Health and Safety while Abroad
Before You Go
The Top 5 Tips for Study Abroad Health Preparation
- Familiarize yourself with health concerns and recommended inoculations for your host or destination country. We recommend visiting the Centers for Disease Control health information pages for each country.
- If you have any dietary restrictions or food allergies, you'll want to make sure you do some research to explore how difficult (or easy) it might be to manage your diet while abroad. You should also learn how to describe your dietary needs in the local/host language in an effort to minimize the likelihood that you inadvertently eat something that interferes with your health.
- Research any medications you plan to bring with you. If you are required to take medications for medical or psychological conditions, make sure that you can bring your prescription medication with you and be sure that you have adequate supplies of these items for your program. A study away program is never a good time to try to change your treatment for any condition. If you are on a regular medication program, stay on the program throughout your study away experience.
- Prescription medication that is legal to bring into your host country must be labeled with your name, your physician's name and the generic (not brand) name of the medication. Brand names and measurements differ and you may have difficulty finding your specific medication and/or filling any of your prescriptions abroad. Some medications may actually be illegal to bring into your host country, even with a valid prescription. In that case, work with your Physician and the host country embassy to determine whether an alternative treatment or medication is possible.
- If you have any chronic or recurrent medical conditions (including but not limited to asthma, heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, immune suppressive disorders), please consider this and make sure that you are mentally and physically capable to participate in your upcoming travel itinerary. It is always good to speak with your current physician or mental health support professionals and have an honest conversation about the study away program you wish to join. If you have any disabilities, you should inquire with your program and host countries to make sure that you have accessibility where you are traveling- many countries may not have accommodations available for disabilities.
Our top five tips to maximize your safety and maintain your health while away
- The first thing you should do when you arrive in your host city is to contact your family and/or friends to let them know you've reached your destination. But in addition to this you should also sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so the U.S. Department of State can better assist you in an emergency. This is a free online service that helps the U.S. Department of State contact you if there is a family emergency back home, or if there is a crisis where you are traveling.
- Take control of your own safety. Personal safety is always a concern, regardless of destination. Accidents (motor vehicle, pedestrian and drowning) are among the top causes of injury/death for travelers, so maintain awareness of your surroundings, avoid high risk activities, and heed locally posted signs and precautions. Travel in groups when possible and avoid being in socially isolated areas that may increase your risk as a crime target.
- Take precautions to avoid being a target of crime. To avoid being a target of crime, do not wear conspicuous clothing or jewelry and do not carry excessive amounts of money. Also, do not leave unattended luggage in public areas and do not accept packages from strangers. Once again, when possible, especially at night, travel in groups and avoid being isolated.
- Always provide detailed information of any “out of town” or overnight trips you are taking to the on-site faculty or support staff for your program. Program leaders should always know where you are in the event of an emergency (with you, with your family back home, or in the host country, such as terror attack or natural disaster.) Provide travel information (trains, buses, planes) and hotel or other accommodations along with a cellular number whenever you are leaving the host city overnight.
- No two ways to say this, be a responsible alcohol user. Alcohol is one of the most common factors not only when students are injured or become victims of sexual assault, physical assault, robbery and many other unwanted and deeply troubling negative actions. It is even linked to greater health problems on study away. The best thing you can do to protect yourself both from crime and from illness or injury is to be a responsible user of alcohol. Respect local customs and laws, but also respect yourself and respect the reality that there is a cultural gap between you and the host country. That gap can be amplified under the influence of alcohol, making what you believe are innocent actions seem very different to local people, often leading to negative outcomes for you. Alcohol culture will be different abroad than it is in the United States, but the best thing you can do is drink only in moderation and avoid any situation where you are unable to think clearly, act confidently or react appropriately to your surroundings and the people around you.
All students receive international medical coverage as part of their Augustana Study Away Program. Students receive their Augustana insurance information electronically in the month prior to departure. In some cases students will receive additional insurance coverage from the host organization, and in some rare cases (Germany for example), students may be required to purchase additional insurance in order to meet stringent local requirements. In all cases students should be confident that they have coverage should they need to visit a physician or a hospital.
Travel medical insurance typically covers all injuries or illnesses which occur while overseas. In case of severe injury or extensive treatment, this insurance can also cover the cost of relocating the student back to the United States or having a family member travel to meet the student overseas. In most cases, the insurance you will receive will not cover ongoing preexisting conditions, though it may cover an emergency treatment should a preexisting condition manifest itself in a new or unanticipated way.
For minor issues that do not require hospitalization we recommend that students make all required payments and then work with the insurance contacts to set up a reimbursement. Receipts with description of services offered will be required. Local program staff can assist with this process.
For hospitalization or other more extensive treatment, students, working with local support staff, should communicate as soon as possible with the insurance provider so that costs do not need to be paid by the student.