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Spouse Training

International Study Programs

Guidelines for Spouses Who Are Accompanying Faculty Directors on BYU Study Abroad Programs

Thank you for being willing to help lead an international study program for Brigham Young University. These programs are a great experience for students, but they are often also wonderful experiences for the faculty director and their families. We hope that this is your experience.

For programs longer than 30 days, the travel and accommodation costs for the faculty director’s immediate family can be paid for from the program budget. However, these payments can be taxed as additional income to the faculty director. It is possible to minimize this tax burden, though, if the faculty spouse is willing to bear some of the burden of administering the program while in the field. This can include accompanying students of the same sex in daily activities or with medical or personal needs, checking the housing conditions, assisting with local funds management, making room assignments, making local travel arrangements, etc., and is willing to receive some formal training in this role.

If you are willing to serve as a formal program leader, the following is the training you must complete:

  1. Read this current document.
  2. Read the BYU International Study Program Faculty Handbook
  3. Read the BYU Personal Conduct policy
  4. Read the BYU Volunteer policy
  5. Complete the Spouse training statement and return it to International Study Programs before your program begins.

If you choose not to serve as a formal program leader you are still welcome to participate in the program as a director spouse, but there will likely be additional taxes your family will have to pay at the end of the year.

Spouse Training

There are many ways that a faculty spouse can contribute to the success of an international study program. This document will list and briefly discuss many of these, but BYU offers such a wide range of programs that it is impossible to list all of the ways you can help the program succeed. However, the hope is that, as a director’s spouse, you will contribute in ways that will enhance the experience for the student participants.

Help with Finances

International Study Programs require careful attention to financial details and a spouse can provide significant help in this area by doing things such as:

  • Budgeting for items not paid in advance.
  • Collecting money from ATMs.
  • Making sure that the daily ledger is up to date.
  • Distributing tips.

For most programs, many of the expenses will be paid by ISP before the program departs. However, there will also likely be a portion of the budget which is allocated to the program director to spend for budgeted items—like meals and admissions that cannot be paid in advance—and for unplanned expenses. On some programs, the faculty spouse takes the lead in managing these funds by allocating them while on the program and then tracking them on the program’s daily ledger.

Program budgets are expected to cover the total cost of the program, including emergencies. ISP maintains an emergency fund for extreme expenses but you should not plan on this fund to cover any day-to-day expenses or non-budgeted activities.

Help with Logistics

Guiding a group of students in a foreign setting can be a challenge, and there are plenty of things one can do to help smooth the process. These include things like the following:

  • Making hotel room assignments.
  • Ensuring that everyone is on time and on the bus, train, ferry etc.
  • Confirming reservations at hotels, for transportation, at tour sites.
  • Making last minute travel adjustments.

As with finances, for most programs most of the travel arrangements will be made before the program leaves campus. However, even the best planned programs will inevitably run into travel issues. A program spouse can often provide significant help by following up on travel details, and especially in confirming reservations. It is always a good idea to call hotels, tourist sites, bus companies etc. a day or two in advance to ensure that the reservation is still in place.

It is also good practice to make room assignments before arriving at the hotel or other housing. This will save time on arrival and will make it easier to make adjustments once one arrives.

If your program charters buses, it is good practice to include the driver, as appropriate, in the activities of the group. The spouse can often take the lead in making sure that the drivers are included.

Pastoral Support

Participants on study abroad programs come from a variety of backgrounds and life situations. One of the joys of leading a program is the opportunity of getting to know these young people better and providing them with support and life advice. The BYU mission is to help each student reach their intellectual and spiritual potential as they strive for Eternal Life. As a Latter-Day Saint, you will have unique opportunities to help participants as they navigate the challenges in their life. This could include doing to following:

  • Listening to participants as they discuss their life challenges.
  • Maintaining an upbeat attitude in the face of the inevitable challenges and annoyances that will come with any program.
  • Helping students understand the importance of gospel covenants.
  • Supporting students in attending church meetings while on the program, and where relevant, in fulfilling their ward assignments if they have them.
  • Reminding them of the importance of the CES Honor Code and dress and grooming standards.
  • Adjudicated conflicts between participants.
  • Bearing testimony of the Savior and his Church.

For the most part, BYU International Study Program leaders are not trained mental health professionals, and you are not expected to be one. If a participant has serious mental health issues, please contact your ISP Coordinator or BYU’s Global Security office.

There will be stressful times on each program, and faculty and spouse leaders can do much to ease this stress by remaining calm and cheerful. To paraphrase Elder Holland, there is no situation you will face that cannot be made worse by whining about it. Participants will follow your lead; if a “crisis” is met calmly by you, it is more likely to be met calmly by them. By setting the example of faithful followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, you can do much to uplift and maintain the morale on a program.

For many leaders, the time spent helping students with their life challenges is one of the most rewarding aspects of leading an international study program.

Helping in cases of Emergency


Program leaders are expected to handle the minor annoyances that come with any program without contacting BYU. Things like travel delays, visits to the doctor, or correction of student behavior are issues that are minor enough that program leaders should be able to resolve them on their own. However, if the emergency is more serious, we ask that you contact the International Study Programs Office or the Global Security Office. Serious emergencies can include:

  • Significant travel delays or travel issues.
  • The hospitalization of a program participant.
  • Serious honor code violations.
  • Criminal violations by or against participants.

Of course, it is not possible to list all of the emergencies a program could face, and if you have any doubt as to whether or not to contact BYU, always feel free to do so.

These are the kinds of things spouses have done to help in emergencies:

  • Keep an eye on the group while the faculty director resolves the emergency.
  • Accompany participants to hospitals or police stations when needed.
  • Remain behind with students who may be hospitalized.

Understanding the Role of the Faculty Family with on a BYU International Study Program

BYU has made the decision to support faculty families for international programs that are longer than 30 days. While few if any other universities follow this policy, BYU has taken the stance that it is important that families not be separated for long periods of time. It has also seen real benefit to programs in having the faculty families as participants. Students often benefit from seeing how devoted Latter-day Saints navigate family dynamics in often challenging situations. A common comment we see in student evaluations of programs is that the faculty families add to the community of the program and give participants a stronger sense of belonging.

It is rare that we receive student comments complaining about the faculty families. But when we do, they almost always say something like “the faculty and family were just on a vacation and did not pay enough attention to the needs of the program.”

With this in mind, please remember the following:

  • The faculty director is being paid to direct the program. It is a job and it is important that s/he focuses on the needs of the students.
  • There may be times when program activities are not appropriate for young children. In these cases, one of the parents should remain with the children separate from the group.
  • Do not ask participants to babysit your children or otherwise have responsibility for your children.
  • Be cautious about shifting program arrangements to accommodate your family. In general, such changes should be avoided.


Faculty families can add much to the tenor and success of a program, and we are pleased that you are willing to help in this effort. We trust that participating in this program will be a blessing to you and your family.