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This information was developed by RMU faculty members to assist other faculty members who are preparing for international assignments. Additional assistance is also available through the Center for Global Engagement.
If a faculty member wants to be considered for service abroad, he or she must meet the following minimum qualifications:
Note: Language abilities may be a criterion for consideration for a foreign assignment.
- Be a full-time faculty member. (If no full-time faculty member requests consideration, after the 30-day period the administration may choose other channels to solicit faculty for participation).
- Have earned merit in the teaching category during the previous year's performance appraisal (preference will be given to applicants who have earned highest merit in teaching) for teaching opportunities. For research opportunities, the faculty person must have earned merit in the research category during the previous year's performance appraisal or demonstrate an ability to conduct research.
- Not suffer from any medical ailment that would prohibit the faculty member from performing his or her role as a teacher, advisor or researcher.
Types of Assignments
The opportunities for faculty fall into four categories. Foreign assignments could fall into one area or could represent a combination of any or all of the four categories. This committee will recommend guidelines for each category. Categories include:
- Teaching - Courses at foreign universities or courses taught to Robert Morris students overseas; supervision of internships
- Student Adviser - It is recommended that this role be limited to academic advising by Robert Morris University faculty. It is strongly recommended that advising activities such as coordinating the transition to a foreign culture, planning, coordinating, and participating in student field trips and other cultural experiences and counseling of students be handled by a permanent on-site advisor who will have a greater knowledge of the local culture, laws, etc.
- Research - This includes both individual research and joint research projects conducted with foreign colleges and universities.
- Service - This may include areas such as marketing Robert Morris University, recruitment of foreign students, etc.
If a person wishes to be considered for service abroad with another college's program or with some outside organization such as EF Educational Tours, he/she should first meet the minimum qualifications and the procedure as stipulated above. He/she has the further responsibility of having the program approved by the Dean of his/her school.
Process for Applying
In order to be considered for teaching, advising, research and/or service abroad, the faculty member must employ the following procedure after meeting the minimum requirements:
Within the specified 30-day period, submit a letter (electronic, interoffice or US mail) that indicates the faculty member's interest in being considered for international teaching, advising, and/or research.
1. If the faculty member will serve in a teaching capacity, he or she should provide evidence to support effective teaching and include a course proposal or a course syllabus.
2. If the faculty member seeks to conduct research abroad, he or she should submit a research proposal, which includes the following components:
- Area of investigation
- Research question
- Population or location to be studied (instances where permission, clearances, etc. are necessary, the candidate should supply contact letters and/or other documentation).
- Importance of the research
- Distribution of findings (where, how, and when)
3. If the faculty member will serve as a teacher and advisor, he or she should provide evidence to support effective teaching, submit a course proposal or a course syllabus, and a schedule of times to meet with an RMU International Exchange Coordinator to be briefed about international advising protocol.
Notification - The Dean of the respective school will notify the candidate that he or she has:
When a faculty member identifies an international teaching, advising, research and/or service opportunity on his or her own (not representing Robert Morris University), this process is null and void.
- Received his or her request for consideration for the overseas assignment, and
- notify the candidate of his or her decision in a timely fashion (not to exceed 60 days from receipt of request for consideration).
Faculty members may approach the Dean of his/her respective school with proposals for overseas assignments.
Preparation for Going
Ideally, the lead-time for planning your trip abroad should probably be equal to the amount of time you're planning to spend abroad. But it also depends on how much previous experience you've had traveling outside the United States and whether you're responsible for family members as well. As soon as the assignment is approved, schedule a meeting with Human Resources.
Required Travel Documents
If you already have a passport, then you need only check to make sure that it doesn't expire until well after your planned date of return. If your passport has or will expire during your stay abroad, then you need to renew it before you leave. For an exorbitant fee that includes overnight mail, you can get 24-hour service. But otherwise, you should plan to mail your passport for renewal two to three months before you leave. If you've never had a passport, then you need to apply in person at the Allegheny County Clerk's Office in Pittsburgh or one of the following Post Offices:
The U.S. State Department maintains a web site with extensive information about applying for a passport at http://travel.state.gov. Additional information about foreign travel and living overseas is available at www.state.gov/www/services.html#living.
- Allegheny County (15237)
- Blawnox Branch (15238)
- McKnight Branch (15237)
- Penn Hills (15235)
- Pleasant Hills (15236)
- South Hills (15216)
Extended stays in foreign countries usually require some form of registration or visa, especially if you're working in the country. The foreign institution which is hosting you should be able to help you complete the necessary papers. Visa agreements between countries are negotiated, and usually reciprocal. That means if we make it simple for the nationals of another country to work in the U.S., that country will make it simple for U.S. citizens, and unfortunately, vice-versa.
The good news is that the country you're going to will probably have some form of universal health coverage, so hospitals aren't in the habit of refusing emergency service for monetary reasons. On the other hand, if you make some preparations ahead of time, you may have a better chance of making sure that the health care you get is up to the standards you expect.
The health insurance you have for the United States should provide sufficient coverage for any overseas needs. But among the choices for Robert Morris faculty, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, being the biggest organization, may have the best worldwide connections. If you have Blue Cross/Blue Shield Major Medical or SelectBlue coverage, you should explore their website at http://www.bcbs.com/bluecardworldwide/index.html to see what relationships they have established with hospitals worldwide to assure that their patients will be guaranteed service without pre-payment. In addition, if an emergency arises and you must go to the nearest hospital or clinic for treatment, there are special international claim forms for reimbursement. If you are a member of a HealthAmerica or U.S. Healthcare HMO, you can use the Blue Cross/Blue Shield services as a standard for comparison. Remember if you're not satisfied with your HMO coverage, you must make changes during an open enrollment period, usually between December 1 and December 15.
Check with your doctor, but normally the only recommendation is for a tetanus booster. Most places you're going will provide no more disease risks than where you live right now.
Some planning here can avoid frustrations overseas. You should have at least a month's worth of any prescription drug, which you take regularly. It can be difficult and expensive to get a prescription filled in another country. You have enough to do when you arrive at your foreign destination without trying to get a prescription filled. If you can plan far enough ahead, you might ask your physician to write a prescription that runs out the week before your departure plus one that gives you the maximum amount - usually three months' worth--that you can fill next. That way you'll have almost 90 days worth of the drugs you know you're going to need as you depart.
Glasses and Contact Lenses
Take both, plus a copy of the prescription for your lenses. The odds are that replacing lenses for eyeglasses will be more expensive abroad than at home, but if you're in Western Europe, your high-style frames may seem like a bargain. Ask your optometrist or ophthalmologist about your options for purchasing contact lens supplies.
Normally your state driver's license is sufficient overseas, at least for renting a car. However, International Drivers' Licenses, a cheap passport-like document that provides standardized information about your state license in multiple languages is available at AAA. If you expect to be driving in rural areas where the local gendarmes will scowl when they see your Pennsylvania driver's license, then this one will supposedly meet their demands.
It's probably a good idea to check with your insurance company to see what--if any--coverage extends to your driving abroad. Some companies like USAA, which insure U.S. military officers stationed abroad, provide coverage. Most don't.
It's unlikely that you're going to take your car with you. Years ago buying a car abroad saved you import taxes, but now the savings are minimal. One option--if you're planning to arrive in Europe anywhere in France or a bordering country--is to lease a car for three weeks or more. There's a loophole in French law that's been exploited since the mid-1950s that allows French cars to be sold to non-Europeans tax-free. The cars are brand new and fully insured (no deductible of any kind) for the entire length of the lease. Small economy cars turn out to cost about $30 dollars a day, about half the price of a normal rental. Europe-by-Car is the company that invented this ploy and tends to be friendly towards academics (including a $50 discount).
Vehicles for Academic Activities
This needs to be investigated by the faculty member prior to departure. Any faculty liability may avoid liability with regard to driving students by a policy of always having the on-site administrator arrange for transportation and a driver for all official field trips. The current University policy supports this choice.
Electronic banking has much simplified monetary planning for an extended stay abroad.
You should probably arrange for direct deposit of your paycheck into your stateside bank account. Then ask the bank which international network its automatic teller system is a member of. In Western Europe, you'll probably be able to withdraw money at almost any automatic teller you see. Of course, there'll be a fee, presently $2 if you use the Cirrus system, for example, in conjunction with a Mellon Bank account. But if you take cash out in amounts greater than $200 (the limit is about $300), then the service fee amounts to a transaction fee of 1 percent or less and you get local currency at the best possible conversion rate.
Traveler's checks are safe, but generally create only headaches. Merchants don't like them unless you've bought them in the local currency. That means if you're going to England, you buy traveler's checks in the United States in amounts designating British pounds, not dollars. The Euro will simplify this problem somewhat, but even if you don't pay a service charge for the checks, you're bound to lose money on the conversion of dollars to the foreign currency. If you're carrying traveler's checks in dollar amounts, then you have to convert them to the local currency at a bank or a currency exchange. That's why foreign merchants don't like them. If you don't make that trip to the bank, they have to instead. In short, then, traveler's checks are the last resort in case you're traveling in a remote area where ATMs haven't arrived, but banks and currency exchanges are open for business.
Automatic tellers are the best source for cash in the local currency. If you have a sudden need for dollars, you're going to have to convert them from the local currency. Some U.S. cash, in small denominations, may be useful to keep on hand when you're passing through a country and need only to convert a small amount of money.
You probably don't write many checks in the United States, except at bill paying time. You'll write fewer abroad. One service you might look into is a way to automate your bill-paying to U.S. companies while you're abroad. Your bank may provide access to your account online, allowing you to make direct payments. Independent of your bank, the U.S. Postal Service offers a reasonably priced bill-paying service that you can access through its Internet site at www.usps.com. For a base fee of $2 a month, you can write checks against any bank account for 40 cents each that the post office will issue and mail to your addressee. For $6 a month you can write as many checks as you want. You must set up the bill paying service before you leave the states since the necessary password can only be mailed to your home address.
VISA and MasterCard are very effective ways to pay for purchases and services while abroad since you pay no ATM service charge (which makes cash more costly) yet you get very good exchange rates. To pay off your monthly balance, you can check your balance by phone at the end of your billing cycle and generate a check using a bill-paying service like the USPS system described above. Credit cards, by the way, with low monthly interest rates and no service fees for cash advances are a reasonable alternative for acquiring cash, especially if you need a small amount. The $2 ATM fee, which, for example, represents a 1 percent fee on a cash withdrawal of $200, turns out to be a 10 percent fee on a cash withdrawal of $20. As long as you pay off your credit card cash advance within one month's time, then your credit card's monthly interest rate times the cash you withdraw turns out to be your maximum possible service fee. If it's less then $2, then you've saved money by taking a loan from your credit card company rather than withdrawing cash from your bank.
Thanks to worldwide ATM systems, your regular bank at home should be sufficient. You may want to give a friend or relative a stack of deposit slips and bank-by-mail envelopes before you leave the country so they can deposit in your account any check that arrives at your home address. You need not endorse a check with your signature to deposit it in your bank account if you're the only payee on the face of the check. Thus, your friend or relative can endorse the check by simply writing "For deposit only" and your account number. Deposit by mail makes the process completely anonymous. Anyone can write the necessary statement on the back of your check and complete the deposit slip. Writing "for deposit only" on the check makes it impossible to withdraw cash on the same deposit slip.
As a safe bet, faculty members should keep a copy of all receipts. This will help with customs, potential reimbursement and taxes.
Special arrangements for family need to be made ahead of time. The host institution may have information available for accommodations for family members (especially spouses and children) as well as information about education, social activities, etc.
Reference books for the family:
Preparation for "Culture Shock"
- John W. Adams, U.S. Expatriate Handbook Guide to Living and Working Abroad
- J. Stewart Black and Hal B. Gregersen, So You're Going Overseas
- Rosalind Kalb and Penelope Welch, Moving Your Family Overseas
- L. Robert Kohls, Survival Kit for Overseas Living: For Americans Planning to Live and Work Abroad
- Nancy J. Piet-Pelon and Barbara Hornby, Women's Guide to Overseas Living
Although designed for study abroad students, many of these websites can help to prepare faculty members for overseas assignments.
Helpful Study Abroad Websites:
Includes travel tips on health and safety, general planning, guidebooks, packing tips, communicating and converting the language, food and shelter, and tour tips
Web links helping with myths, safety and everything else dealing with study abroad.
Myths about Studying Abroad
An article discrediting the myths students have about studying abroad.
Risks in Study Abroad
An article on preparing students about the risks of studying abroad. Also, the article will help the student with the planning process before he or she goes abroad.
An article helping students deal with culture shock overseas and when they come back home.
An article giving students and parents information on keeping safe and healthy overseas.
Arrangements to Get There
The details of passport and visa applications can be found in the Preparation for Going section. Just as a precaution always keep a record of your passport number and visa number separate from your actual documents. It is also recommended that you keep a copy of all important documents (passport, visa, credit cards) in a safe place.
Travel Arrangements (On the way)
Airfare is the single largest expenditure for travel and Robert Morris utilizes a Travel Agency to help alleviate any problems in obtaining tickets. Please call the travel agency as soon as you agree to go abroad so that the best possible price may be booked. Remember all air travel must be approved so be very careful when trying to get airfares over the Internet or other discounters. The best policy is to find the cheapest fare and then call the college approved travel company (Travelers Services 412-232-3600) and inform them of the fare you have found.
Even when traveling by air some trips require long flights and plane changes, some hints to make the travel experience more pleasant.
- Dress comfortably some trips will have you in a plane overnight and you must be able to sleep in your clothes. Some travelers place sweat pants, tee shirts, and even slippers in their carry-ons to make the trip very comfortable.
- Many European airports have shower facilities for rent so a plane change can become a blessing as you take a long hot shower.
Depending on where you are headed the time difference can be extreme. If you are headed to London, for example, the time difference is +4 hours or if it is noon here it is 4:00 PM there. If on the other had you are going to the other side of the world such as Sydney Australia (Deakin University), the time difference is +16 hours or if it is noon here it is 4:00 AM the next morning there. For any time difference calculation go to
The Last Few Miles
Before you leave make sure you completely understand the ground transportation alternatives. Many cities are very congested, poorly laid out and have unfamiliar road signs. Many times it is better to take public transportation than it is to rent a car. However, the best solution is to have someone from the host institution meet you at the airport whenever possible.
Currency exchange rates are always a problem when traveling. However the continued integration of the world's capital markets has made currency gouging a thing of the past, if you are careful. Using the link below you can find the most up to date exchange rates between all major currencies in the world.
Currency Exchange Checklists
- Carry as little cash as possible, United States or other
- Use local ATMs for the cash needed for day-to-day transactions. Only requirement is that they belong to the same "system" as your bank, i.e. CIRRUS
While each assignment is different, short assignments, (ex. a 2-3 week course) the institution many times provides living space, for longer assignments the host institution usually has a list of spaces for rent at reasonable prices. Very few institutions provide meals; some may provide meals for short stays when there is no kitchen equipment in the housing provided. Arrangements must be made before you leave!!
Remember to get a housing address, phone number and contact information prior to leaving.
Knowing the general geographic area you are traveling to is important, but an up-to-date road map may be of more importance.
Support Services Available
The single best resource is to find out if the host institution has a website. If they have a site this can tell you a lot about them. For example, the website for Deakin University in Australia www.deakin.edu.au can provide you with such information as phone numbers, library information, faculty, college contacts, and more.
Below is listed a link that will allow you to find any consulate/embassy for the United States in any country in the world. The information provided includes telephone numbers, addresses and e-mail addresses.
Students (Academic Issues, Issues of the Social Environment)
The faculty member should work out with the RMU Human Resources Department and the Vice President of Academic Affairs and Student Services what responsibilities will be required in relating not only to RMU students but also all other students they will be dealing with. A list of questions detailing issues and potential situations should be presented by the faculty member and discussed prior to departure. Questions should include both academic and social environment questions and should cover all categories of students (listed below).
- RMU Students
- Other United States Students (but Non-RMU Students)
- Non-United States Students
Again it is the responsibility of the faculty member to discuss the following course work issues prior to departure. Generally, the following policies will apply:
Prior to acceptance of the overseas assignment, the faculty member should be prepared to ask questions of the RMU Human Resources department and the Vice President of Academic Affairs and Student Services as to what their responsibilities are to the academic hierarchy of the institution they are visiting. Issues include: Who is in authority at the host institution, faculty evaluations, classroom protocol, faculty teaching and advising load. The faculty member should address these and other issues such as whom to contact with problems that may arise both from an academic and social standpoint.
- Rosters - Visiting instructors shall follow the policies of the host institution concerning the generation and verification of rosters.
- Grades (Including types of assignments) - The grading policy of the host institution shall be followed by visiting instructors, also general course outlines concerning number of exams, papers, etc. The appeal process for non-RMU students shall be the appeal policy of their home school. The appeal process for RMU students will be the appeal policy of the host institution.
- Deadlines - The policies of the host institution shall be followed and adhered to by the visiting instructor concerning rosters, grade submission, and any other academic matters.
Withdrawals - The policy of the host institution shall be followed with regard to its withdrawal from class policy.
- Contact with Registrars from various schools - The RMU Center for Global Engagement should be considered the liaison between the student, Registrar of host, and Registrar of visiting school, to inform both or either of changes concerning registration, grading, etc. The Registrars may arrange to correspond by phone, fax or e-mail when a situation dictates.
- Relationship to the Department Heads and the Deans at the various schools - Especially RMU and the Host School (Ex. Students from other schools on RMU sponsored trips)
The main liability issues that relate to faculty in foreign assignments include driving students, dealing with logistical and administrative problems, and handling psychological, medical or legal problems. Currently Robert Morris University has adopted the following policies:
By virtue of these policies, visiting faculty are not called upon to perform extraordinary advising or support activities, and thus, their liability is no greater overseas than on campus.
- Driving - Any faculty liability with regard to driving students is avoided by a policy that calls for the on-site administrator to arrange for transportation and a driver for all official field trips.
- Other Issues - Any faculty liability with regard to advising functions is also limited by restricting faculty advising to academic matters. The on-site advisor is the designated advisor for logistical and administrative problems while in the event of psychological or medical problems, students are to contact the appropriate professionals at Robert Morris University.
General Responsibilities as a Representative of RMU and at the Host Institution
These responsibilities need to be determined prior to departure. It is strongly recommended that the faculty member get these responsibilities in writing.
It is the responsibility of the faculty member to develop his/her own language proficiency unless special arrangements have been made to provide this training to the faculty member.
Special Cultural Differences
Faculty members may encounter special cultural differences, especially when going to countries other than Western Europe. Special preparation is recommended. Library resources about culture shock may help to prepare faculty members for these differences. Research needs to include areas such as:
- Non-verbal communication
- Social customs
Postal services tend to be less reliable, slower and more expensive in other areas of the world. Faculty members need to determine ahead of time how to avoid reliance on these systems. Sending materials and possessions back and forth through mail services may prove to be difficult and extremely expensive.