International Travel Guidance for Team Leaders

International travel can be a core component of a Bass Connections team’s research experience. Team leaders who plan to bring students on an international field experience should consider the academic and research rationale for this trip, as well as the associated risks.

To ensure that Bass Connections projects with embedded travel run smoothly, safely and in accordance with Duke University policies, we ask that team leaders consult the following guidance. This process is not meant to be onerous. Please contact your Bass Connections theme administrator with questions at any time.  

Pre-departure Requirements

At least two months prior to your trip, please contact your theme administrator to discuss your travel plans and the following documents, which you will be required to submit at least four weeks prior to departure:

  • Trip itinerary
  • Emergency communications plan
  • Bass Connections Participation Agreement (this agreement must be signed by all students)


Create a pre-departure and on-site orientation plan: Create a plan for orienting students, both before departure and while you’re in the field. Students should understand (and be able to articulate) your team’s research goals and procedures, the trip itinerary, behavioral expectations, guidelines for collaborating with research partners, safety measures, and health precautions (including required immunizations), as well as the customs and cultural expectations particular to your travel location.

Assess risk: Assess and communicate to students the health and security profile of the region. Be prepared to manage unexpected situations and emergencies if they arise. Considerations include:

  • Physical health risks (e.g., prevalent diseases and their modes of transmission, food and water safety)
  • Mental health risks (e.g., stress, culture shock)
  • Climate and environmental challenges (e.g., air pollution and common allergens, heat/flooding/storms)
  • Personal and group security (e.g., crime)
  • Local laws and cultural norms

Consult the following resources to learn about location-specific risks:

Create an emergency plan: Set up a communication plan that can be initiated in case of a crisis.

  • Gather and share cell phone numbers and emergency contact information for all faculty and student participants, as well as program support staff back at Duke.
  • Identify and distribute phone numbers for local emergency services.
  • Designate primary and secondary meeting places in case of an emergency.
  • Always carry ISOS cards and a means of communication.

Create a detailed itinerary for your trip, including:

  • Pre-departure orientation and planning meetings
  • When and where you are traveling
  • Who will be travelling with the group and when (including when faculty, staff, and/or PhD student supervisors will/will not be with the group)
  • Research goals and key activities the group will be undertaking
  • Information about accommodations, transportation, and meals (including how students will get to/from the airport and how they will travel to site locations while in-country)
  • A list of external partners/collaborators the team will work with in the field
  • Project-sponsored activities and excursions
  • Large periods of “free time” and any restrictions on student activity during this period
  • Risks associated with travel and team activities

Review and update the Bass Connections Participation Agreement: All traveling students (and, for undergraduates, a guardian) are required to sign this agreement, which outlines policies for student participation. Your theme administrator will provide you with the template. You should review this document and update four sections, including:

  • Project Description (pg. 1, section 1)
  • Pre-departure Requirements (pg. 4, section 3.D)
  • Project Fees and Expenses (pg. 6, section 7)
  • Assumption of Risks (as needed; pg. 10, section 1)

Once this participation agreement is finalized, you will work with your theme administrator to share this agreement with each of your traveling students so they (and their parent/guardian, as needed) can sign. Your theme administrator will keep this participation agreement on file.

Consider how you will manage your team’s finances in the field: Work with your theme and financial managers, well in advance, to determine the best way to cover student travel expenses and other trip expenses. Assess access to cash in the field and ensure that students understand how/when they will be able to access banking resources, as well as what expenses are covered by the program. (Please do not ask students to incur up-front or out-of-pocket costs for travel expenses that will be covered by you team.)

Register your trip with Duke Travel Registry: All students are required to register international travel with the Duke Travel Registry. Faculty and staff are strongly encouraged to do the same so that Duke can provide assistance in case of an emergency.

Print and pack your International SOS (ISOS) card: ISOS provides all Duke faculty, students and staff with international medical, security and travel assistance. You should familiarize yourself with their services, consider downloading the free assistance app, and keep their contact card with you at all times.

Assess internet connectivity and data management: Consider technical and logistical details such as internet connectivity and data management and security. For information on connectivity or protecting/transporting research materials, consult the Global IT Checklist from OIT and check in with Duke’s Office of Export Controls.

Sample Pre-departure Checklist for Students