Skip to content

Health & Safety Abroad

Catalogue:

It is important to be informed about and tends to basic health and safety issues before you leave the U.S. Health-related problems can impact the quality of your off-campus study experience. Communicating your medical conditions and concerns before you depart, and understanding resources for health care in the location you will study will help you stay healthy and safe.
 
While the risk of serious problems is typically no greater off-campus than on-campus, it is important to remember that changes in diet, weather, climate and other things impact your overall health.  We recommend the following to ensure you are in optimal health while abroad:
  • We strongly recommend that all students studying abroad undergo a full medical exam at least three-months prior to departure.
  • Update prescription medications (including allergy shots, eyeglasses or contacts, birth control pills) and obtain copies of all important medical records and keep them in your carry-on luggage. Ensure that prescriptions are written in generic and brand names, preferably on letterhead from your doctor’s office. If you plan to purchase medications overseas you should know the generic name of the medication, as the exact brand name may not be available overseas. Pack your prescriptions in your carry-on luggage in the original, labeled container or package.
  • If you need to take a prescription medication for the duration of your off-campus study, and you cannot take an adequate supply with you, talk to your physician about how you will obtain the remainder of your prescription abroad.
  • Do not plan to have medications or vitamins mailed to you because they may be held up in customs and/or it may not be legal.
  • Check the legality of taking prescription medications and/or over-the-counter medicines in your host country.
  • Know the laws of certain medications in your host country. Students who are taking prescribed medications for depression, anxiety, OCD, ADD/ADHD should know that in some countries the medications used to treat these conditions are severely limited and, in some cases, illegal. If this is a concern, talk to your physician to discuss alternatives before you depart.
  • Take a first-aid kit with you that includes bandages, gauze, sterile cleaners, etc.
  • Students participating in study abroad are not required to receive immunizations for diseases prevalent in the location to which they are traveling, unless vaccination is required for entry into the country (e.g. Ghana- Yellow Fever). However, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Whisler strongly recommend that students traveling to these locations research the need for and complete vaccination and immunizations for regional illnesses. For a list of regional diseases and illnesses and corresponding vaccinations and immunizations, please visit the CDC website (www.cdc.gov) and consult your physician.
  • Whisler can administer the most common vaccinations at low cost to students.
  • Students who have traveled to high-risk areas should have a tuberculosis screening within 10-12 weeks of returning to the U.S.
  • Students studying abroad are strongly encouraged to be up to date on vaccinations and immunizations prior to travel, and to travel with an updated copy of vaccination records. Refer to the Centers for Disease Control website and your program provider for any additional vaccinations for your study away location.
  • Communicate with your study abroad program to learn about available health care services on site.
  • Communicate with your study abroad program about any health concerns or conditions. Not all locations are prepared to accommodate all of your health needs, but they also cannot accommodate your needs unless they are aware of them in advance. This includes physical limitations (e.g. climbing stairs), physical conditions (e.g. diabetes, asthma, epilepsy, allergies), mental conditions (e.g. depression, anxiety), and learning needs (e.g. dyslexia).
  • If you have allergies to certain medicines, ensure these are communicated to your program provider and noted in generic and brand names on your health forms. If you have a health emergency, your program representatives need to have ALL of your health information in order to communicate with a doctor if you are unable to communicate yourself.
  • For more information about traveling with medications, see this resource:http://www.miusa.org/resource/tipsheet/medications and http://www.incb.org/incb/en/travellers/country-regulations.html
  • AIDS and Sexual Health: HIV and AIDS is a global public health problem. To protect yourself, do not have unprotected sex and do not use drugs intravenously or share needles for any reason. We urge students to be cautious about their sexual activity while abroad. If you have any questions about HIV and its transmission, please consult Whisler and/or your physician. No question is too silly to ask when your safety is concerned. 
Most program providers include medical insurance coverage into their program fee.  Some programs, however, do not and encourage students and their families to make certain that their private insurance will provide adequate coverage while the student is abroad.  In either case, Denison covers all students participating in an international off-campus program with supplemental international emergency medical and evacuation insurance coverage. Denison insures students through EIIA International Travel Insurance. Students may review the EIIA policy and print an ID card from the following webpage: https://www.sevencorners.com/eiia. All students at Denison must be covered by domestic health insurance for ongoing and chronic conditions and non-emergency health events.
Denison University and program providers will make every effort to assist students to have a healthy and safe experience off-campus. There are some things we cannot do:
  • Guarantee or ensure safety of participants or eliminate all risks from off-campus study environments;
  • Monitor or control daily personal decisions, choices, activities of individual students and participants;
  • Prevent students from engaging in illegal, unsafe, dangerous or unwise activities;
  • Assume responsibility for the actions of persons not employed or otherwise engaged by the program sponsor, for events that are not part of the program, or that are beyond the control of the sponsor and its subcontractors, or for situations that may arise due to the failure of a participant to disclose pertinent information;
  • Assure that home-country cultural values and norms apply in the host country. 
Some strategies for staying safe include:
  • Understanding the culture and political environments of the countries you will go to. Stereotypes and safety are linked. Your reputation precedes you when you travel abroad. Questions for thought:
    • How do nationals generally see Americans? What are the stereotypes?
    • How do those impressions impact your behavior?
    • What are host country attitudes toward gender, race, sexuality, etc.?
    • How are those attitudes reflected in laws of host country?
    • What are your own stereotypes? How might they affect your behavior?
  • Thinking about your daily life here that you want to continue abroad. Questions for thought:
    • Do you jog during the day or night?
    • What do you do on weekends? How do you get around?
    • What should you think about/research before doing these things abroad?
    • If staying with a host family, consider how your habits from home will fit or not fit with host family norms and habits?
  • Think about how you can blend in. Questions for thought:
    • What behaviors might identify you as a “tourist” and how can you avoid that?
    • What are appropriate standards for dress?
    • What will be the “firsts” while abroad? e.g. taking a train, eating alone in a restaurant, not being able to speak the dominant language, paying to use a public toilet, navigating public transportation.
  • Identify your instincts and learn to pay attention to them. Questions for thought:
    • What types of situations make you feel uncomfortable?
    • What are your limitations and boundaries?
    • What do you do when your are in those situations?
    • Do you have any specific concerns about safety? What are they?
    • Whenever you feel endangered, trust your instincts. 
  • Exercise greater caution about your personal safety and property.
  • Avoid public demonstrations of any kind, even if they are peaceful.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings.
  • Drink responsibly and designate someone to stay sober.
  • Avoid areas of high risk, e.g. military installations, American restaurants or clubs
  • Avoid drawing attention to yourself (e.g. college sweatshirts, baseball caps)
  • Carry an ID at all times, but not your passport unless crossing borders. A copy of your passport is fine for everyday use.
  • Know local emergency numbers.
  • Be alert in crowds.
  • Think twice about using Uber. A reputable taxi service is best.
  • Have extra money to get “home” in case of an emergency.
  • Don’t hitchhike.
  • Don’t rent cars, scooters, mopeds or motorcycles.
  • Look like you know what you are doing, even when lost.
  • Don’t carry your wallet in your backpack and avoid dangling purses from wrists. Big bags and purses are often targets of thieves.
  • Mitigate risks of social media use, including geotagging of photos, location sharing. Review social media security settings.
  • Know how to ask for help in the host language.
  • Let people know where you are going and when to expect you to return.
  • Familiarize yourself with the location of the closest police, fire station and hospital or health clinic.
  • Heed the warnings of your program and/or host family about unsafe areas.
  • Obey all local laws.
  • When possible, travel in pairs and leave information regarding your itinerary (with contact points and phone numbers), traveling companion, mode of travel, dates of departure and return. Watch out for each other.
  • In terms of data security, be advised that laptops and tablets are common items that are stolen. Protect your personal information on your devices and upload photos to other sites. Your computer or tablet can be replaced, but not your data, images or any other personal artifacts stored on your devices.
  • Monitor world events. OCS will do its best to help you and your parents stay abreast of world events and their impact on your study abroad location. We receive routine and emergency updates from the program providers, our insurance provider and the U.S. Department of State. 
The most important way to reduce risk and respond to emergencies:
  • Keep abreast of international, national, local situations;
  • Have a plan for getting help when you need it;
  • Trust your gut and use common sense. 
Emergencies abroad: these are situations where there is an immediate threat to a student’s health and/or safety. Denison University has emergency procedures in place for university-approved programs. In the event of an emergency, the participant’s FIRST CALL should be the contact person in the program on site. That information is provided either before you depart or during orientation after you arrive. If the participant is on a Denison approved program, but not a third-party program provider (e.g. Turku University, Lingnan University), students should learn before they depart and confirm upon arrival the procedures, contacts and resources on site.
 
Emergencies at home: Should an emergency arise at home while you are abroad, it is important that family or friends are able to contact you, especially if you are on a sponsored excursion, you are traveling on your own, or the program has ended. Be sure to leave all contact information with family and/or friends and be sure to contact the program provider ONSITE of a family emergency.
While abroad you can anticipate that social and cultural norms around sex and romance are different than in the U.S. Social norms concerning dating and relationships vary from culture to culture, and the  legal definition of the term “consent” is very different around the world. Some additional points to think about include:
  • What are local norms and cultural patterns of relationships?
  • What are local dating norms and customs?
  • Is it customary for females to have male friends [and vice-versa]?
  • If one accepts a drink or another “gift,” is it considered tacit consent to sexual activity?
  • If a study abroad participant invites a member of the opposite gender into his/her living space (room, dorm room, apartment), is it culturally or legally acceptable for him/her to expect sexual activity?
Consider approaching a host sibling, classmate [returnee] or program provider advisor for guidance on how the navigate gender and sexual orientation roles in your host country. One of the primary concerns in sexual exploration is safe sex, especially with high incidences of sexual transmitted infections (STIs). Be honest with yourself about “romance” while away. If you engage in sexual relationships, be sure to inform yourself about access to condoms, birth control pills, and other sexual health supplies. Be proactive in minimizing problems and risks. Finally, learning about the host country’s culture concerning acceptable and safe sexual behavior is something you are responsible for as you prepare for study abroad.
Our identities travel with us when we go abroad. Changes in your own self-awareness and identity may emerge when immersed in another culture. Social climate, laws and personal interactions of your host culture will often differ from the U.S.  In some cultures, Western understandings of what it means to be “gay” or “straight” do not exist, or don’t carry the same importance and/or meaning as they do in the U.S. Similarly, race and ethnic relations are experienced and understood through the prism of culture. While abroad, you may be part of a racial or ethnic minority for the first time in your life. The racial and/or ethnic identity that you experience may be viewed completely differently in your host country. OCS recommends thinking about these issues as you plan for off-campus study and prepare for your departure.  
As you prepare for your off-campus experience you will have to factor in costs and money, i.e., budgets for personal spending, the cost of living in the country/city you will be going to, accessibility to cash, how you will keep money and valuables safe.  A few tips will help you with these matters:
  • Make a budget. Most program providers have outlined budget sheets.
  • Explore student discounts. Many cities around the world offer generous discounts for students.
  • Develop a plan for obtaining money in an emergency.
  • If using ATMs, go during the day or regular bank hours. When possible, use an ATM inside a bank, as opposed to on the street.
  • Consider obtaining an ATM card with no fees.
  • Travelers cheques are in decline or not accepted at all in many places around the world.
  • Cash is in decline or not accepted in some parts of the world. In those instances, debit cards with a chip are more common.
  • Check exchange rates between the US dollar and your destination currency.
  • Avoid carrying large sums of cash, but try to obtain local currency before you arrive. Many larger banks in the US can help you with that.
  • In places where pickpocketing is a problem, consider using a money belt or pouch.
  • Take a credit card along, if nothing else, for a financial emergency. Make sure it has a chip.
  • Inform your credit card company and bank linked to your debit card of your upcoming travel plans, otherwise they might put a hold on your account.