Policies and Procedures

Connecting Worlds Abroad adheres to the Forum for Education Abroad’s Standards of Good Practice. Our Policies and Procedures page provides greater transparency and access to information for our current and future partner institutions, program participants, and their families.


Program Design and Management


Our Housing Coordinator selects and evaluates all our host families. Before placing any students, all potential host families apply using COWA’s online application. After thoroughly reviewing the forms, the Housing Coordinator personally contacts the host families that seem a better fit with our program and conducts a site visit of their homes. During the site visit, the Housing Coordinator assesses things such as:

    • Does the information given by the host family on the application form match what is observed in the house?
    • Is there an appropriate study space in each bedroom for students?
    • Will students have their own bathroom?
    • Does the host family seem genuinely interested in hosting students for the cultural/educational value of the experience and not just for the additional income?

If the visit is satisfactory, the Housing Coordinator includes the family in COWA’s database for future placements; if not, she discards it. Some of the criteria used to approve or discard a family include the distance from the school; overall cleanliness of the household; experience and personal references; the willingness of the host family to abide by COWA’s contractual and payment guidelines, COWA’s drug screening policy, as well as COWA’s services and obligations documentation (see Additional Housing Materials: Housing Contract, Housing Rights and Obligations & COWA Responsibility Statements ).

COWA’s policy is always to let students know where they will be living before they arrive in Seville. We send a general description of the host family and the neighborhood where their home is located. Due to privacy laws, we cannot share the specific street address where students are going to live. Still, we want students to be able to get to know their neighborhood before arrival. We have recently updated our website with a “Discover Seville” page which includes descriptions of the different neighborhoods in Seville and other practical information, so students and their parents can begin to get a feeling of the city before they land. We think sharing this information with students before they arrive is very helpful and tends to relieve some of the pre-departure anxiety experienced by some students.

Our host families are evaluated after every term (summer or semester). Based on those housing evaluations, the Housing Coordinator decides to continue working with them or terminate the relationship. Hence, the Housing Coordinator continuously reviews and visits potential families to ensure COWA has a large pool of likely host families. To assist in recruiting qualified families, COWA has signed agreements with local schools such as San Francisco de Paula International High School and EUSA, as well as other private organizations such as Tenis Betis and Círculo Mercantil Country Clubs.

Partnerships and Collaborators

Service providers:  

  • Since 2015, COWA has worked primarily with two motorcoach companies for all our cultural visits, excursions, and overnight trips: Miguel Solis and Andalbus. Our motor coach company is always on call during our trips to provide a replacement bus in case of a breakdown or a replacement driver in case the assigned driver is ill. 
    We also work with a local travel agency, Viajes Triana, to book COWA’s hotel accommodations on all our out-of-town excursions. 

In addition to host families and professors, service providers are evaluated based on the criteria most appropriate to the area of the program in which they operate.

  • Professors and academic personnel present a CV outlining their academic credentials. Students conduct course evaluations at the end of the program term. In these evaluations, they evaluate the overall course and the professor.
  • An in-home interview is conducted with each host family before placing students. Students present evaluations of their host family at the end of each term. These evaluations provide essential feedback for the family’s future collaboration with us.

Faculty and Staff

  • COWA has a small number of permanent staff and faculty, and additional personnel is contracted as needed. 
  • Before beginning the semester, faculty and staff meet to set term objectives and plan activities. 
  • Each term workshops to better understand the students and the issues they may face during the semester are organized for faculty and staff.

Refund Policy

Withdrawal from program (must be in writing)                           Amount refunded

45 days or more prior to program start                                       100%
44-31 days prior to program start                                                 75%
30-19   days prior to program start                                               50%
18  days or less prior to program start                                            0%

The refund/withdrawal policy is clearly stated on the COWA website on the program information page. The policy also appears on the payment page so that students can review the policy before paying for the program.

The clearly stated timeline for withdrawal and refunds ensures that the policy can be evenly applied to all program participants.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

COWA is categorized in Spanish legal terms as a “Small and Medium Business” due to currently having less than ten employees. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are central to our mission. We know that having a diverse and inclusive team has a positive impact on our students and our local community. We welcome diversity in many aspects, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, and religion. Our commitment to diversity is reinforced by the fact that many staff members come from multicultural, multi-ethnic backgrounds and distinct faiths and sexual orientations.

  • Underrepresented Students

COWA is committed to creating a program structure and learning environment that is welcoming/supportive to underrepresented and underserved students. We will study the needs of these potential students to prepare materials and information that will benefit their study abroad experience.

We know that historically underrepresented students continue to face many challenges and barriers that limit their success in study abroad programs. Hence, as educators, we try to do our part to provide a more inclusive and empowering environment, both at the academic and institutional level, where diverse students can thrive. We believe increasing representation and equity is necessary for ethical and moral reasons and will improve COWA’s education abroad programs.

COWA uses several pedagogical and institutional strategies to address the needs and concerns of underrepresented students. 

        1. At the academic/curricular level, all COWA faculty are properly trained to make sure that all COWA course materials are:
          • Intentionally created to teach with empathy
          • Designed to promote a student-centered learning environment
          • Consciously developed to facilitate student empowerment
        2. Offer affordable study abroad educational programs to help reduce financial barriers.
          • Create opportunities for all our students to integrate with the local community through volunteering / extracurricular activities/internships, which help foster altruistic cultural values and integration.
          • Develop workshops for students involved in any volunteering or internship-type activities to make them aware of the cultural differences between Spanish and the U.S., especially at the workplace (see the “Spanish Workplace Culture” booklet COWA has developed specifically for those types of workshops).
          • Offer resources such as tutoring, academic assistance, and counseling at no extra cost to help our students navigate the often-complex study abroad experience and learning environment, which can be quite different from the one students have back home.
  • Pre-program Information

COWA’s on-site “Health & Safety Orientation” includes several discussion points about diversity, equity, and inclusion/exclusion (see slides #7-9 from COWA’s Orientation PP). COWA’s Housing Coordinator discusses all DEI-related information with each host family individually. 

  • On-site Support for Student DEI Issues

Our staff psychologist, Mr. Alberto Leal, is always available for students facing identity-based bias, equity, and diversity issues. He offers a series of on-site workshops throughout the program to address issues involving diversity, equity, and inclusion.  The first workshop, given a week after students arrive, focuses on exploring student expectations regarding their time in Seville. This workshop aims to help students recognize the many aspects of their life (personal, familial, social) that will change during this time. The second workshop, given two months into the program when most students begin to feel the effects of homesickness, examines the difficulties students face while adapting to a new culture, provides the resources to overcome these difficulties, and seeks to help students develop their resilience, raising questions of identity and study abroad. The third workshop, given a week before final exams, aims to assist students in reflecting upon their overall study abroad experience. Students are asked to evaluate their time in Seville and examine the personal growth and changes they may have experienced.

  • DEI for Faculty and Staff  
    • We endeavor to create a hospitable work environment for employees which translates to a thriving learning environment for our students. We inform, discuss, and adjust policies and guidelines through training workshops, staff meetings, and continual communication. These policies and procedures are based on Spanish labor laws. As a Spanish company, COWA is subject to Spanish labor laws, including frequent unannounced visits by “labor inspectors” to ensure that all policies, procedures, and guidelines are consistently implemented.
    • COWA, as a Spanish business, is also in compliance with all governmental policies and regulations regarding equity and anti-harassment policies (see COWA’s “Compliance and Equity” and COWA’s legal documentation about its “Anti-Harassment Commitment“).
    • COWA holds two workshops per semester where all our faculty and staff are appropriately informed and trained about what constitutes discriminatory behavior. Our Student Life Coordinator, Ms. Catherine Anner, also participates regularly in APUNE’s online workshops, including those dedicated to DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion).

Evaluation and Assessment

One of the responsibilities of COWA’s Director is to ensure that all COWA’s policies, procedures, and guidelines are inclusive, transparent, accessible, equitable, and consistently implemented, both at the business and the curricular/educational level. Assessments and evaluations are essential to successful program design and management. Based on student feedback in the end-of-program evaluations, the program administration determines the modifications or adjustments that may be necessary before the following program term. COWA uses the following methods to ensure that we get the appropriate feedback from our students during and after the completion of our programs to comply with all mentioned policies: 

  • Final course and housing evaluations.
  • Individual follow-up meetings with our Housing Coordinator three weeks after students’ arrival.
  • Follow-up meetings with all our host families one week, two weeks, and one month after students’ arrival. These meetings are conducted over the phone by COWA’s Housing Coordinator. 
  • Weekly informal reporting by COWA’s Student Life Coordinator about any issues that might arise. COWA’s Student Life Coordinator has daily contact with most of our students.
  • Mid-semester academic meetings with COWA’s Director to ensure everything is going well with students on the academic front. 
  • Mid-semester program evaluation (COWA’s survey using Google Forms) allows students to speak their minds anonymously about all program-related aspects: housing, academics, policies, volunteer/extracurricular activities, etc.
  • Students evaluate various aspects of the program at the end of each term. Those program elements include housing, courses and professors, cultural visits, and extracurricular activities.
  • Policies and guidelines are evaluated continually to comply with the Standards of Good Practice in the field. 

COWA will happily share student evaluations with our partner universities upon request.

Health and Safety

Emergency Policies and Procedures

COWA has the following procedures in place to prevent and mitigate risk:

  • Maintain clear emergency and crisis response plans and ensure that staff are trained appropriately
  • Comply with all local laws and professional standards
  • Maintain clear policies for standards of student conduct
  • Provide 24/7 emergency support for students and program leaders
  • COWA has a standard set of emergency policies and procedures. However, each of our partner institutions provides us with their own specific information to include in our emergency protocols, such as phone numbers, emails, staff members and their roles, etc. 

All COWA’s program activities are shared in advance with all our partner institutions for risk assessment purposes. If we intend to add a different program activity that hasn’t been previously screened, we always consult all our partner institutions for approval.

Insurance Coverage

COWA carries three types of insurance plans: Civil Liability Exploitation, Occupational Accident Liability, and Civil Liability for Involuntary Breaches of Personal Data. Appropriate documentation will be provided if requested.  

Tracking and Reporting Incidents

We follow different procedures and protocols depending on the health and safety incident (see COWA’s Emergency Procedures mentioned above). Most of the health and safety incidents we deal with each year are minor and non-life-threatening. In the case of minor health concerns, our staff always accompanies students to the appropriate medical center. For minor safety incidents, which primarily relate to petty theft, we will also assist the student in filing a police report or accompany them to the police station, if necessary. For more serious health and safety concerns, although our staff will always be available and accompany students throughout the process, we will defer to local health and law enforcement authorities.

It is important to note that the Spanish authorities often change their procedures (for example, the option to file police reports online is a new resource), so we are constantly monitoring these sources to ensure that our staff stays informed of any changes. To stay updated, we also refer to other resources, including the U.S. Consulate and APUNE.

  • COWA shares the “Health & Safety” PowerPoint presentation from our on-site orientation with all participating students. Weeks before students arrive in Seville, we also send them an “Orientation Booklet,” which helps prepare students for personal, health and safety issues (here’s a copy of OSU’s “Orientation Booklet” from AU22). 

COWA’s “Parent’s Handbook is sent to future program participants before they arrive in hopes that they can share it with their parent(s) or legal guardian(s). We feel that keeping parents well informed is also very important for our students’ overall health and safety.


COWA strives to ensure that all students can study abroad, regardless of differing physical or academic abilities. To that end, we work in close cooperation with the accessibility departments of our partner universities to prepare appropriate accommodations for students who may need them.

Medical Care

  • All students are responsible for their healthcare. However, COWA’s on-site staff is available to assist when necessary. We maintain a list of medical service providers frequented by our students. We will also help students identify an appropriate provider, make appointments, etc. 
  • Participants in all programs are required to have private medical insurance coverage. Their home institutions usually provide this insurance; however, COWA offers supplemental coverage to ensure compliance with Spanish visa regulations if a visa is required. More detailed information is available upon request.

Personal Travel

Personal travel is an important aspect of the study abroad experience. It should not negatively impact the program’s ability to ensure students’ health and safety. To that end, students are required to inform the program administration of their plans to leave Seville for personal travel. The online Travel Form facilitates this exchange of information. Students are also asked to let us know if they plan to spend the night outside their assigned homestay due to visits from family and friends. 

Student Learning and Development

Preparation and Information

  1. Program promotional information contains the proposed dates for the program, a description of the type of housing available, and possible program activities and cultural visits.
  2. Upon acceptance, students receive more detailed information about planning for arrival in Spain and fill out housing and other questionnaires that assist the on-site staff in preparing the conditions for a successful program. 
  3. An online pre-departure orientation meeting is organized to provide students with practical, logistical, and cultural information about their program participation.
  4. Students attend an on-site “Health & Safety Orientation” meeting shortly after they arrive. This workshop provides more detailed guidance on all aspects of student participation in the program. Throughout the process, students will have access to COWA’s staff to clarify questions.

Student Conduct

COWA informs students about our policies and code of conduct during our on-site “Health & Safety” orientation the day after they arrive in Seville. Students must sign two sets of norms: one specific about their homestays (see Housing Rights and Obligations) and another about general behavior policies and possible sanctions ( see COWA’s Behavioral Agreement). Students also receive behavioral guidelines before departure from their respective home institutions, but COWA does not participate in that process.

COWA’s on-site orientation includes several slides to inform and discuss with students COWA’s behavioral expectations and sanctions as well as COWA’s internal appeal process (see slides #20-21 from COWA’s Orientation PP). After answering all questions which might come up about COWA’s policies for student conduct, students are asked to sign the mentioned “Behavioral Agreement,” which certifies their understanding and compliance with COWA’s policies and disciplinary actions. 

All COWA’s policies are specifically designed to deal with any problems which may arise while students are in Seville (Spain). To that end, we spend a good portion of the mentioned “Health & Safety” orientation going over all our policies in detail and the consequences of policy violations and disciplinary actions.  

The guidelines and procedures of all potential sanctions due to disciplinary infractions are discussed during our “Health & Safety” orientation, so all students can ask questions about any of the procedures, rules/regulations, and sanctions before they sign COWA’s Behavioral Agreement.