Risk Assessment and Situation Monitoring

Athena handles and oversees its students’ safety with the utmost diligence and care. In doing so, we consider and regularly monitor several international safety resources when initially selecting a program site and the program’s continuation thereafter.

Athena receives daily reports on incidents abroad from the United States Department of State’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC). Athena also regularly monitors the U.S. State Department travel advisories, daily reports from our international health insurance partner, and NAFSA’s health and safety communiqués. On a local level, Athena communicates regularly with our overseas partners and staff.

Preparing Our Students

Immediately upon acceptance, Athena begins advising students on ways to ensure their safety even before their departure, and to best prepare for a safe and successful term abroad.

  • Orientation. Upon the students’ arrival to the program site, the on-site Athena directors and advisors facilitate a comprehensive orientation to provide useful information on acclimation to the host culture as well as emergency situation procedures.
  • Emergency Protocol. The staff provides all students with instructions regarding the protocol to follow in the event of a political crisis, terrorist event, natural disaster, or other emergency.
  • Emergency Contact. Each program participant is provided with 24/7 emergency in-country contacts for use in an emergency while abroad.  These are provided in addition to the 24/7 U.S.-based Athena emergency contact that students have access to back home.
  • Nearby Health and Safety Resources. During orientation, students also receive names, addresses, and phone numbers of medical facilities at or near the program site.

Athena's On-Site Protocol

While Athena has precautions in place to ensure the utmost safety of our students abroad, sometimes situations arise beyond our control that necessitate immediate action for students’ safety. For this reason, Athena has developed an emergency protocol that our U.S. headquarters, as well as on-site partners, and staff follow in the event of an emergency. These emergencies may include, but are not limited to natural disasters, civil disturbances, or pandemics.

Should such a major incident occur that could affect our students security, Athena’s U.S. headquarters are in immediate contact with our overseas partners and staff so that we may appropriately and effectively proceed in notifying all involved parties and vice versa. First, Athena contacts each affected participant directly, and then uses electronic channels such as email and social media to communicate widely the necessary precautions to take, or if extreme, exact evacuation procedures.

Evacuation is a worst-case scenario and an unlikely event. However, if there is a need to evacuate, Athena’s overseas directors and advisors would escort students by train or bus to the nearest international departure city so they can take a commercial flight out of the country. Athena would tailor the emergency evacuation plan to the unique needs and considerations of the situation at hand. Athena’s U.S. headquarters and the international staff will work closely together to execute the emergency plan.

If an emergency occurs that places the health or safety of Athena students in a particular overseas city or country at risk:

  • Athena’s overseas directors/advisors will contact all students to ensure that they are accounted for and are safe, as well as provide them with information and instructions.
  • Our overseas directors/advisors will gather information related to the event causing the on emergency, possible danger to U.S. citizens, impact, intensity of the emergency, and the feasibility of continuing classes through an on-site assessment of the situation as well as communication with the local authorities and the US Embassy or Consulate.
  • Athena’s overseas directors/advisors will immediately contact Athena staff in the US to provide a briefing on the situation, including any recommendations the Director may have regarding the program.  The staff will also keep a detailed log of all events concerning this situation.
  • Athena staff will contact the U.S. State Department for further information and share that information with the rest of the overseas and US staff to be used in making a final action plan determination.
  • Athena’s appointed Emergency Response Team will take immediate measures to ensure the health and safety of the students, including gathering additional information, tailoring an evacuation plan to the situation, arranging transportation and developing a daily communication plan with key organizations.
  • Athena will post information on its website, as well as reach out to the students’ home institutions, emergency contacts and host institutions to apprise them of the situation and steps that Athena is taking.

Cancellation of or Withdrawal from an Athena Program

Any decision to evacuate Athena students from a program site is based largely on reports from OSAC, warnings from the U.S. State Department, local government and law enforcement agencies, and on-site staff.

Athena’s Refund Policy states that once the program begins, refunds are not granted for any reason, and this applies to any program inclusion.  If Athena cancels a program due to a Travel Warning, accepted applicants are given the choice of (1) deferring to a future program session; (2) switching to a different Athena program site; or (3) receiving a refund of recoverable fees less the application fee, program deposit, and any expenses already incurred by Athena on behalf of the student at the time of the event.

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