University of Waterloo
Environment 3 Building
200 University Avenue West
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1, Canada
Tel. (519) 888-4567
These policy guidelines were prepared to assist in the understanding and administration of International Development (INDEV) field placements, and to promote the safety, security and success of students while on field placements abroad. The guidelines are consistent with University of Waterloo Policies and Guidelines and the university’s commitment to fairness for all students and academic integrity. In case of discrepancy or disagreement between these program guidelines and the university’s, the university policies and guidelines will apply. The guidelines below are also consistent with our primary placement provider norms and policies for student-volunteers overseas.
Overview of field placement program / Local partner organizations / Student mandates / Costs / Health and safety / Medical and travel insurance /Placement breakdown / Early termination / Non-completion of the field placement / Academic accommodation for non-completion / Voluntary withdrawal / Roles and responsibilities
The eight-month field placement is an important component of the Bachelor of Environmental Studies – International Development (BES-INDEV) Practice Specialization. INDEV is delivered by the Faculty of Environment’s School of Environment, Enterprise and Development in partnership with St. Paul’s University College.
The day-to-day responsibility for arranging field placements is managed by Gráinne Ryder, Lecturer, International Development, hereinafter referred to as the Field Placement Manager, under the direction of the INDEV Program Director.
The field placement provides students with an opportunity to develop his/her knowledge and skills within the multi-disciplinary field of international development. Students must meet certain academic, health and skill-level requirements to be eligible for field placement.
Eligible students spend eight consecutive months or the equivalent of two academic terms in an unpaid placement with a local organization in a developing country. At the end of the placement, students return to St Paul's University College for a mandatory Capstone program last week of April. Students are required to complete INDEV 401 and 402 field placement courses while overseas.
To be eligible for field placement, INDEV students must meet the following requirements:
Students anticipating or experiencing difficulty meeting the eligibility requirements are advised to consult Karen Robertson, INDEV Undergraduate Advisor.
Students are normally matched to a field placement with a local host organization in a developing country through the program’s primary field placement provider, Ottawa-based World University Service of Canada (WUSC) and its partner organization, Montreal-based Centre for International Studies and Cooperation (CECI).
INDEV works with WUSC to match students to local development organizations and maintain relationships with those development actors working towards sustainable development.
WUSC and CECI have offices in 14 developing countries within Asia, Africa and South America. Together they have more than 50 years of experience sending Canadian professionals and university students to work with its local partner organizations under broad development themes such as social justice, economic development and environmental sustainability.
WUSC shares the INDEV commitment to building greater human capital for sustainable development and believes that intercultural experiential learning is an essential component of preparing students to build a more better world.
Students are matched to field placements in countries where WUSC and CECI have offices and partners. The program aims to have no less than three and no more than ten students in each placement country. Countries available for placement vary year to year and are subject to change without notice.
Field placements will normally not be arranged in any country or region with a security risk level of three or four issued by the Government of Canada. For more information about the Government of Canada’s travel advisories and security risk assessments, refer to Government of Canada Travel Advisory website.
Travel advisories are based on an overall assessment of the security risk in particular regions and countries, and are expressed in terms of the following:
LEVEL 1 Exercise normal security precautions
LEVEL 2 Exercise high degree of caution
LEVEL 3 Avoid non-essential travel
LEVEL 4 Avoid all travel
Students are matched to field placements by WUSC and its local partner organizations, in consultation with your FPM.
WUSC partner organizations focus on addressing development and environmental challenges with and within rural and urban communities, or at a national or regional level. Areas of interest may include: environmental sustainability; business or social enterprise development, sustainable tourism, climate change adaptation, and support services for low-income women and youth.
WUSC local partner organizations receiving INDEV students sign an agreement with WUSC to provide the following:
Once the local partner organization approves a student for a particular volunteer placement, WUSC issues a letter of acceptance to the student with a short profile of the host organization. Prior to departure, the student signs a detailed contract which governs the placement period from departure to return to Canada.
Students mandates are developed in-country with the student, host organization and WUSC staff, and will evolve in response to the host organization needs and student capacity.
Once the student arrives at his/her workplace, a work plan is developed through negotiation with his/her local supervisor and WUSC representative(s). The student also may consult with the INDEV FPM about workplan and workplace matters throughout the placement.
Students are expected to carry out his/her assigned duties to the best of his/her abilities, without remuneration, both to receive academic credit for the experience, and as a service to the cause of international development and the INDEV program’s mission to build a more just and sustainable world.
The student’s role and responsibilities within the host organization may evolve over time and will depend on the individual student’s capacity and interests as well as the priorities of the local partner organization during the placement period.
Activities may include:
The field placement normally consists of eight consecutive months following the university timeframe from September to April. The length of the placement is intentional and important for its educational effectiveness. Students need time to adapt to a different culture and integrate into what can often be a challenging work environment. Only then will students be in a position to contribute and develop their knowledge, skills and creativity for the benefit of the host organization and its development/environmental mission.
The program normally requires that students travel to their country of field placement as a group, departing on the same return flight from Toronto Pearson Airport to the capital where the WUSC field office is located, or to the city nearest to the placement site. Students normally depart for their field placements during the first week of September returning to Canada the last week of April.
WUSC will purchase the return tickets for students and make any changes necessary on return flights. Students are normally prohibited from arranging independent travel or purchasing his/her own tickets. An exception may be applied to international or out-of-province students, however, this will depend upon the student’s placement country, visa requirements, passport restrictions, and other factors.
Students must enroll for the field placement course INDEV 401 (Fall Term) and INDEV 402 (Winter Term) and pay the required University of Waterloo tuition and incidental fees for both terms on placement.
Students pay a single program fee of $8,000 to the placement provider, World University Service of Canada (WUSC), regardless of placement location. This fee is collected by the University of Waterloo and St Paul's University College in Spring, Fall and Winter term.
Program fee part 1: Each student pays $3,000, which is collected by the University of Waterloo in instalments of $1000 per term and paid to WUSC each term. This fee covers essential services provided by WUSC through the field placement cycle and is applied to the UW tuition bill in 4A Spring, 4B Fall, and 4C Winter Term. This portion of the total program fee is an OSAP-eligible expense. Should the student withdraw from field placement after payment in Spring Term, a portion of this fee may be non-refundable, as determined by WUSC.
Program fee part 2: Each student pays $2,500 in 4B Fall Term and 4C Winter Term, which is collected by St. Paul's University College and paid to WUSC each term. This portion of the total program fee contributes to all direct costs, including: airfare, accommodation, 8-month food and living allowance indexed to country standard of living, health insurance, visa, police and medical checks.
The program fee is a financial contribution to WUSC costs and services, including:
WUSC will cooperate with INDEV to inform students about services and costs, expectations and responsibilities during the field placement application and selection process. Costs are subject to change without notice.
The program is committed to safeguarding student health, safety and security while travelling to/from and living/working in the field placement country. The program’s partnership with WUSC is designed to assist with managing the risks associated with international travel and work. Our mutual goal is to ensure students have access to the information, services and expertise they need to maintain their health and safety, and to be adequately prepared to handle any situation that may arise. This section outlines key aspects of the program’s approach to health and safety risk management.
The program recognizes that travel to and living/working in a foreign country for eight months presents certain health and safety risks, and environmental hazards particular to the country and region of placement.
INDEV and the primary placement provider, WUSC, will make every effort to inform students about risks and hazards prior to departure and during in-country orientation. Students will receive resource material on health and safety precautions, medical facilities in-country, a safety and security guide, and a 24/7 emergency number to use in the event of a medical emergency during the field placement.
Students are expected to take responsibility for self-preparation, which includes researching locations available for field placement before applying, demonstrating flexibility and preparedness to work in challenging intercultural contexts, and identifying personal health concerns or limitations and discussing those concerns with the Field Placement Manager.
Students should be aware that neither the University of Waterloo nor WUSC carries any insurance coverage that would be available in the event of student illness, death, injury or other losses. Students are responsible for ensuring that he/she has adequate health and travel coverage as required by WUSC.
Students are responsible for keeping a printed copy of their insurance coverage and emergency contact information with an emergency contact in Canada, and with them at all times from predeparture until return to Canada; for knowing how to contact the insurance provider in the event of emergency; and how to submit claims. Note: insurance requirements are subject to change without notice.
Full-time University of Waterloo students with Canadian citizenship or permanent resident status are automatically covered by the FEDS/GSA Health & Dental Plan, the cost of which is billed to student accounts each term. This plan includes health and travel insurance for up to five months outside Canada, and includes coverage for one term immediately following graduation. Students are responsible for understanding what services are covered (compared to the WUSC package) and deciding whether or not to opt out of this plan prior to departure for placement ot whether to continue payment to ensure one term of health and dental coverage after graduation.
In order to maintain basic provincial health coverage (i.e., OHIP or the equivalent in other provinces) while outside Canada for eight months, students must notify the nearest OHIP office and provide a supporting letter from the university indicating the dates and purpose of travel. The Field Placement Manager normally provides this letter to students once the dates for field placements are confirmed in Spring Term.
International visa students must check the terms of their coverage (by UHIP or other insurance provider) and make any additional purchases to ensure adequate coverage. Extra costs may apply.
The program recognizes that on occasion a student may have a pre-existing health concern or disability that may or may not be manageable in the countries available for field placement. While the program recognizes that health and disability matters are an extremely personal matter and respects the student’s need for privacy and confidentiality around such matters, it is nonetheless important that students proactively seek advice about any pre-existing conditions or potential limitations from their physician or other medical professionals.
Experience suggests that early disclosure of medical/disability concerns increases the likelihood of success in the field placement as this allows time to develop a strategy for accommodation if needed, and to identify the most suitable field placement options.
Information pertaining to the student’s pre-existing condition will remain confidential and will be used only to assist with assessing whether the student’s condition can be adequately managed or accommodated duration the field placement, and for identifying an accommodation strategy where feasible.
The program recognizes that on occasion it may not be possible to adequately manage a student’s medical or disability concerns during the field placement without undue risk to the student and/or the local partner organization. While the program will make every effort to accommodate students with a pre-existing condition, the student may be deemed ineligible for field placement under such circumstances. Students are encouraged to discuss any health/disability concerns with the field placement manager well before the application process in order to develop a risk management plan or an alternative academic plan if applicable.
The program recognizes that a student may on occasion become ill or otherwise incapacitated to the extent that he/she is unable to meet academic deadlines and field placement responsibilities. Students are advised to seek medical attention immediately and keep his/her in-country supervisor informed so they can offer assistance as needed. If the illness is impairing the student’s ability to meet his/her course work responsibilities, the student is required to notify the Course Instructor for INDEV 401/402.
In case of medical emergencies overseas, students are advised to call the 24-hour emergency phone number provided by WUSC. Even if the need for medical attention is not urgent, students are advised to notify WUSC and his/her local supervisor. Students should not rely on email alone when contacting WUSC in-country as internet connections are intermittent and less reliable than phone in many regions.
Students in distress or showing signs of depression during field placement are advised to contact his/her in-country WUSC supervisor for immediate assistance. Students also have the option to contact University of Waterloo Counselling Services by phone (011) 519 888 4567 ext. 32655 or through the University of Waterloo Counselling Services website.
Note: Waterloo counsellors cannot normally provide a proper assessment by long distance and will likely recommend that students overseas seek professional help through WUSC and a medical doctor in the field placement country. If through corresponding with a student, the Waterloo counsellor believes there is cause to be concerned about the student’s safety or others around him/her, the counsellor will notify the INDEV Field Placement Manager to mobilize the necessary support in-country.
A medical evacuation to Canada can only be ordered on the submission of a report provided by a doctor recognized by WUSC and the student’s insurance provider. If the insurer authorizes a medical evacuation, this evacuation will be carried out by an agency designated by the insurer. After the period of convalescence, WUSC reserves the right to return the student to his or her country of placement or terminate his/her contract, based on the opinion provided by a recognized doctor/counsellor, and depending on the time remaining on the field placement contract.
When a student is advised by medical professionals and/or the WUSC in-country supervisor to return early to Canada due to illness/injury/incapacity, the student is obligated to follow that advice and seek assistance from WUSC to expedite early return to Canada. Note: extra costs may apply.
The program recognizes that on occasion field placements in certain countries or regions may be interrupted due to unforeseen events requiring emergency evacuation, such as: civil unrest, earthquakes, typhoons, or epidemic outbreaks that either threaten the health and safety of the student or make it otherwise advisable to leave the field placement and country.
In the event of interruption to the field placement due to emergency evacuation, the program and WUSC will make every reasonable effort to enable the student to complete his/her placement and academic responsibilities by either returning the student to the original placement if feasible or relocating the student to a placement in another region or country.
In the event of such emergencies, WUSC follows the Government of Canada’s travel advisories. Students will be advised by WUSC when the Canadian government has officially declared an emergency evacuation or changed the travel advisory warning affecting where the student is located. In the event of an advisory to evacuate, the student is required to follow WUSC’s instructions for leaving the country immediately.
Depending on the cause of the evacuation advisory and the time remaining on the field placement, WUSC will make a recommendation as to whether students can continue with field placement activities or whether those activities are to be suspended indefinitely in that country. Following an emergency evacuation, the student may not return to the country of placement to resume his/her field placement without authorization from WUSC.
If relocating to another WUSC placement is feasible and agreed to by the student, WUSC will facilitate this on the understanding that extra costs may apply and are the student’s responsibility. Neither the University nor WUSC is responsible for material losses or damages caused by an emergency evacuation.
The program recognizes that on occasion students may experience difficulty in placement that cannot be resolved and leads to placement breakdown. This can happen for a number of reasons beyond the student’s control and may lead to early termination of the placement. In the event of a placement breakdown, WUSC will make every reasonable effort to arrange an alternative placement quickly and minimize disruption to the student’s ability to meet his/her field placement and academic responsibilities.
A placement breakdown may occur for the following reasons:
A placement breakdown may occur for reasons that do NOT include:
Placement breakdown is a serious matter that can have negative repercussions for the program, WUSC and its local partners. Before a decision to terminate a field placement contract due to breakdown can be taken, students are required to adhere to the following procedure:
The program recognizes that the field placement is primarily a negotiated contract or agreement between the student, the placement provider, and the local partner organization. The purpose of the following section is to ensure that students understand the conditions for early termination by WUSC, other than those already discussed under placement breakdown. In the event of early termination by WUSC, students are advised to notify the Undergraduate Advisor.
Early termination without a petition for academic accommodation will normally result in a grade of INC (Incomplete Course Work, no credit granted) for INDEV 401 and/or INDEV 402. INC will normally remain on the student’s record for one term after the INC is granted. After one term, if no action has been taken to resume or complete the field placement, the grade will be converted to FTC (Failed to Complete), which is calculated as 32 percent.
WUSC reserves the right to terminate the contract under the following types of circumstances:
In circumstances where the student’s alleged behaviour/actions is criminal and/or has potential legal consequences WUSC reserves the right to terminate the placement without notice.
The program recognizes that on occasion students may not be able to complete the field placement for reasons that are either within or beyond the student’s control. Given the importance placed on completing the field placement in its entirety, students unable to complete the field placement should contact the WUSC in-country supervisor, follow WUSC's instructions before returning to Canada, and contact the field placement manager for assistance.
In the event of non-completion, the program will make every reasonable effort to ensure that students can fulfil their academic responsibilities. Students seeking academic accommodation for non-completion are advised to contact the Undergraduate Advisor for assistance.
Requests for academic accommodation are reviewed by the Program Director before any final decisions. Students should make no assumptions about the outcome of a petition for academic accommodation.
Whether or not academic accommodation is granted will depend upon factors such as:
In accordance with University of Waterloo policy several types of academic accommodation may be granted:
The program recognizes that on occasion students may decide to withdraw from the field placement course (and terminate the contract with the placement provider) for non-medical personal reasons. In such circumstances, the student is advised to notify the WUSC in-country supervisor, follow WUSC’s instructions, and notify the INDEV Field Placement Manager and the Undergraduate Advisor for assistance. Under such circumstances students may be eligible to complete the degree under the BES-INDEV Research Specialization. Note: extra tuition costs may apply.
The INDEV Field Placement Manager provides the following student services:
WUSC, as primary field placement provider, provides the following services to each field placement cohort:
Prior to departure, students will do the following:
Complete a pre-departure course in LEARN organized by Waterloo International
Attend the mandatory WUSC pre-departure training, which may be held at St. Paul’s University College or Ottawa/Montreal. (Students will be notified of dates in Spring Term and are expected to arrange their schedules in order to attend. Alternate arrangements may be made only under exceptional circumstances.)
Complete a pre-departure medical examination and required immunizations
During field placement, students will do the following:
Upon completion of the field placement, the student will do the following:
University of Waterloo
Environment 3 Building
200 University Avenue West
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1, Canada
Tel. (519) 888-4567