Stanford expert offers advice for international travelers

Jeffery Hawthorne, international manager in the Office of Risk Management, advises travelers to research the countries they are planning to visit to make sure they have the appropriate documents and immunizations. The Office of International Affairs maintains a travel registry that allows the university to quickly determine if there are Stanford faculty, staff or students in a country during a significant natural disaster or political incident.

Jeffery Hawthorne

Jeffery Hawthorne, international manager in the Office of Risk Management, says Stanford travelers need to be proactive about their own safety and offers some planning tips. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

As summer approaches, many people in the Stanford community are planning international travel. As travel to some parts of the world becomes increasingly unpredictable, travelers need to be more proactive about their own safety. While many members of the Stanford community are seasoned travelers, a country’s political climate can change from one year to the next. The Office of International Affairs met with Jeffery Hawthorne, international manager in the Office of Risk Management, for some safe travel planning tips.

How early should I begin planning my trip?

Research and begin planning at least six months in advance. You want to be able to have enough time to visit a travel clinic and complete all necessary immunizations. Some vaccinations require more than one dose and require several weeks before the vaccination is effective. Each country has its own entry and exit visa requirements, so you want to ensure that you give yourself enough time to apply for a visa if you need one. For some countries, you can choose to go to the respective embassy or consulate in San Francisco or you can use the services of a visa-processing agency. Stanford works with a few that are listed on the Office of International Affairs website.

What are some must-do items for planning international travel?

The Office of International Affairs provides a checklist for international travelers as they prepare for a trip. I recommend following the advice on the checklist, including:

  • Visit the U.S. State Department‘s country specific page. This website provides comprehensive information about a country so most of what you’ll need to know can be found there. That information can include anything from visa information to cultural values.
  • Develop a contingency/communication plan. From the State Department website mentioned earlier, you will gain an understanding of the challenges in the country that you are traveling. Think about how you might mitigate some of these conditions. A communication plan would include contact details for resources both in-country and at home. These could include the phone and address of your home country consulate in the destination country; how to call emergency services such as 911 – most countries use a different number; a Stanford and/or local contact in-country, if available; your family or emergency contact at home or at work.
  • Register with the Office of International Affairs travel registry, which is open to faculty, students and staff. The OIA travel registry is maintained on campus so the university can act quickly to determine if there are any Stanford travelers in-country during a significant incident.
  • Decide how you will handle your electronic devices in-country. Will you have an international plan on your own U.S. phone or will you buy a disposable phone and SIM card in-country? Typically, you can add minutes to the SIM card as you go. Faculty and staff traveling for Stanford-related activities should check with Stanford IT Services to learn what options are available.
  • Check with the Office of Export Control to see whether or not you can bring your Stanford-owned device. There may be certain restrictions on the data and/or technology that you can bring with you.

What if there is a problem?

According to Brendan Walsh, director of the Office of International Affairs, “You are your own first responder.” You should know what resources are available to you while abroad and understand the differences between medical coverage, evacuation coverage and non-medical emergency assistance. For non-medical emergency assistance due to natural disasters or political disruption, Stanford avails the services of International SOS. For medical assistance, travelers need to check with their medical insurance provider to see what resources are available while abroad.

In addition to travel, what other advice can the Office of Risk Management offer to the Stanford community?

Our office can provide consultative advice to faculty looking to pursue research abroad. Depending on the country involved and the type of research that the faculty member is conducting, we work with the faculty member prior to departure.

Any final words?

We take a chance every day just stepping outside our front door. The world is a complicated place, and there is so much to learn from spending time in another part of the world. Be as prepared as you can be, then go and explore!

If you have additional questions, please contact Jeffery Hawthorne in the Office of Risk Management, or 497-9788. For additional international travel planning resources, visit the Office of International Affairs’ Travel section.

Traveling internationally this summer? During the promotional period through May 15, the Office of International Affairs is picking 10 travel registrants to receive a $10 gift card to an on-campus food vendor.