The Duke Office of Global Administrative and Travel Support helps students, faculty and staff with questions and concerns that come with Duke-supported travel abroad.
-by Chuck Givens
As Christy Parrish tells it, when her job description was first written, it literally said “Travel Concierge,” and she believes the term captures perfectly her team’s work through the Duke Office of Global Administrative and Travel Support (GATS).
“Our job is to make it easier to focus on the objective that individuals within the Duke community want to achieve when they travel, and not all the administrative hurdles that are in their way,” says Parrish, senior manager of GATS.
Since 2013, the office helps with travel documentation like passports, entry visas for travel abroad and proof of insurance, as well as offering helpful information to Duke community members about the countries they are planning to visit.
“We’re the all-stop shop where folks can come and ask any question about travel outside the United States,” Parrish says.
Keeping Travelers Up To Date
On August 9, 2021, Duke will return to a pre-pandemic stance on domestic travel with no restrictions, although approximately 50-60 countries will continue to be travel-restricted (check the restricted regions list for more information).
While travel is starting to increase, travelers’ anxieties are also on the rise, as the spread of COVID-19 and its variants present new risks and challenges.
“We have to make sure that we're providing them with as much guidance as we can, as much help to make sure that they're mitigating the risk,” Parrish says.
“For the first time ever, we have the highest volume of people asking us “What happens if I get sick while I'm abroad? What happens if the borders close?’” she adds.
Since 2008, Duke provides community members a service that can hopefully bring about peace of mind while abroad to alleviate concerns about just such questions.
That service is called International SOS (ISOS), which gives potential travelers the most up-to-date information about a specific country, city or region and helps them to make the best decisions before and during their trip. ISOS provides emergency assistance for Duke travelers and operates 24/7.
Parrish says many in the Duke community still aren’t aware of the free service. These services range from telephone advice and medical referrals to full-scale medical evacuation.
“Parents can call them to know about where their child is going. You’re automatically covered if you travel with Duke-support, as are any accompanying dependents,” Parrish say. “It’s just an untapped, unknown resource.”
While not a form of health insurance, Duke community members can buy short-term ISOS traveler assistance plans at a 10 percent discount if traveling for leisure.
Prior to any departure, travelers can call ISOS to request up-to-date information about conditions on the ground and any changes made to the entry requirements.
Navigating Policy and Paper Work
GATS also helps short-term guests to Duke who enter the United States on visas that are not sponsored by Duke as employees or admitted students (such as, faculty candidate coming for interviews or to visit laboratories). Because the office knows the requirements for returning Duke travelers, the team can help answer questions about Duke policies, COVID testing, possible quarantine scenarios and more.
They also support international scholars and students after they have arrived at Duke, started their job or educational program, and then want to travel abroad. Depending on a variety of factors, GATS can help international scholars and students acquire visas for that third country they want to visit for their studies.