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COVID-19 Vaccination

As in the USA, many countries have eased up Covid-19 protocols. KIIS remains committed to help safeguard the health, wellness, and safety of our participants, and to support the wellbeing of the local communities in the program host countries.

KIIS strongly recommends all participants (students and faculty) be up-to-date on both their seasonal flu and Covid-19 vaccinations (i.e. the latest Covid-19 booster shot) before their travel abroad. 

Message to Parents and Families

If your student is interested in studying abroad, this page is a good starting place. Your support and encouragement play a significant role in your student’s success on a KIIS study abroad program. The dedicated and experienced KIIS Office, Program Directors, Faculty and Campus Representatives are here to support both students and families throughout the entire process from pre-departure to homecoming.

Founded in 1975, KIIS is a long-time leader in faculty-led study abroad programs for students attending colleges and universities in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia. KIIS is a nonprofit educational organization committed to providing personalized, academically-enriching and affordable study abroad opportunities for college and university students from all diverse backgrounds. Through its high-quality study abroad programs, KIIS strives to prepare students to be globally competent upon graduation and enhance their professional career opportunities. We are here to answer any questions you or your student may have during the process.

While KIIS values the study of foreign languages, the great majority of KIIS courses are offered in English in a variety of academic disciplines. With the exception of KIIS language-specific programs (KIIS Munich, KIIS Paris II, KIIS Spain, and select KIIS Semester programs), students do not have to know a foreign language to study abroad on KIIS programs.

Benefits of Studying Abroad

Studying abroad has been shown to significantly enhance student academic success, graduation rates and career development. Benefits KIIS students often mention include:

  • Earn university credit
  • Hands-on and active-learning opportunities
  • Multicultural growth, understanding and appreciation
  • Develop flexibility and adaptability skills
  • Increase self-confidence, self-awareness and independence
  • Enhance foreign language skills
  • Sharpen oral and written critical-reasoning and creative thinking
  • Build a stronger resume for employment opportunities
  • Recommendation letters from KIIS faculty
  • Network with KIIS alumni

Prior to Departure

Students and families often have questions about studying abroad prior to program departure. KIIS encourages you to discuss these topics together and visit KIIS web links for additional information. Feel free to directly contact the KIIS office as well.

KIIS specializes in short-term 2-5 week Summer and Winter study abroad programs and provides 140+ university courses in various academic disciplines such as Business & Economics, Education, Health Sciences, Humanities, Physical Sciences and Social Sciences in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.

On all KIIS programs, students earn university credits upon successful completion of the program. KIIS course credit is issued by Western Kentucky University (WKU), our Sponsoring Institution. Transcripts automatically are sent from the WKU Registrar to the student’s home institution.

  • Summer (3.5 to 5-week programs): 6 university credits
  • Winter and Summer (2-week programs): 3 university credits
  • Spring Semester: 12 – 15 university credits

Housing Styles: Overseas accommodations are included in the program fee for all KIIS students. On most programs, students live in multiple occupancy, international student residences or hotels. A selection of KIIS programs offer the opportunity to live with a homestay family.

Program Structures: KIIS Programs emphasis active-student learning in a global context. Diverse academic excursions enhance classroom instruction to foster student intercultural competence. Some KIIS programs remain in one city for the duration of the program and provide weekend travel opportunities while other programs travel throughout a country or region. Please review the desired KIIS program page and itinerary for specific accommodation details and program structure. KIIS Program Directors and Faculty are present on-site with the students on all KIIS Summer and Winter programs. 

Visitors: Guests are not allowed in KIIS housing. If family members wish to visit a student abroad, they should plan to visit before or after the program dates so as not to disrupt the group. On semester programs, family members may have the opportunity to visit students during Spring Break.

Health Needs: If a student has a particular health or disability need, please contact the student’s KIIS Campus Rep or Maria Canning to discuss the needs and the feasibility of specific accommodations. KIIS programs include comprehensive medical insurance and security evacuation protection for all students and faculty (for details, see Health & Safety below, notably “Summary of Insurance Benefits”).

Emergency Contacts: Prior to departure, students receive their KIIS Program Director’s cell phone number and KIIS Executive and Assistant Director cell phone numbers. KIIS provides students with their personalized medical insurance card and international emergency contact numbers for their international location(s). This information also is available in the KIIS program-specific Student Handbook and KIIS Safety and Emergency Worksheet (available in student’s KIIS Account).

Families: Typically you will have ample opportunities to communicate with your student abroad. That said, KIIS encourages parents and family members to avoid communicating constantly with their student so that students may engage more fully with their study abroad experience.

Connectivity: The KIIS Student Handbook provide students guidance about cell phone and Internet service options abroad. Internet connections in other countries might not be as reliable as the USA so please be patient as you wait for responses from your student. To help with communication with your student, and to maximize their study abroad experience, consider setting up one time a week for video or audio chats.

It is natural for some students to feel a degree of homesickness abroad. Your student’s on-site KIIS Program Director (a faculty leader from one of the KIIS Consortium Institutions in the USA who accompanies the students abroad) has significant experience assisting students with cultural shock and academic adjustment while abroad. If your student experiences any difficulty adjusting to the international setting, please encourage your student to speak with their on-site Program Director. In the vast majority of cases, students overcome homesickness after the first few days of the program.

If the need arises, parents may consult KIIS Emergency Contacts: Dr. John Dizgun (KIIS Executive Director) or Ms. Maria Canning (KIIS Assistant Director) to discuss any student concerns.

KIIS actively promotes and supports the representation and expression of different racial and ethnic groups, minorities, gender identities, and religions. Our organization embraces multicultural understanding, flexibility and respect, and seeks to provide an equitable and inclusive environment for all to enjoy the benefits of study abroad.  See KIIS Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for details.

Flight Options: Students may elect one of the two options below when applying to their KIIS program

  • Independent Flight: Students purchase their own airfare (note: please do not purchase airfare until KIIS notifies accepted students to do so).
  • Group Flight: KIIS purchases the airfare and students fly together.

Note: Please carefully read the KIIS Flight Options page before making a selection as switches from one flight option to the other are not allowed.

Passports and Visas

  • Students must have a passport book with at least 6 months validity beyond travel dates to participate on KIIS study abroad programs.
  • Passport cards are not valid for international air travel.
  • In some cases, students may require a visa for international travel.
  • KIIS recommends at least one parent or emergency contact at home have a passport.
  • For more information, visit Passports & Visas.

KIIS encourages all students to read the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) health guidelines for their desired country destination(s) prior to departure. Some information about immunization recommendations are provided at the KIIS Student Orientation during the Program-Specific Breakout Session and in the KIIS Student Program Handbook, but the CDC provides more comprehensive information. It is the students’ responsibility to consult with their family doctor, a travel specialist doctor or local health department to schedule appointments to obtain their own medications or vaccinations for travel abroad.

  • Routine Immunizations: It is recommended that everyone has up-to-date routine immunizations, including measles, mumps & rubella (MMR), tetanus booster (once every 10 years), polio vaccine and varicella (chickenpox) vaccine. To learn more, visit the CDC vaccinations schedules here.
  • Country-Specific Medications or Vaccines: Some countries may require a specific vaccination or medication prior to entry to prevent infections from diseases such as Hepatitis A, malaria or others. Visit the CDC Travelers page for specific country information and recommendations. In many cases, the vaccination or prescription medication should be obtained a month or more ahead of departure for maximum protection and effectiveness.
  • Zika Virus: The Zika virus, which is caused from mosquito bites, was prominent in the news several years ago. While there are not currently any outbreaks for the Zika virus, the CDC continues to monitor potential risks and provides several recommendations for protection against Zika. Women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant should take special precautions to prevent against Zika infection as zika has been known to impact unborn babies. If there is any concern for students’ health in the future at a KIIS program site, KIIS may alter program activities in the country/location.
  • Covid-19: As in the USA, many countries have eased up Covid-19 protocols. KIIS remains committed to help safeguard the health, wellness, and safety of our participants, and to support the wellbeing of the local communities in the program host countries. KIIS strongly recommends all participants (students and faculty) be up-to-date on both their seasonal flu and Covid-19 vaccinations (i.e. the latest Covid-19 booster shot for the Eris variant) before their travel abroad. This latest Covid-19 booster is expected to be widely available in the US by the end of September 2023.
    Note: The following KIIS Programs— Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Tanzania, and Zanzibar— require up-to-date Covid-19 vaccination, including the latest Covid-19 booster shot for Eris variant. This booster is expected to be widely available in the US at the end of September 2023.
  • Medications: If students are on medication, they should discuss with their physician(s) the type of care they may need while abroad and the best way to continue their regimen. Students should determine if their medication is legal to bring into the international program country(ies). Students should take copies of all prescriptions in their carry-on luggage (including prescriptions for glasses or contact lenses). KIIS recommends students carry enough medication to last for the duration of the program plus 2-4 weeks beyond the program dates. Any prescriptions and/or over-the-counter medications should be brought with you in their original labeled packaging.
  • Allergies: If students have a health condition that could be serious (such as diabetes, an allergy to penicillin, an allergy to specific food, use an EpiPen, etc.), as with any medical condition, they must disclose their condition on the KIIS Medical History Form. They also should inform their KIIS Program Director and should strongly consider wearing a Medic Alert bracelet. They should bring an extra supply of all medications with them including, if needed, an EpiPen. 
  • Mental Health: Many students encounter depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. KIIS strongly encourages all students who struggle with mental health issues to meet with their doctor or mental health professional at least a month prior to studying abroad to discuss their ongoing treatment plans, coping techniques and any needed medications. Many universities provide free counseling services to students. It is important for students to continue medications they are taking at home when they travel abroad even if they begin to feel better. If there is a need for meet in person or by video with a mental health professional while abroad, KIIS’s medical insurance provider can set up an appointment. 

Most KIIS students bring their USA ATM card (e.g., for foreign cash withdrawals) and a small amount of US and/or foreign cash. KIIS strongly encourages all students to bring a credit card with them for larger purchases and in the event of an emergency. KIIS provides additional information about money matters at the pre-departure KIIS Student Orientation and in the Student Handbook.

Money Tip: Be sure to inform students’ bank and credit card companies that your student is traveling abroad, including the dates of travel. If not informed, the bank and/or credit card company may freeze your students’ accounts thinking it is fraud. Please also inquire with your bank and credit card company about international transaction fees, daily withdrawal limits, etc.

Student Handbook: After program acceptance, KIIS makes available a program-specific Student Handbook in student’s KIIS Account. The handbook covers topics such as academics, money matters, communication, packing tips, health and safety, and specific emergency or cultural guidelines for the country.

Student Orientations: KIIS students are required to attend an in-person, pre-departure KIIS Student Orientation as well as an on-site KIIS Student Orientation upon arrival at the international program location. Topics include academics, health and safety, communication, host-country culture, money, and more. Parents, families and emergency contacts are welcome to attend the pre-departure KIIS Student Orientation.

Program Preparation: In many ways, the pre-departure KIIS Student Orientation is regarded as the symbolic opening of the students upcoming study abroad experience. It is during the orientation that Program Directors and faculty share with students current events, history, geography, and cultural norms and expectations. Program Directors and faculty also encourage students to begin investigating more deeply their host country(ies) through short readings and multimedia. KIIS also encourages students to begin walking 1-2 miles per day or 5-10 miles per week to better prepare for daily walking and academic excursions on-site.

Health & Safety

The health and wellness of KIIS students and faculty are our highest priority. KIIS follows the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and U.S. Department of State health and travel guidelines. Prior to departure, KIIS encourages all students to read the CDC and Department of State health and travel guidelines for their desired program destination(s). Year-round KIIS monitors international developments and global health and safety concerns involving all KIIS program locations. For more information on health and safety, please click here.

For all KIIS Summer and Winter programs, KIIS Program Directors and Faculty from the U.S. are on-site 24/7. On KIIS Semester programs, a local director is available 24/7.

KIIS strives to provide the best possible care for students while abroad. In addition to 24/7 medical insurance coverage, on-site KIIS Program Directors and US-based KIIS office staff are available 24/7 to assist students in the event of any general needs, medical appointments and emergencies. Prior to program departure, KIIS provides all students with Emergency contact and Medical Insurance details.

  • Program Director: The Program Director serves as the on-site 24/7 emergency contact. Most KIIS Program Directors are fluent or near fluent in the local foreign language. In addition to the Faculty Program Director, each KIIS Summer and Winter program has 1 – 3 accompanying faculty on-site to assist as needed.
  • KIIS Semester Program Directors: Each KIIS Semester program has a local on-site Program Director who is available to assist students with health and safety issues and in the event of an emergency. 
  • KIIS Executive Director and Assistant Director in the USA are on-call 24/7 to assist KIIS Program Directors, Faculty and students with health and safety needs and in the event of an emergency abroad. In the event of an emergency, please call KIIS Executive Director, Dr. John Dizgun, at +1-270-227-2288. 
  • Medical Insurance: All KIIS programs include 24/7 on-site medical insurance and security evacuation protection among other benefits (see tab below for insurance benefit details).
  • U.S. Department State: Prior to departure, KIIS enrolls all students and faculty in the U.S. Department State S.T.E.P. program, which automatically informs US embassies and consulates abroad of the presence in-country of KIIS program participants.

Through Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI), KIIS provides all participating students and faculty with comprehensive medical and mental health insurance ($250,000 max, $0 deductible) 24/7 while abroad on KIIS programs.

  • Security Evacuation Protection: Provides evacuation services in the event of threats of political, security and natural disaster in the host country (the benefit pays for the evacuation of KIIS participants from the host country to return to the U.S.).
  • Trip Cancellation—Terrorism: Pays up to $5,000 to recover non-refundable expenses already paid due to loss if the scheduled travel must be canceled within 45 days of departure from the U.S. due to terrorist activities (as determined by the U.S. State Department).
  • Trip Interruption Benefit: ($2,500 max) offers to return KIIS participants to the U.S. (and back to the KIIS program, if desired) in the event a relative (parents, children, siblings,  grandparents) passes away or becomes gravely ill.
  • Emergency Medical Evacuation Benefit: Returns KIIS participants to the U.S. should they suffer a Medical Emergency which requires evacuation during the course of their KIIS program.
  • Reunion Benefit: Covers international airfare, lodging and food stipend (up to $5000) for one family member to join the KIIS student abroad, if the student suffers a Medical Emergency which requires a stay of 3+ nights in the hospital.
  • Repatriation of Remains: The KIIS-CISI policy pays 100% of the cost for repatriation of remains.
  • To see the full KIIS-CISI Insurance Policy, visit the KIIS Medical Insurance page.

KIIS’s highest priority remains the health and wellness of all KIIS students and faculty. The KIIS Office Staff, Program Directors and Faculty receive regular health, safety, and security information and training throughout the academic year. Examples of preparation and training include:

  • Forum on Education Abroad Training and Workshops: KIIS is a member of the Forum on Education Abroad, which provides established standards for study abroad programs. KIIS Office Staff and Program Directors have opportunities to attend the Forum’s Annual Conference and other valuable Forum workshops. KIIS Office Staff, Program Directors and Faculty also attend trainings, conferences and workshops offered by other groups such as the Association of International Education Administrators (AIEA), the Workshop on Intercultural Skills Enhancement (WISE), and the Conference of the Americas on International Education (CAIE).
  • KIIS Program Director Training: The KIIS Office Staff and KIIS Program Directors have decades of experience in international education and health and safety. In addition to Forum on Education Abroad workshops, Program Directors and Office Staff receive ongoing internal training to assist in handling health, safety and crisis situations abroad.
  • KIIS Faculty Training: Like KIIS Program Directors, KIIS Faculty also receive semi-annual preparation and training. KIIS semi-annual Faculty Orientations cover topics such as Health and Safety, Academic Policies and Strategies, Role of Faculty Abroad, Title IX & Clery-Minger Acts, Cross-Cultural Themes, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and more.
  • Opportunities for Parents/Family Members: KIIS welcomes parents/family members of KIIS participants to attend the annual pre-departure KIIS Student Orientation to learn more about KIIS best practices and KIIS program-specific topics related to academics, health and safety, communication, host-country culture, money, and more. KIIS encourages parents/family members to review the KIIS Student Handbook and KIIS Safety and Emergency Worksheet (available in student’s KIIS Account after program acceptance). Parents/Family members always are welcome to contact the KIIS Executive Director or Assistant Director with any questions or concerns. 

KIIS students are required to attend an in-person, pre-departure KIIS Student Orientation as well as an on-site KIIS Student Orientation upon arrival at the international program location. Topics include academics, health and safety, communication, host-country culture, money, and more. KIIS strongly encourages all students to remain in groups of three or more while abroad on their KIIS program; KIIS strongly discourages students from going anywhere alone while abroad.

  • Medical Insurance: Through CISI insurance, KIIS provides all KIIS students and faculty with comprehensive medical insurance ($250,000 max; $0 deductible) and security evacuation protection for the duration of their KIIS study abroad program. The KIIS medical insurance includes a number of added benefits (see the dropdown above for a summary of insurance benefits). If students travel before or after the KIIS program dates, they should obtain separate insurance (i.e. non-KIIS insurance) for their period of independent travel. Students also may wish to purchase their own Property/Personal Insurance or Trip Cancellation Insurance as these are not provided in the KIIS policy. 
  • Medical Appointments: The KIIS Program Director serves as the on-site 24/7 emergency contact. If there is a need for a student to visit a clinic or hospital, the KIIS Program Director or a KIIS Faculty will accompany the student, whenever possible. The KIIS Program Director is very knowledgeable about local customs and culture, and fluent or near fluent in the local language.
  • Mental Health: Admitted KIIS students are required to include any mental health concerns or issues as well as current medications on their KIIS medical history form. KIIS strongly encourages all students, especially those currently seeing a mental health professional or contemplating seeing a mental health professional, to visit a mental health professional prior to departure to help set up a mental health pre, during and post study abroad plan. Mental health professionals with experience in university study abroad regularly remind students participating on a study abroad program “not to take a medication vacation” — that is, to ensure they do not stop taking their prescribed medications while abroad, even if they are feeling healthy and positive. For more information, please visit the KIIS Student Health & Wellness webpage. If a student faces a mental health issue or crisis abroad, they should refer to the plan they created with their mental health professional in the US and reach out to their KIIS Program Director for support. If needed, the KIIS Program Director in cooperation with the KIIS Office will set up an English-language, private, individual counseling session for the student with a mental health professional. These counseling sessions are included in the students KIIS medical insurance.
  • Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (S.T.E.P.): Prior to program departure, the KIIS office enrolls all KIIS students and faculty in the U.S. Department of State S.T.E.P. program. The S.T.E.P. automatically notifies US Government officials of the presence of KIIS students and faculty in the country(ies) where the study abroad program is taking place. In addition to the US Embassy or US Consulate providing KIIS students and faculty with any potential health or safety notifications, the US Embassy or US Consulate also will notify KIIS participants in the event of a Department of State – sanctioned evacuation. 
  • Emergency Communication Plan: Prior to program departure, students KIIS Program Director provides all KIIS students with program-specific contact information, including an on-site(s) emergency meeting place(s) in the event cell phone communication goes down. This program-specific information is made available to students and faculty in the KIIS Safety and Emergency Worksheet (located in student’s KIIS Account).  In case of an incident abroad  (natural disaster, terror incident or health issue, etc.), all KIIS students are asked to proactively to check in with their KIIS Program Director for any incident as discussed during the pre-departure KIIS Student Orientation. The KIIS Program Director then notifies the KIIS Office whether all KIIS students and faculty are safe and accounted for. The KIIS Office then informs each student’s home institution campus education abroad office. KIIS also encourages students to proactively contact their parents or family in the event of any such issue abroad. If there is a need to inform the students designated emergency contact listed in the student’s KIIS Account, the KIIS Office will do so.  

Prior to departure, KIIS enrolls student and faculty participants in the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). The STEP program is a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. The information provided allows the Department of State to better assist KIIS participants in the event of an emergency abroad.

Non-U.S. citizens, KIIS enrolls non-U.S. citizens in the U.S. Department of State’s STEP along with the other KIIS participants. Non-U.S. citizens also should check with their home country to register for their equivalent of STEP service.


The KIIS office and students’ home campus continue to assist students in several ways after program completion. Students also can find valuable resources online about resume building and items related to returning home after the program.

While some students, notably in the first few days of a study abroad program, may find it challenging to adjust to living in a new culture overseas, there also can be adjustments after returning home from the program. Encourage your student to seek opportunities to share their international experiences with students who are interested in learning about other countries and cultures. Many universities have study abroad peer ambassador programs, study abroad fairs and/or other volunteer opportunities where returning students can share their study abroad experience with prospective students and, in the process, continue to further develop their leadership and critical thinking skills. On their home campus, some returning students also take added advantage of meeting and interacting with international students from the country they visited which continues to allow them to enhance their multicultural and any foreign language skills. KIIS provides creative outlets for alumni such as submitting blog posts, quotes or photos on the KIIS  Share Your Story page or volunteering to do a KIIS Instagram Takeover.

In addition to highlighting their study abroad experience on their resume, many students underscore their study abroad experience during job interviews or interviews for graduate school. Many employers find the benefits of studying abroad (listed above on this page) valuable. Please see link for a visual look at the Study Abroad Return on Investment. KIIS encourages students to meet with their university Career Services office to discuss how best to highlight their particular study abroad experiences.

Upon successful completion of a KIIS study abroad program, KIIS automatically will have a Western Kentucky University transcript (WKU), sent to the student’s home institution approximately eight weeks after program completion. WKU serves as KIIS’s sponsoring and the credit-granting institution. Should a KIIS student in the future (e.g. when applying to graduate school) require an additional WKU transcript showing their KIIS study abroad courses, the student may request one from the WKU Registrar.

Students and families are invited to review the links below to enhance students pre and post- departure study abroad experience, to learn about the benefits of studying abroad or to gather information about study abroad scholarships.

Since its formation in 1975, KIIS has been committed to keeping its study abroad programs affordable for students. KIIS awards over $80,000 in student scholarship each year.

If you or a friend/family/employer are interested in contributing to the KIIS Scholarship Fund to provide international education opportunities for students, please visit our Donate page. Thank you for your support!

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