Staying Healthy Abroad
Health Issues & Illnesses While Abroad
When you first arrive, eat and drink lightly for several days so your system can adjust to changes in climate and food. Depending on the country where you will be studying, you should bring along prescription medication such as Imodium for digestive illnesses. You should also check on other health issues, such as whether it is safe to drink the local water and ask your doctor about preventive medication for the common illnesses that can result.
You should understand the health conditions in your host country before you leave, and obtain information about appropriate precautionary measures. A couple of tips are especially important no matter where you will be traveling:
you have a medical condition that is not easily identified (diabetes,
epilepsy, severe allergies), wear a medic alert bracelet while you are
abroad. You should also inform the Glavin Office of International
Programs, traveling companions, and on-site staff so that they can be
prepared in case of an emergency. If you have a medical problem that
could be aggravated by conditions abroad (e.g. asthma), consider
carefully how you will deal with the problem abroad and discuss it with
your physician before you leave home.
• AIDS is a major concern in some locations. While abroad, avoid injections and blood transfusions. If an injection is required, make sure that the syringe comes directly from a sealed package or that it has been sterilized in boiling water for 20 minutes. Diabetics are encouraged to bring a sufficient supply of needles and syringes with a prescription or doctor’s authorization. Avoid ear piercing and tattooing if AIDS is a concern in the area.
• Always use latex condoms if you choose to be sexually active.
If you experience sexual harassment/violence while abroad, you are strongly encouraged to seek the support of resources in country. Seek safety first; then talk to the international student office or resident director of your program abroad.
Health information specific to your host country will be included in your program handbook, discussed at your program orientation, and/or addressed upon arrival in your country. If you are participating on an outside program, contact your program sponsor for health-related information specific to your host country. Most travelers and students overseas will not experience anything worse than a mild case of diarrhea, and just a few common sense practices can help greatly to keep you healthy during your overseas stay.
Staying Safe Abroad
When traveling overseas, there are a number of precautions that you should follow in order to travel safely. You should also consult the US State Department Travel Advisories for up-to-date information on travel precautions for the country where you will be studying or traveling.
Additional Safety Precautions:
1. When traveling, do not leave your bags or belongings unattended at any time.
2. When using local transportation, avoid traveling in poorly maintained vehicles. Inquire about the safety records of different bus companies. When taking a taxi, sit in the back seat.
3. Never keep all of your documents and money in one place or one suitcase.
4. If you find yourself in uncomfortable surroundings, try to act like you know what you are doing and where you are going.
5. Use caution when traveling alone. Women especially should not walk alone at night. In some countries it is dangerous to take a taxi alone at night for both men and women.
6. Keep the on-site program coordinators informed of your whereabouts and leave your independent travel form with them prior to out-of-town travel. You should let the on-site coordinators, your host family, or your roommates know of any traveling that you plan to do.
7. Have sufficient funds or a credit card on hand to purchase emergency items such as an airline ticket.
8. Be alert to your surroundings and the people with whom you have contact. Be wary of people who seem over friendly or overly interested in you. Be cautious when you meet new people, and do not give out your address or phone number. Be careful with information about other students or group events. Be alert to anyone who might appear to be following you, and to any unusual activity around your place of residence or classroom. Report any unusual people or activities to on-site staff immediately.
9. Exercise good judgment about what places to frequent during the day and at night, and avoid being on the street at late hours more than necessary.
10. Don’t flash money or documents in public places. Keep small bills in your pocket and use them whenever possible to pay for things. Be discrete in displaying your passport.
Safety Precautions for Times of Political/Social Unrest or Conflict
In times of political or social unrest in the host country or region, or when the United States becomes a party to a political conflict anywhere in the world, additional precautions are advisable:
1. Keep in touch with the current political situations. In the event of an emergency, advisories may be made to the general public through the media. In case of an emergency, remain in contact with the on-site staff.
2. Make sure that you are registered with the closest American Embassy or Consulate.
3. When in large cities and other popular tourist destinations, avoid places frequented by North Americans: bars, discos, and fast food restaurants associated with the US, branches of US banks, American churches, US businesses and offices, US consulates or embassies.
4. Keep away from areas known to have large concentrations of residents aligned with interests unfriendly to the United States and its allies. Always consult with the on-site officials before undertaking travel to neighboring cities or popular tourist destinations.
5. Be as inconspicuous in dress and demeanor as possible. Wear moderate colors and conservative clothing. Avoid American logos on your belongings and clothing. Avoid large, loud groups.
6. Keep away from political demonstrations, particularly those directed toward the United States. If you see a situation developing, resist the temptation to satisfy your curiosity and investigate what is happening. Walk the other way.
7. Do not agree to newspaper or other media interviews regarding political conflicts. It is important to remain as inconspicuous as possible. Do not make reference to your program group. In such cases, always say “no comment” and hang up or walk the other way.
Refer to your program specific Education Abroad Student Handbook or sponsoring institution for more detailed information on health and safety issues as they pertain to your particular program and destination.