Travel Safety and Security

updated June 13, 2017

International Student Travel Advice   •   Current Travel Safety Restrictions

The safety and security of travelers is a primary concern for Gustavus Adolphus College. As we plan and approve study away, global internship, and other off-campus opportunities, whether in domestic or international settings, we carefully consider safety and security criteria, utilizing information from the best sources available for higher education professionals.

"Just a note to compliment the good service our family experienced from [the College's insurance provider]. Our daughter was on the Gustavus Semester in Sweden last semester. She sprained her ankle during the trip and had a visit at the hospital for a check-up in Gothenburg. The billing came after she had arrived home from the trip, with delayed payment due, etc. [The insurer] was very helpful in resolving this efficiently and completely, and we are most grateful for that."       -David & Sheryl Johnson

In particular, we monitor:

  • State Department travel warnings, alerts, and cautions;
  • reports and updates from the U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council;
  • similar alerts from other countries, such as the UK, Australia, and Canada; and
  • several networks of safety and security professionals to whose information we subscribe.

By using multiple sources of information, we get a fuller picture of the nature and level of each particular threat, and we are able to act accordingly. In the event of an acute safety or security concern that would affect an ongoing or upcoming scheduled program, our International Safety Committee convenes and determines whether or not to suspend the activity or even all activities in a particular location. (See examples in the highlights box below.)

In addition, all Gustavus Adolphus College international travelers are covered, when outside the country on official College activities, by an insurance policy that includes medical, political, and disaster evacuation coverage. Therefore, in the instance of an eligible event that necessitates rapid egress from a study away site or other College-related site abroad, we will work with our insurance partner to arrange for transport, either back to the U.S. or to the nearest safe haven.

In planning and operating our study away programs, we:

  • work only with providers and institutions that have plans for responding to safety and other emergencies;
  • provide every participating student with health, safety, and security advice through the pre-departure orientation process;
  • provide participating students with ongoing advice while they are away;
  • check in with participating students when known concerns are elevated;
  • register every participating student, faculty, and staff member with the U.S. State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which means that government officials are also able to contact Gusties and provide specific advice when any situations arise; and
  • for our faculty-led programs, train participating faculty and staff members to respond to emergency situations.

In the event of a crisis incident, staff members of the College and our various partner agencies and organizations will respond in the interest of safety. In addition, the College is prepared to provide counseling and other support for both domestic and international students affected by crises at home or abroad. Our professional counselors, Student Life staff, chaplains, and other staff members are all available to support students experiencing difficult situations. For students currently abroad, local counseling services (in English) may be arranged with the assistance of our insurance partners.

The current Worldwide Travel Caution that was recently issued by the U.S. State Department (3/6/2017) strongly advises all U.S. travelers to be vigilant and alert to possible threats, particularly when moving through crowded public spaces and using mass transportation. The Caution is intended to raise awareness of possible ongoing terrorist activities, and it follows in a long line of similar worldwide notices that have been issued by the State Department since 9/11/2001.

We are also monitoring the current global refugee crisis involving Syrian, Iraqi, and other Middle Eastern refugees. The enormous flow of migrants across the globe has led to localized challenges such as land border closures, roadblocks, and other actions that create access challenges for international travelers. We are planning our programs accordingly and reminding students who are currently abroad to stay attuned to local rules and travel restrictions.

Update on the Zika virus
Media and social media sources have recently focused significant attention on the spread of the Zika virus, which seems to be primarily transmitted through mosquito bites or by sexual transmission. The virus is rapidly spreading throughout the Americas, having reached the U.S. via a documented Texas case in early February 2016, and also Puerto Rico cases in April. There are also documented cases in many countries in Central America and South America. Most cases seem to stem from rural or jungle travel (where mosquitoes are prevalent). Symptoms of the virus include fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise, and headache. The symptoms are relatively mild and tend to last about two to seven days. As many as 80% of those infected may experience no symptoms. There is no cure or effective treatment at this time. Global health authorities have not issued or even suggested any travel restrictions, though women who are or may be pregnant are encouraged to be extra cautious, since there has been a conicidence (as yet not scientifically proven) of increased frequency of microcephaly (abnormal smallness of the head, with associated incomplete brain development) in infants born to women who were infected during pregnancy. In addition, men who may be planning to try to conceive with their partners are also advised to be cautious, as the infection can be sexually trasmitted. No programs have been suspended at this time, though Gustavus urges extra vigilance to students traveling to or within the countries in this world region, including extra precautions to prevent or diminish mosquito bites, and keeping abreast of developing information from reptuable sources. See also Gustavus Health Service's information, which links to CDC information.

While the College cannot absolutely guarantee the safety of travelers, we exercise a high level of vigilance and follow well-established practices in the field of international and intercultural education for safety and security planning. Of course, there is no absolute guarantee of safety anywhere, even at the St. Peter campus, as safety-related incidents are not confined to any one part of the world and not entirely controllable. That said, we do our best to minimize the known risks, and we maintain relationships and resources that allow us to remove individuals from areas affected by natural, political, or other crises, should the need arise.

We also know that the rewards of intercultural education remain very attractive and, moreover, that the actions of those who would harm their fellow human beings only underscore the importance of promoting intercultural understanding. We strive to help our students develop as global citizens capable of participating in intercultural and transnational teams to face some of the largest challenges of our time, including these threats to global stability. We cannot achieve that lofty goal without offering our time-tested array of study away, global internship, and other international opportunities.

Advice for International Students Planning International Travel

International students planning international travel are advised to meet with Jeff Anderson or another staff member of the CICE for travel-planning advising and also to obtain a new travel signature on the form I-20.

Citizens of the seven countries named in a recent presidential Executive Order (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) are strongly advised to minimize or even forego international travel at this time. Although the order is currently suspended pending a full review of legal challenges from several states and the American Civil Liberties Union, it could become effective again with little or no notice, and then travelers caught outside the US may be barred from re-entering to continue their studies.

Generally speaking, all international students and scholars may want to consider minimizing international travel at this particular time. Although there has been no official indication that the list of affected countries will expand, an executive order can be issued with little or no prior notice.

If you have any questions about the current events involving immigration restrictions, please do not hesitate to contact Jeff Anderon or Roger Adkins.

Currently Active Travel Safety Committee Restrictions

Suspended locations (no travel to these areas in College-sponsored or -funded activities):
Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chad, Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Haiti, Honduras, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, Venezuela, Yemen;
In Indonesia: Jakarta, central Papua, central Sulawesi
In Mexico: all areas under current US State Department Travel Warning
In Palestine: the West Bank and Gaza in Israel;
In Ukraine: areas under Russian-backed military control; and
Within three kilometers (3 km) of any active volcano that has erupted in the past three calendar years.

Monitored program locations (special approval is needed to operate a Gustavus group program): Cameroon, Colombia, El Salvador, Israel (other than Palestine), Nepal, Tunisia;
Parts of Indonesia and Ukraine not listed as suspended above; and
Parts of Mexico that are not subject to the current U.S. State Department Travel Warnings.

Monitored participation locations (individuals must seek special approval to participate and must sign an extra waiver): Cameroon, Colombia, El Salvador, Indonesia, Israel, Mexico, Nepal, Tunisia, Ukraine.

If you have any questions about these restrictions, please contact Roger Adkins.