Safety and Health Considerations When Studying Abroad
Stay Healthy and Safe While Abroad
We recommend that you have a complete physical, eye and dental examination 2-3 months prior to your program abroad. Check with your doctor (and with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control) regarding any inoculations you might need to protect yourself from infectious diseases endemic in the countries you will visit.
- Travel Advisories, Alerts and Warnings: The State Department issues both travel advisories, alerts and travel warnings. It releases travel alerts to disseminate information about short-term conditions, generally within a particular country, that pose imminent risks to the security of U.S. citizens. The agency’s travel warnings inform U.S. citizens about long-term conditions that make a country unstable or dangerous. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control issues travel health warnings to alert citizens to widespread, serious outbreaks of a disease or to other public health concerns. Linfield College does not have a blanket policy with respect to restricting travel for students and faculty based on State Department alerts, advisories and even warnings. We assess each situation on a case by case basis, gathering as much information as possible from staff at our partner institutions, US Consulates on site, the Overseas Security Advisory Council and other sources of information deemed appropriate and useful by Linfield. A decision to cancel or proceed with a particular program in the face of a State Department announcement of any kind will be made by College officials based upon a thorough examination of the situation at hand and comprehensive gathering of information from all government and non-governmental sources.
- Health and Insurance Coverage: Take into serious consideration your own health issues when applying for a study abroad program, and make all your necessary health information available to the program’s administrators so they can assist you with any special needs, or advise you on the risks you might face. When completing the health form, be truthful and upfront. Not disclosing information about your health or medication you are taking can lead to a dismissal from the program when such information is brought forward later in the process. Study abroad includes both physical and mental challenges for students.
- What to Know about Your Country: Learn all you can about the health and safety issues of the countries you plan to visit. This includes reading about the cultural and political climate of those countries, as well as learning about how others view people from your country, race, ethnic group, religion, gender and sexual orientation.
- Laws and Codes of Conduct: Make yourself aware of both the rules and regulations of your host institution and country, and the local laws and customs of the cities and towns you will be visiting. Understand that you will not only have to conform to the legal system of the country you will be visiting, but also obey the codes of conduct required of program participants.
- Diseases and Inoculations: Find out about the infectious diseases endemic in countries to which you will be traveling, and get the appropriate shots, and take the appropriate medications with you if your doctor thinks it’s necessary. Find out about any potential side-effects of shots and medication that you may take.
- You Drink the Water? Find out if water is safe to drink in the countries to which you will be traveling. Make sure water bottles come sealed when you buy them. Remember that ice can also be unsafe, as well as the water you use to brush your teeth.
- Physical Health and Insurance Coverage: All students on Linfield’s study abroad programs (January Term and semester/year abroad) will have insurance coverage through a College approved plan/vendor. The cost of the coverage, during the duration of the program, will be included in your program fee. This policy covers medical needs while you are abroad as well as necessary evacuation (for medical or other contingencies as determined by the plan). You should also be aware that medical insurance coverage, if any, is extremely limited for anyone injured while engaging in any “extreme sports” (any kind of dangerous athletic endeavor such as bungee jumping, cliff diving, zip-line riding, etc., more broadly defined to include any activity which is not part of the college’s current athletic program). Accordingly, you should be aware that Linfield does not condone such activities and strongly discourages anyone from engaging in any form of extreme sports while participating in a Linfield-administered program abroad.
- Prescriptions: Get a doctor’s signed prescription for any medication you have to take abroad. Some prescriptions may need to be translated if you wish to fill them abroad. Include your glasses or contact lens prescription. Bring an extra pair of glasses and contact lens kits and paraphernalia.
- Fitness and Exercise: Try to get fit in the time you have before departing overseas. A healthy body can help you fight off illnesses and recover faster if you do get sick. Also, try to stay fit and exercise while abroad, even though it may be harder to follow a structured workout routine.
- Walking: Get a good pair of comfortable walking shoes. Without access to a car or public transportation abroad, you may have to do quite a bit of walking. Break in your shoes before you go.
- Alcohol and Drugs: Use and abuse of alcohol and drugs abroad can increase the risk of accident and injury. Many study abroad accidents and injury are related to the use and abuse of alcohol and drugs. Violating drug laws abroad may result in very serious consequences. In some countries, being found guilty of violating drug laws can result in consequences as serious as the death penalty.
- Culture Shock (and homesickness): This is a much under-estimated and often ignored item among students traveling abroad to study. People often adopt the posture that it will never happen to them. It is real and it has “afflicted” even the most seasoned traveler. Take it seriously, recognize the symptoms and be informed of what you can do to overcome culture shock. And, look out for each other. This is widely discussed in your pre-departure orientation material….please review it.
- Emergency Contacts: Keep the staff at IPO and an emergency contact back home well informed of your whereabouts and activities and provide these people with copies of your important travel documents (i.e. passport, visa, plane itineraries, E-tickers, and prescriptions). And, let people around you (host university staff, homestay family hosts) know of your whereabouts during semester breaks and other long weekends, if you are traveling. Make sure they have your hotel and other travel information.
- Fire Safety While Abroad: One threat that is often overlooked is the risk of fires in countries where smoke detectors and fire escapes are not readily available. We strongly encourage all study abroad students to pack one battery-operated smoke alarm and place it in their room while abroad (whether in a homestay room or dorm room). Place the detector high, without having to damage the wall with a separate hook. Explore these free resources and discuss them with your parents.
- Air Travel: When you travel by air, drink a lot of non-alcoholic fluids, stay away from caffeine, eat light, and stretch often to avoid jet lag. Many airlines are now required to show an in-flight video of stretching exercises you can do on the plane in order to avoid the potential formation of blood clots, which can be caused by cabin pressure and sitting for long periods of time.
- Transportation:Accidents involving in-country travel, whether by air, bus, train, taxi, car, etc., are a major cause of injury to students abroad. It is important to understand what the safe modes of travel are abroad.
- Bus: Since it is the least expensive, travel by bus is often a very popular choice for students. Some may prefer to take the train instead. But, be cautious in making these selections. Your homestay hosts will know more about these kinds of transportation modes and can offer good advice in making informed choices.
- Train/Metro: You may want to avoid traveling by train alone at night, particularly in more urban areas. In major cities especially, you will find the metro system (where available) to be the most convenient form of transportation to move about the city, although beware of pickpockets. Don’t fall asleep on trains, buses or metro, especially if you have personal belongings (suitcases, backpacks, etc) around you.
- Air: Air travel can be a good value. If you know of discount airfare websites, you can find tickets at reasonable prices.
- Cars (Driving): Linfield College strongly discourages you from driving while you are on a study abroad program (regardless of whether it is Jan term, semester or year abroad and regardless of whether you are familiar with the area). In countries where driving laws are significantly different than in the U.S., such as the UK or Hong Kong, Australia, Ireland where drivers travel on the left side of the road or in other countries where you would experience a completely different driving environment, driving will become more of a challenge and insurance coverage can be prohibitive….so, don’t do it! If a driver is involved in a vehicle accident resulting in damages or injuries to another party, the driver may be detained by local authorities until a settlement is arranged with the injured party. Furthermore, depending upon the extent of damages or injuries to the other party, you may face charges filed by the country’s judicial authorities.
We are grateful to Center for Global Education at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, Gary Rhodes, Director, for allowing us to use part of their material on our web pages.