Offering international education experience, particularly in today’s world, requires a unified and collaborative approach among all stakeholders including our participants, their families, Verto staff, and our local partners within each region where we travel. Even with the best designed plans, the effectiveness of risk management planning is reliant upon individual and collective cooperation and accountability with all stakeholder groups.
Undoubtedly, it is Verto Education’s top priority to create a safe environment for participants and staff. This starts by designing quality experiences, partnering with responsible service providers, and ensuring our abroad destinations are as safe as possible. We do this by focusing on four ongoing components.
We remain updated on regional hazards and trends through trusted agency networks including the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, various government State Departments (U.S., Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand), Overseas Safety Advisory Council (OSAC), and AXA Travel Assist, amongst others. Utilizing multiple resources provides a balanced and varied perspective to provide our team an accurate picture of global safety status at any given time.
We only work with reputable and responsible organizations and service providers (accommodations, transportation, and activities) within each country. We perform and support our partners in completing comprehensive business assessments evaluating organizational insurance and business licensing, staff hiring and training processes, equipment and vehicle maintenance/repair structures, Child Protection policies, risk management protocols, emergency response systems, and so forth. This ongoing evaluation ensures our partners are aligned with Verto’s stringent safety protocols and focus on participant safety.
We recognize that each participant has individual needs, preferences, and interests. We spend the necessary time to listen, learn, and work collaboratively to ensure we’re aligned with and equipped to manage individual considerations such as medical conditions, mental health needs, food preferences, and so forth. If situations arise that we’re unable to manage, we’ll help guide you in finding an appropriate experience suited for your needs.
Our incident response framework is based on a modified version of the Incident Command System, which is used by law enforcement, fire departments, and state and federal governments. Our experience team is regularly trained on protocols to manage known or anticipated incident types, our Crisis Response Team performs exercises to test planning procedures, and we engage with AXA Travel Assist and our Mental Health advisor regularly to ensure full alignment in securing participant safety.
Covid-19 Specific Planning
To prevent the spread of Covid-19 and respond to potential infection, we’ve developed stages of planning to address this specific concern. It’s important to note that vaccinations and testing are the primary methods available for preventing the spread of COVID-19 amongst participants, staff, and the communities where Verto operates. Social distancing, wearing of masks, and performing healthy hygiene practices are also extremely impactful for reducing community transmission. These actions work in combination with each other, and all staff and participants are expected to abide by these measures throughout the program.
Verto Education has a set of guidelines that must be met to allow an abroad experience to run in a particular location.
- The destination’s borders must be open to American student travelers.
- Air travel to and from the destination must be regularly scheduled and available to travelers.
- Covid-19 testing must be available within the region of travel for non-residents.
- Group gatherings of 30+ must be allowable in the destination.
- Local medical facilities must not exceed 75% capacity within two weeks from arrival into the country / location.
Verto Education Responsibilities
- We will ensure all service providers, including accommodations, transportation, and activities, meet or exceed local guidelines for daily cleaning and disinfecting.
- We will maintain response protocols that align with local health agencies and AXA Travel Assist’s medical team should illness or exposure to illness impact a study abroad experience. This includes isolating and supporting the infected individual(s), performing contract tracing to identify potential exposures during infectious periods, and quarantining those exposed to the illness.
- We will maintain communication protocols to keep participants, families and guardians, Verto staff, and our local communities informed should an outbreak or exposure occur.
- We will conduct a series of safety webinars before the start of the abroad experience providing participants and family updates on the regions of travel, potential adjustments in protocols, personal responsibilities of participants and staff prior to travel, and actions that should be taken to limit exposure before and during travel on a Verto study abroad experience.
Verto Education aligns its COVID-19 vaccination policy to comply with local government laws, which no longer require vaccines for entry into the country. Therefore, COVID-19 vaccinations are no longer required.
Although countries have currently changed their vaccination policies and country entry requirements, there is no guarantee that these will not change in the future. If they do change, Participants will be required to comply with local laws and regulations regarding vaccinations. If participants are unable to continue on with their semester, no refunds will be issued for their semester.
We highly recommend that participants continue to get vaccinated to avoid any issues in their program country. Participants will still be required to comply with local laws and regulations regarding vaccination, isolation, testing and quarantine. Non-vaccinated individuals will need to reference and follow the appropriate testing requirements for entry into their program country. Additionally, some excursions may require additional testing to enter other countries that you may travel to during your program. Any required testing will be at the cost of the Participant. Participants should note that some local establishments may continue to require vaccination, and participants may not be able to participate in events and programming if this is the case. Participants should also be cognizant of the itinerary of any flights to their program country as vaccination may be required by the location of any layovers.
Verto’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement is a direct reflection of the government-enforced COVID-19 travel requirements, restrictions, and protocols present in our abroad locations. Unvaccinated travelers face the ongoing risk of mandatory quarantine periods – that can be based on personal infection or close contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases.
- Participant travelers may need to demonstrate proof of complete vaccination status prior to arrival in country, and/or a negative COVID-19 test administered within 72 hours before travel.
- If required by your chosen abroad location, participants must submit proof of vaccination documentation with Verto Education before acceptance and travel (via the secure Participant Portal).
- Participants are expected to perform daily temperature and symptom checks, and limit potential exposure to the virus (i.e. not attending large gatherings) for 10 days before the start of the experience.
- Participants are required to attend mandatory pre-departure Health and Safety webinars conducted by Verto Education before the start of the abroad experience.
- Participants are strongly encouraged to receive an influenza vaccination prior to travel as a preventative measure to spreading illness to Verto’s local communities.
During The Verto Experience
- Participants and staff will maintain proper health and hygiene practices including frequent hand washing, mask wearing as requested and as dictated by the current local mandates. This may include wearing masks in public spaces, while using public transportation, private transportation associated with experiential activities, and more.
- If an illness is contracted, whether a suspected COVID-19 case or otherwise, participants must follow the guidance of their location leaders.
- Participants will be required to provide their own supply of masks and hand sanitizer for the duration of the experience. Verto Education will provide backup supplies, however these should not be relied upon by participants as a primary resource.
- Participants must agree to monitor their symptoms over the course of the study abroad experience, and remain open, honest, and communicative with their location leader(s) when feeling ill, symptomatic, or if they have an elevated temperature.