irreconcilable issue arises, we move the student to a new host family—although this rarely happens.
Do students live alone with the homestay family? Do the families speak English?
Students are placed individually in each family so they have a more culturally immersive experience. This also allows each student to develop greater independence, bond more with the family, and develop language skills. On IHP programs, two to four students are placed in each homestay because of distinct expectations around cultural immersion. Households often do not include an English speaker.
How do students get from their homestay to their classes each day?
Students commute from their homestay in the same manner the local community does. This means they may walk (usually 10-20 minutes), or, for longer distances, ride a bus or train. The daily commute offers students an excellent opportunity to engage with the people, customs, and language where they are living. It is also a way for students to further develop independence and self-confidence.
How safe is the area where the program is located? What does SIT do to ensure the safety of the students?
SIT Study Abroad carefully balances student safety and security with experiential learning. We regularly re-evaluate the safety of all of our program locations. SIT staff are trained in risk assessment and crisis management and prepared to respond to emergency situations. We maintain an up-to-date analysis of security conditions at all our sites by monitoring information from the US Department of State, in-country embassies, our partnership with International SOS, and our local networks. Most of our local staff are from the places where we operate programs and have a deep understanding of any safety or security risks our students might be exposed to. You can read about the various measures we take on our Health, Safety, and Well-being page.
Does SIT register the students with the US Embassy?
SIT registers all US students in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) through the US Department of State.
Which vaccinations does my student need? Do they need visas? What should they pack?
You and your student can find the answers to most of your preparation questions by visiting the Pre-departure Program Listing page, then locating your program. You will find up-to-date, program-specific information about visas, passports, health guidelines, safety, readings, assignments, and the Student Handbook.
What happens if there is a political crisis or natural disaster?
Every program has an emergency action plan as well as academic contingency plans in place. Students are instructed specifically around who to contact (and how) in an emergency. We also have an emergency response team that reviews all situations that arise. In some cases, the group may move to a new location and continue with the curriculum as planned. In other cases, such as a major and destructive earthquake, SIT will use its partnership with International SOS to evacuate the students back to the US at no cost to the students. If any major crisis or natural disaster occurs in the country where your student is studying, SIT will verify the condition of the group and communicate directly with families if there is any threat to the health and safety of students.
What happens if my student needs to see a doctor or go to the hospital?
SIT has identified medical clinics, hospitals, and doctors in every location on the program itinerary. If your student becomes ill or suffers an injury, a member of the local SIT staff or the homestay family will accompany them to the clinic or hospital. SIT does not reach out to family at home each time a student visits a clinic or hospital. Instead, we encourage students to communicate their health status to family members directly. However, in the case of a serious emergency, the SIT Student Affairs team will reach out to the emergency contact listed by the student.
What insurance coverage does my student have, and what does it cover?
SIT partners with International SOS to provide medical and security services. Your student’s coverage includes all acute medical and mental health services, emergency repatriation and group evacuation services in case of political or natural disaster. Please note that routine care and dental coverage are not included. The services of International SOS are meant to complement the risk management and health recommendations of the SIT Student Affairs team as well as the support of our local, field-based staff.
If I am unable to reach my student, how do I know they are safe?
If you are ever concerned about the well-being of your student, you can call Student Affairs at 802.258.3212. The staff will know if anything of concern has occurred and will be able to find out how the group is doing. SIT will always communicate with families in case of an emergency.
My student has a family wedding to attend back in the US during the program. Can they leave the program to attend?
If something of this nature applies to you, your student should talk with their Admissions Counselor as early as possible in the application process. Authorization for an absence from the program would have to be granted prior to departure, and the request may be denied should there be a conflict with important programming or group travel within the itinerary. Should a family emergency arise while your student is on an SIT program, we ask students to communicate directly with their academic or program director. We evaluate these requests on a case-by-case basis.
If there is an Independent Study Project or Internship at the end of the semester, where will my student be, and how do you know it is safe?
Students stay in the program center region or return to locations they have visited on excursion. Occasionally, outside locations may be approved if vetted for safety and security and formally approved by the academic director. Students are required to check in with staff weekly, and sometimes twice weekly, during the ISP/Internship period. They are also required to keep phones charged and with them at all times so that staff may reach them at any time. Students stay with an approved homestay family or in a recommended hostel or hotel during this phase. This varies from program to program.
What school will my student be enrolling with?
The School for International Training is an accredited institution with approximately 80 undergraduate semester programs around the world and a graduate campus in Vermont. Students enroll in SIT Study Abroad and take courses with SIT Study Abroad faculty in SIT facilities. Likewise, students enrolled with SIT are bound by SIT policies.