Student Vision moves forward with international travel plans

Sonya Reaves begins an orientation for students planning on going on Vision Trips this year. Sunday, January 16, 2022. (Photo by: Xander Ordinola)
Sonya Reaves begins an orientation for students planning on going on Vision Trips this year. Sunday, January 16, 2022. (Photo by: Xander Ordinola)

 Student Vision is cautiously moving forward with international travels through Vision Trips, according to Sonya Reaves, Global Engagement coordinator. 

“We use the term ‘Vision Trips’ because it is a different mindset than your classic mission trip,” Reaves said.

Vision Trips are designed to allow college students to get involved and use their individual skills and talents in the mission field, according to Reaves.

 “We want to bring extra energy to bring expertise and a skillset to support whatever is happening on the ground,” she said.

Vision Trips go through an approval process through the university. Southern had implemented this process even before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Reaves. If the trip proposal is submitted six months prior to and approved by the university, checks with the U.S. Department of State and the CDC are performed three months before leaving to determine if it is still safe to go. 

Reaves said the Department measures international safety in four tiers. The first two levels pose little to no danger for the people going on the Vision Trip, she explained. When it is a level three on the tier, the university decides whether to continue with the trip or cancel it. Danger varies among level three countries depending on the regions where the trips are taking place.

Another check is performed two weeks prior to leaving.

“[We check] how it is on the ground where you are. Is it a COVID precaution? Or, is it violence in another town?” Reaves said. “We do a local check. If it is a level four, it is an automatic no-go.” 

Students have to fulfill requirements such as taking a COVID-19 test 24 hours before they board the plane. International trips require Vision Trip participants to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

“Most countries are requiring [COVID-19 vaccination] because [they] want to protect [their] local communities,” Reaves said. 

In trying to keep the university, community and other places safe, the Global Mission is constantly checking recommendations from the government, university and local hosts. 

According to Reaves, there is a one-credit class that is required for Vision Trip participants to complete. The first class is in-person, while the rest of the class is on Zoom. This class trains students before heading into the mission field. It takes only a quarter of the semester to complete. 

In training, students are taught about sustainability in packing and what trip participants should do when they are there. They are also taught about the dangers of a single story and how you present the stories being told, according to Reaves.

“It is more than just getting your plane ticket and [going],” Reaves said. “We want to help your worldview and the way you serve.” 

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