Stage 5: Pre-Departure Preparations

Your program has attracted a sufficient number of applicants, your student participants are confirmed, and you can now proceed with your pre-departure preparations. Prior to departure, you will work with ISS to confirm the budget and program fees, request a Cash Advance, ensure all agreements and contracts have been signed, and have any travel companions sign waivers. You will also need to ensure that you have completed the necessary training and medical kit review, attend the ISS Pre-Departure Orientation, and provide ISS with your contact information for in the field. Before you leave you will meet with a Field School Coordinator to review general reminders and important information for while you are in the field.

Stage 5

Support and Training for Field School Directors

  • You will meet with ISS several times during the Pre-Departure Stage, and will be in frequent email contact with the Field School Coordinator and Program Assistant to update ISS and confirm details. You will also be in contact with the ISS Manager, Administration about your Cash Advance and payments to organizations providing services. Here are the standard meetings:

· Field School Director Meeting (usually mid-March for Summer Field Schools; At this meeting, get to know other Field School Directors, discuss best practices and tips for in the field, and review SFU Field School Code of Conduct)

· ISS Pre-Departure Orientation (usually mid - or late-March for Summer Field Schools)

· Medical Kit Review (between Pre-Departure Orientation and final meeting; Meet with a Travel Doctor with SFU Health and Counselling Services to review the Medical Kit)

· Final Meeting prior to departure (May – June for Summer Field Schools; Review pre-departure reminders, budget process, and in-field protocols)

  • You are required to have valid Emergency First Aid certification. The Field School Program Assistant will book a First Aid certification course that fits with your schedule, and ISS will pay for this certification. This must be successfully completed prior to the beginning of the International Field School. (This can be done during Stage 4 or Stage 5).

  • You are encouraged to complete SFU Health and Counselling Service’s Supporting Students with Distress and Thoughts of Suicide workshop (SOS/SID). The Field School Program Assistant will notify you of when these sessions are being offered. You may also wish to participate in the Bouncing Back Online Canvas Program designed for students to help them handle challenges at SFU and beyond.

  • It is your responsibility to secure your immigration documents to the program destinations and ensure their validity for the duration of the field school, and for any period beyond that as required.

  • You are encouraged to attend the ISS Field School Pre-Departure Orientation. The Pre-Departure Orientation will include the following topics: pre-departure preparations, health and safety issues, group dynamics, cultural transition, and re-entry transition. At this Pre-Departure Orientation students will receive: a Global Affairs Emergency Contact card, an International SOS card, and an Emergency Contact list. This session will not be specific to your program. See below for additional pre-departure preparation recommendations for your students. 
  • Prior to departure it is important that you have reviewed the Field School 101 Canvas Program.

  • You are required to attend a final meeting with your Field School Coordinator prior to departure. This meeting includes discussing expense claim instructions, in-field processes/responsibilities, emergency protocols and more. At this meeting, your Field School Coordinator will provide you with a package that includes: a Field School Checklist (that you review in the meeting), an SFU Field School Behaviour Contract, an SFU Field School Medical Report Form, an SFU Field School Incident Report Form, an Expense Claim Worksheet, an Emergency Contact list and an International SOS handout. You will also pick up your medical kit (mandatory) and a satellite phone (if applicable). Following this meeting you will receive an email with many of the documents included in the above package as well as a Short Form Services Agreement template and a Field School Director Report template. Additional important information to help support your students in the field will be shared with you via SFU Vault.

  • If you are a new Field School Director, you are required to meet with a travel health doctor at Health and Counselling Services to review the Field School medical kit contents you are required to carry with you on all International Field School activities (e.g. Field trips, etc.). It will be your responsibility to keep a record of medical supplies used, as you will be required to provide a list to ISS upon return. If you are not comfortable carrying an item, you can discuss your concerns in this meeting, and initial on the inventory sheet if you decide not to take a particular recommended item. Returning Field School Directors may also repeat this session if they wish. Whenever contents from the medical kit are used, you will need to record this in the log book for liability purposes and so that we know the items to replenish when you return.

Ethical Engagement

  • When leading an International Field School, it is important to consider how you engage with the communities in which you work. ISS encourages you to think about how you can facilitate ethical engagement throughout the International Field School.

  • This may be a particularly important topic to revisit with students in the field in programs taking place in developing countries. The below article provides a brief overview of ethical considerations in these contexts.

Tiessen, R. and Grantham, K. 2017. #1: Ethics in North-South Student Mobility. Issue briefs on North-South student mobility. Universities Canada.

Budget: Expenses, Cash Advances and Expense Claims

As the Field School Director, it is your responsibility to operate the program within the budget you have established. If the International Field School runs over budget, it is the responsibility of your academic department or faculty to cover these costs.


  • Once you select students and they accept their offers, the number of students participating in the International Field School can be confirmed, allowing you to confirm the final budget and program fees. ISS will charge these fees to students’ SFU accounts and only then will ISS be able to start making payments for the International Field School. We do not need to wait until students have actually paid their fees. The budget should be finalized at least 10 weeks prior to the start of the term in which your program will run.
  • Once the program fees have been charged, the ISS Manager, Administration can begin to make payments for your program (e.g. housing deposits) (it is not necessary to wait until students have actually paid their fees). ISS prefers to pay in single/fewer installments where possible.  It is important that you have enquired about cancellation/refund policies for services providers that do not require contracts, and communicated these policies to the ISS Manager, Administration prior to beginning to make payments.

  • We encourage you to have ISS pre-pay for as many program costs in advance as possible. This means a smaller Cash Advance and less paperwork for you to have to do later.
  • Arrange payment of larger group bookings/purchases in advance, ideally prior to the Cash Advance request, through ISS. Submit these payment requests to the Manager, Administration in a timely manner so that ISS can meet payment deadlines. This is usually by wire transfer where invoices and banking information are required. Find out if your service provider has a preferred method of payment as cheque or the ISS credit card may be used.

  • Wire transfer requirements:

· Invoice (with invoice number)

· Beneficiary name (exact name listed on bank account)

· Beneficiary address (exact address listed on bank account)

· Bank name

· Bank branch address

· Bank Swift or BIC code

· Bank IBAN account number

· Currency

  • Note that if service providers are not willing to pay for wire transfer fees that may occur on their end, they should include an additional fee on their invoices. SFU is not able to predict if there will be a variation on the exchange rate during the wire transfer process, nor what their banks charge to receive a wire transfer.

  • Field School Director Airfare expenses can be reimbursed in advance of travel, but boarding passes for all flights are still required upon return.

  • All expenses must be directly related to the current iteration of the International Field School. This means that materials that may be kept for following iterations of the program should not be covered by the current iteration of the International Field School.

  • International Field School funds are not to be used for expenses that are not directly related to the current iteration of the Field School, such as meetings with service providers and relationship building expenses.

  • Expenses claimed should only be those that have already been included in the budget (with exceptions made for extenuating circumstances and emergencies, so long as ISS is aware of the situation).

  • Field School Directors will not be reimbursed for expenditures not permitted under University regulations (e.g. alcohol).

Cash Advances

  • Three weeks prior to departure, the ISS Manager, Administration will work with you to request a Cash Advance for you to use for program costs in the field. The Cash Advance will be processed through Finance and the funds will be deposited directly into the same bank account as where your salary is deposited. You will need to make sure that the funds will be accessible via bank/debit card, credit card, cheque, or direct withdrawal. ISS and past Field School Directors can help you determine the standard and most preferred method for accessing your account overseas and paying bills to partner institutions and organizations providing services.

  • Cash Advances should be under $10,000, but if not possible, they must not exceed $25,000. Cash Advances may be used towards room rentals, accommodations, guest lecturers, field-trips, in-country transportation, group meals, partner administrative fees, and other expenses related to the operation of the International Field School for items that cannot be pre-paid by ISS.

  • The more purchases we can confirm before your travel, and the more purchases ISS can make directly to the vendors, the better. This will reduce the numbers and amounts of Cash Advances and the amount of paperwork you will need to do. Please note, any payments that ISS makes once you have received the Cash Advance will be subtracted from your Cash Advance for the program, and are expected to be returned to ISS. Once the Cash Advance funds have been transferred, you are responsible for the security and usage of the funds.

  • Note that Cash Advances should not be requested too far in advance, ideally after payments of larger bills have been made through ISS. Receipts are required to be submitted within two weeks of the end of the program. If you will be extending your time abroad after the program, let ISS know so that we can adjust the dates with finance. If a Cash Advance is outstanding for too long, SFU may be required to consider that as additional pay, and apply income taxes as per CRA requirements.

  • If you spend less than the Cash Advance, you will need to pay back the difference to SFU. If you spend more than the Cash Advance, you will be reimbursed for eligible expenses within the budget. If the International Field School runs over budget, it is the responsibility of your academic department or faculty to cover these costs.

Preparing to Make Payments Abroad

  • The way that you manage the funds received through your cash advance depends on your personal preferences and the best options in your host country(ies). Here are some options to consider:

· Open a local bank account in the host country and transfer funds (not always possible).

· Transfer funds to a separate bank account at your bank for ease of tracking.

· Pay with credit card and pay credit card fees with cash advance funds (usually credit cards have less favourable exchange rates).

· Withdraw funds as needed in the field (good in a cash-based economy, but be aware of transaction costs and be mindful of personal safety when withdrawing cash).

· Purchase travellers’ cheques.

Non-Permissible Expenditures

The following costs are NOT covered for International Field School programs and cannot be paid with Field School funds.

  • Non-curricular or optional activities (e.g. weekend excursion to nearby village for tourism purposes). While you can build in optional activities for which full risk management planning has been done, optional and non-academic excursions should not be included in the program budget. Rather, students would pay for such activities out-of-pocket while in field. Alternatively, students may research and participate in touristic excursions independently outside of International Field School hours, within limitations (See Stage 2 – Risk Management: Safety Considerations for limitations).
  • Alcohol
  • Field School Director’s and Field School Director Assistant’s SFU instruction costs – SFU professors instructing on International Field Schools continue to be paid through their department/faculty
  • Costs related to meetings or site visits not directly related to the current iteration of the International Field School
  • Field School Director personal items
  • Travel health insurance (to cover Field School Director or other staff on the program)
  • Trip cancellation and interruption insurance for Field School Director or other staff on the program
  • Inoculations (to cover Field School Director or other staff on the program)
  • Per diems for meals covered on flights
  • Per diems when group meals are arranged (subtract cost for meal from daily per diem)
  • Entry fees, performances, etc. that are not for the International Field School group members or a designated International Field School activity
  • Expenses for travel unrelated to the current iteration of the International Field School
  • Luxury accommodation or first class/business travel
  • Tickets (speeding, parking, etc.)
  • Souvenirs
  • Books (discipline specific books may be covered by your department but are not covered by the International Field School budget)
  • Illicit or prohibited activities
  • Expenses for guests or family members (their expenses should be paid separately as these must not be covered by International Field School funds)
  • Tips exceeding 15% (please have tips included in receipt where possible)
  • Fuel - if driving a private vehicle, mileage should be claimed instead - see SFU Business and Travel Expenses Procedure (AD 3.02 P1)
  • Equipment for the International Field School – If you need to purchase material that will be used over the course of multiple iterations of your program, this equipment should be purchased with departmental funds. This is in contrast to “single-use” equipment which would be used by a single iteration of your program – this type of equipment could be purchased through your department or included in student program fees.

Expense Claims

If payments are made in advance, but not through ISS, submit an Expense Claim through ISS. Receipts of payment (not invoices or booking confirmations) are required.

Expense claims should be made to ISS only. Please do not submit an Expense Claim through your own academic department.

The ISS Manager, Administration will work with you on your Expense Claim.


  • After the application deadline and once you have finalized the number of participants, start confirming all accommodations, classroom spaces and other costs related to logistics to allow you to finalize the budget. Refer to SFU Minimum Safety Standards – Transportation and Accommodation.

  • Once you have finalized the budget and are ready to make payments, these bookings should be made and paid for directly through ISS, if possible.

  • Plan when and where you will go for group meals on the International Field School. Check in with your International Field School group to see if there are dietary restrictions to consider. It is best practice to select a restaurant with a variety of options, if possible. When planning group meals, make sure that they are in line with the budget, you can make reservations at these restaurants, they can accommodate your group size, and they can provide itemized bills. ISS recommends scheduling group meals once per week.

Risk Management

Field School Student Waiver

  • As part of their application, all International Field School participants are required to sign a Field School Waiver. We will distribute these forms and ensure all are complete.

Registration of Canadians Abroad (ROCA) Group Registration and SFU Travel Registry

  • We register the Field School Director, Field School Director Assistant and all International Field School participants with the SFU Travel Registry and the Registration of Canadians Abroad (ROCA). We encourage Field School Directors who are not Canadian citizens to register with the embassies of your countries of citizenship. We encourage Field School participants to register with their home country embassies if they are not Canadian citizens.

  • These registrations only cover the dates and locations of the International Field School. We therefore recommend that staff and students register themselves in ROCA for any additional travel before or after the program.

Emergency Contacts for Field School Directors

  • Prior to departure, your Field School Coordinator will send you and your students an Emergency Contacts form, specific to your International Field School. This will include contacts in Canada as well as contacts in the field.

  • Your first point of contact with SFU in all emergency situations will be International SOS (available 24/7).

Student Safety

  • Meet with the Back-Up Field School Director that you have identified to review the itinerary, emergency contacts, and protocols for in the field.
  • Students are not permitted to rent or operate a motor vehicle or ride a motorcycle, or accept employment in the foreign jurisdiction, or participate in extreme activities (including but not limited to, bungee catapulting, ice climbing, and parapenting) during the International Field School.

  • You must remain with the group at all times during classes and field trips. You must be accessible to students by phone and email, and stay in the same geographical location as the International Field School throughout the duration of the program, including during non-field school time (e.g. weekends). While students may choose to travel outside the program location on weekends (at their own risk and cost), you must remain in the program location to be accessible to the rest of the group and in case of emergency.

  • All International Field School participants have been required to obtain travel medical insurance to cover their personal insurance needs.

  • You are required to take the medical kit on all group activities (e.g. Field trips, etc.). Whenever you use contents from the medical kit, record this in the log book. This is for liability purposes and so that we know which materials to replenish after the program.  Students are informed through the Field Schools 101 Program to bring their own medical kits, and should not be relying on your medical kit for basics such as band aids, Gravol, etc.

  • In the case of a serious illness or injury such as those requiring hospital/emergency response, contact International SOS immediately, and notify ISS.
  • Please complete an SFU Field School Medical Report Form (login required) for each medical incident that may occur in the field. Please send this form to ISS within 48 hours of completion.

Information Management and Privacy Planning

  • We encourage you to review the Information Systems at SFU resource on Travelling with Technology, which provides some key recommendations.

  • Field School Directors and any other SFU Field School staff should be using their SFU email for all Field School – related communication while in the field, and should encourage students to do likewise. External email may be hosted on servers outside of Canada and storing student information outside of Canada is in violation of provincial privacy legislation.

  • Student information should not be stored on local computers while in the field.

  • You should take reasonable precautions with any student information you receive from ISS (e.g. hard copy documents should be well-guarded).

  • All documents containing student information should ideally be stored on SFU Vault rather than a USB key.

Field School Director Emergencies and Travel Medical Insurance

  • You are required to ensure that you have sufficient travel medical coverage for yourself prior to departure. Keep a copy of your travel medical insurance information in your wallet at all times.

  • Notify students at the beginning of the International Field School to call International SOS in the event of an emergency involving the Field School Director.

SFU Staff/Faculty Travel Companions

  • In the International Field School Proposal you were asked whether you were planning to include any non-SFU affiliated personnel. If this information has changed, notify your Field School Coordinator.

  • Spouses, children and other non-SFU affiliated personnel are not permitted to participate in International Field School activities. You will be required to acknowledge that your travel companions will not be participating in Field School activities and are not covered under SFU’s liability insurance.
  • Non-SFU affiliated personnel, such as a spouse or child, must sign a Release of Liability and Waiver of Claims form. There are different forms for adults and minors. These will be provided by ISS.
  • Further to the above points and based on best practices, we highly recommend that the academic components of the program (classes, field trips etc.) be limited to yourself, as the Field School Director, and the SFU student participants. In previous cases where family members have participated in the core academic components or were otherwise involved with the program (i.e. in more than a casual, social capacity), it has sometimes led to confusion and negative feedback from student participants.

Academic Planning

  • You are asked to provide detailed course outlines to students prior to departure. Please also ensure that required course texts are available to students through the SFU bookstore or at locations overseas.

  • Finalize arrangements with partners surrounding courses.

  • Connect with your academic department or faculty about course evaluations for the courses within the International Field School.

Communicating with ISS

  • Prior to departure, provide ISS with all possible methods of contact for the duration of the program (in addition to cell phone number, also provide hotel phone numbers, additional email addresses, etc.). ISS will request this information to be included in the emergency contact lists that are sent to students.
  • Please plan to contact ISS within 48 hours of the students’ arrival to let us know that all students have safely arrived.

  • You are required to have a phone, provide this number to ISS, and be reachable at this number 24/7 in case of emergencies while in the field. This can be your personal phone, and the additional charge of the international plan will be included in your program fees. If you prefer, you may borrow a phone from ISS for the duration of the International Field School to be used to be in contact with ISS. If you are getting your own phone or SIM card in the field, provide ISS and the students with the phone number as soon as possible after arrival.

  • In the event of an incident, medical issue or behavioural issue, complete the relevant Report Form (login required) and return to ISS within 48 hours.

  • In the case of a serious illness or injury such as those requiring hospital/emergency response, contact International SOS immediately, and notify ISS.

Student Conduct

  • As a representative of SFU on this program, it is your responsibility to ensure that your behaviour and the behaviour of the students on the program is in line with SFU policies. Field School Directors have delegated authority in the field for enforcing the student conduct policy and are responsible for managing students’ adherence to SFU policies. While all SFU policies apply to students while in the field, policies that may be particularly relevant to students’ conduct within International Field Schools include:

· SFU’s Student Conduct Policy

· SFU’s Student Academic Integrity Policy

· SFU’s Sexual Violence and Misconduct Prevention, Education and Support Policy

As the Field School Director, you are also responsible for enforcing the SFU Field School Code of Conduct as well as the Field School Student Acknowledgment, found on the Field School Application website. It is therefore important that you familiarize yourself with these documents. The procedures in the event of contraventions of policy or program rules are outlined in the SFU Field School Code of Conduct.

  • Developing a set of behavioural guidelines as a group can help set the stage for group members to assume responsibility for their behaviour within the agreed upon set of expectations. Field School Directors are encouraged to develop an SFU Field School Code of Conduct together with the program participants, which you can then refer back to in cases when participants violate the contract. We recommend having students review and sign this document, acknowledging its content. You can then email a copy to ISS, should you need to refer to it. Here is a SFU Field School Code of Conduct Sample (login required). Your Field School Coordinator will send you an editable version that you can adapt for your International Field School.

  • In the event any student's behaviour is unacceptable or in contravention of program rules, complete the SFU Field School Behaviour Contract (login required) (and return to ISS with 48 hours).

Pre-Departure Recommendations

  • We recommend that you facilitate a session specific to your program. We recommend that you hold this prior to the ISS Pre-Departure Orientation so that students have context for what they learn at the ISS session. You may include topics such as: the planned logistics, itinerary and academics of the program, host country culture, what will take place during the first weeks in the field, and other academic or logistical matters directly related to the International Field School. This also provides an opportunity for students to meet one another and ask questions about the program specifically. We recommend asking your department for assistance with room bookings or logistics for your program specific session.

  • We also encourage you to hold classes or meetings with students prior to departure.
  • We also recommend facilitating an additional session closer to the time of departure, providing another opportunity for students to ask questions specific to the program. This may be in the form of a social gathering, allowing students to connect with one another before the program begins.
  • Whether you decide to hold program-specific pre-departure orientation sessions (recommended) or deliver pre-departure orientation program-specific content only during the week(s) of classes prior to departure, ISS suggests covering some important topics in addition to the logistical and academic components. Suggestions:

            · Facilitate a discussion on Ethical Engagement in relation to the communities you will be living and             studying in.

            · Discuss Experiential Education, including how this will be used in the International Field School and             how it differs from classroom-based education.

            · Incorporate local community engagement at home prior to departure. For example, you may include             diaspora communities within SFU and the local community from the destination to which the             international Field School will travel.

Agreements and Contracts

  • Field School Directors liaise between ISS and organizations providing services for the program in order to finalize agreements and contracts.

  • After Collaboration/Services Agreements and Contracts have been approved by SFU legal, both the organizations providing services for the program and SFU sign agreements and contracts. This should occur prior to the beginning of the International Field School. Your Dean will be the SFU signatory on these types of agreements.

  • If hiring people providing services (tour guide, etc.), use the Short Form Service Agreement (SFSA), which can be signed during your program. Contractors must also provide an invoice.


  •     Confirm budget and program fees to be charged to students
  •     Begin making payments to providers (directly through ISS when possible)
  • √    Review Field School 101 Canvas Program
  •     Attend Field School Directors Meeting
  •     Host program-specific pre-departure orientation
  •     Attend ISS Pre-Departure Orientation
  •     Attend Medical Kit Review Meeting with Travel Doctor
  •     Facilitate signing of agreements and contracts
  •     Attend Pre-Departure Final Meeting with ISS