The health and safety of our students is of utmost importance to us. While safety can never be guaranteed, SFS has robust safety systems in place and is known in the industry for having a diligent approach to risk assessment, mitigation, and management to protect and enhance the student experience.
The Safety and Student Life Department is headed by Molly Hurst, Director of Safety and Student Life. Molly has been with SFS for more than eight years, including time in the field as a Student Affairs Manager at the SFS campuses in Kenya, Tanzania, and Mexico. Molly is a certified Emergency Medical Technician, Wilderness First Responder, Swift Water Rescue Technician, and Safety Officer, and can typically be found conducting safety assessments at one of our eight campuses worldwide. Alyssa King, the Safety and Student Life Manager, is responsible for student medical approval and pre-departure preparation as well as liaising with field staff at each SFS campus. Alyssa is an SFS alumnus and Wilderness First Responder.
SFS has a structured risk management program that takes care to manage the itineraries and logistics of students’ daily activities. Our small number of programs enables us to provide detailed attention to each one, and we tailor our risk management system to the specific needs of each of our field stations. This enables us to adapt to the dynamic changes of the natural and political world to both prevent and respond to risk quickly and soundly.
While on-program, we do encourage students to ‘disconnect’ from their devices and social media platforms in order to fully experience their time abroad.
SFS values the inclusion of all students, including those who identify as a racial or ethnic minority, members of the LGBTQ+ community, first generation college students, and students from all underserved areas. SFS encourages students of all backgrounds to study abroad.
During program orientation, SFS staff provide students with information on the local community and culture, including local attitudes toward different beliefs, values, and lifestyles. Students should recognize that, while on-program, they may be challenged by vastly different beliefs and boundaries than they are used to in their home communities. SFS encourages students with country-specific questions to reach out to the Safety and Student Life Department.
Students requesting physical and health accommodations should contact the SFS Safety and Student Life Department. Students requesting learning accommodations should contact the SFS Office of Academic Affairs. SFS will work with students, home schools, and physicians to determine the required level of accommodation and whether or not it can be safely and reasonably maintained on-program. While SFS strives to make accommodations for most disabilities, due to the remote nature of our programs, there are varying levels of accessibility, services, and accommodations at each SFS center.
Studying abroad can be an exciting and energizing time for students. It can also present myriad challenges, including adjustment to a new culture and daily routine, unfamiliarity with the local environment, forming of new relationships, and a lack of familiar support systems. In addition, SFS programs operate in remote regions with delayed access to medical care and limited or absent mental health resources.
Students with mental health conditions are encouraged to discuss any concerns with their physician, mental health provider, or the SFS Safety and Student Life Department prior to participation on an SFS program. Students who undergo regular counseling or therapy should verify that their mental health provider is available via phone, email, or other means of telecommunication while the student is abroad. SFS will also work with students to develop a set of coping strategies that can be utilized while studying abroad, in addition to preparing them for what to expect in their individual host countries.
After being accepted to an SFS program, students are expected to complete the SFS Medical Approval Process. This review is designed to inform SFS staff on the medical and mental health needs or accommodations that may be required. The review is not meant to exclude, but to inform and allow support systems to be put in place. Should SFS have any concerns about accommodations for a particular physical or mental health condition, the student and the student’s physician or mental health provider will be contacted to discuss strategies for successful program participation.
Inaccurate or incomplete information on any of the SFS medical forms may be grounds for rescinding an offer of admission, recalling a student from the program, or restricting student participation in certain activities. In addition, students are responsible for informing SFS of any changes to their health status or medication dosage that occur after submission of SFS medical forms.
SFS is able to accommodate most dietary needs, but students will find that the variety of food may be limited due to local availability, cultural practice, and cost. Additionally, during homestays or traveling portions of the program, options may be further limited. Students with a medically necessary dietary requirement should contact the SFS Safety and Student Life Department within one week of acceptance. All dietary restrictions or preferences (e.g. gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, etc.) should be noted on the SFS Online Medical Review Form and discussed with either an Admissions Counselor or the Safety and Student Life Department.
Field work by its very nature is physically arduous; the days are long, the traveling seldom comfortable, and creature comforts generally lacking. In order to withstand the pace and rigors of the program, as well as health risks specific to the country or region, it is strongly advised that all students be in good physical health. Physical conditioning prior to the start of the program is encouraged. Students should address existing or chronic medical issues before arriving in-country. Due to the remote nature of the program, medical care is not always easily accessible. While SFS strives to make accommodations for most disabilities, due to the remote nature of the programs, there are varying levels of accessibility, services, and accommodations at each SFS Center.
To maintain a safe and positive campus community and preserve the academic integrity of our programs, no possession or consumption of alcohol is permitted on SFS property at any time. SFS property includes the SFS campus, SFS vehicles, field trip sites, or while engaging in any program activity. Specific SFS Centers may have additional restrictions.