College implements new policy helping students to travel safely

Moms always ask, “If all your friends jump off a bridge, are you gonna jump, too?” The reply is usually a no. But in case you cannot hold back, it’s best to have medical insurance, right?

Well, if you’re in a situation like this at Laramie County Community College, the administration wants students to be protected…in case of an accident or even a bad decision.

Risks while traveling abroad

When LCCC students travel abroad, they face safety risks. Juan Antonio Bernabeu, Spanish instructor at LCCC, said LCCC now has implemented a better system to help students know the implications of being immersed in a different culture.

Proactively, Bernabeu said his program works to inform students of the need to obtain travel insurance and medical insurance. This can cover much of the events students could face during a trip, he said.

“We also inform them of optional companies that our students and other institutions, such as the University of Wyoming, are successfully using to provide those services,” he added. LCCC has a successful partnership that allows it to have a great level of cooperation with the institutions we work with, Bernabeu said. This implies access to all their resources, such as academic, medical, transportation, communication, etc. Students have access to care facilities, doctors and other personnel regardless if they do or do not have insurance. “Their fees are reasonable, and we do not have issues with USA insurance companies reimbursing or taking care of part of the cost of students’ services,” he said.

Communication is key

Of course, each individual case is different, he said, and LCCC encourages students to communicate with their health providers and their families when planning to participate in a study-abroad program.

“The key is that they have all that information before they leave so they can make whatever arrangements they may need,” Bernabeu said.

A large part of even being able to take one of these trips is getting paperwork squared away for each student.

Although the travel policy implemented at LCCC has gone through drastic changes within the past few years, it still doesn’t seem to be as transparent and effective as is needed. As a result of the changes made to the policy because of a well-publicized Costa Rica trip, Bernabeu said he was unable to plan trips abroad in 2010 and 2011.

Travel policy is work in progress

After drafting a new travel policy and making changes for the last two years, Bernabeu said he has found that the previous policy was based on a “one case fits all” method, “and that did not work.”

There is nothing currently changing in the travel policy, he said, but what has been done is making sure LCCC’s policy addresses the specific issues that students and faculty raised in order to be more effective and easier to implement. Bernabeu said as he goes through this year’s preparations for the Peru 2013 study abroad program, he will monitor what parts work and what doesn’t or could use improvement.

“If necessary, we will make the pertinent recommendations to the administration,” he said.

Judy Hay, vice president of student services, said she was met with the issues of the travel policy since she began work at LCCC this semester.

The previous vice president did some updating of the policy, and it improved quite a bit, she said, but not completely. “The policy itself just needs clarification,” she said, and tightening up some language can always be helpful. Hay said she is working to make the policy more transparent and a little more user-friendly. She said she hopes a new, simpler policy will be implemented by this semester.

Instructor Bernabeu said his involvement in the process of making changes has taught him that policies are never final; instead, there is always room for improvement and making the process easier for everybody.