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Forethought and common sense go a long way when preparing for a study abroad program, especially with regard to your health and safety.  You should plan ahead for any known health concerns that you may have during your time abroad.  Please refer to the content on this page for health and safety information.

Health and Wellness Preparations Checklist

  • Assess your health.  Get a checkup with relevant health care providers (physical, dental, optical, psychological, gynecological).  Discuss with your physician conditions that may be aggravated while studying abroad.  You will be required to complete a Medical Report Form as part of the application process.  It is important that you disclose on the Medical Report Form any physical or emotional issues, allergies, or other health concerns that might impact your study abroad experience.  Identifying your needs and understanding what services you will require while abroad is a key component in staying healthy.
  • If you have a medical condition that needs to be identified (e.g. diabetes, severe allergy, epilepsy), consider wearing a medic alert bracelet while abroad.
  • Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine what vaccinations you will need while living in your host country.  Some vaccination series require up to 6 months to complete.  It is best to check as soon as possible.
  • Secure prescription medication for your entire trip, or make a plan for procuring medication abroad.  Be sure to bring a copy of the prescription for each medication.  All medications should be packed in their original container with a prescription label and your name on the exterior.  We recommend packing your prescription medications in your carry-on luggage.
  • Medical conditions requiring syringes will necessitate you carrying prescription and/or doctor's authorization.  In some countries, it is illegal to carry needles and syringes without a prescription.  Check with your health care provider regarding this issue.  Diabetics are encouraged to bring a sufficient supply of needles and syringes for the duration of their program.
  • While OTC medications are available abroad, you may want to assemble a customized travel kit to bring with you containing anti-diarrhea medication, allergy medicine, motion sickness medication, painkiller, anti-bacterial cream and bandages.
  • Take some time before departure to understand the health and safety conditions in your host country.  In your StudioAbroad portal, you will be asked to complete a questionnaire about Good Practices for Health and Safety Abroad.  Understanding the health and safety concerns of your destination is an essential part of avoiding problems.


Health and Safety Links

Tips for Staying Healthy Abroad
  • Wash your hands regularly.
  • Avoid foods from street vendors if you are in a country where food and water hygiene are an issue.
  • Avoid uncooked vegetables if you are going to a country where water standards are an issue and avoid untreated water or ice.  Your course leader or program provider will clarify whether or not this is an issue in your host country.
  • Swim only in well-maintained, chlorinated pools or in ocean water known to be free of pollution.  Your course leader or program provider will give you information regarding the advisability of swimming in fresh-water lakes or rivers in your host country.
  • Reduce problems related to sun exposure by using sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats, sunscreen and lip protection. 
  • Avoid acupuncture, dental work, ear piercing, body piercing or tattooing if you are uncertain of sanitary conditions. 
  • Get enough sleep and eat well.  Your adjustment to the culture will be easier if you take care of your health!
Sexual Health Abroad
  • HIV, AIDS, STDs:  AIDS is a worldwide problem.  It is recommended that you avoid unprotected sex, injections and blood transfusions while abroad. 
  • If you choose to be sexually active while abroad, protect yourself with a condom.
  • Ask onsite program staff what types of behavior provoke unwanted attention and observe how locals deflect that attention.  Avoid the common problem of placing yourself in escalating romantic situations because you're concerned about offending the other person.  Put your safety first!
  • Avoid the "easy" stereotype.  Many other cultures have the impression that American women are loose.  It's important to realize that a number on non-sexual behaviors common in the US may suggest that you're "available" while abroad.  For example, in the US, when you look a man in the eye while he is talking, it shows you are listening.  In certain places abroad, this behavior is a signal that you are interested in him.  Commonly misinterpreted behavior includes looking directly at people (whether in bars or on the street), smiling openly at strangers, and visiting nightspots without being accompanied by a man.
  • Women can avoid unwanted attention or advances by dressing as local women do.  The informal, warm-weather dress you wear at home (shorts, sundresses, tank tops) may be culturally inappropriate and attract unwanted attention you are working to discourage.  Casual dress is much less common abroad.  You'll find that women in many places dress formally in social situations that commonly allow casual dress in the US.  In certain places, you'll see this cultural difference in the extreme:  women dress extremely modestly by Western standards and are never addressed by strangers.
  • You will receive information from your course leader or program provider about cultural norms.  Follow these norms as they will increase your safety in your host country. 
Tips for Staying Safe Abroad
  • Before you leave home, learn about the safety conditions in your host country.  Upon arrival, continue to monitor for updates and research any locations you plan to visit.  The US State Department links above are great resources.
  • Use your program director, host family and other reliable source to determine which areas of the town/city/country are not safe.  Every city in the world has some dangerous parts of town that are best to avoid as a tourist.
  • Use the buddy system when going out at night or traveling. 
  • When out in public, do your best to not appear as a tourist.  Tourists are often targets for theft and harrassment.  Following are some general guidelines for "blending in."
    • Adapt your dress and mannerisms to the local mode.
    • Avoid baseball caps and running shoes....they're dead giveaways!
    • Quiet down!  Americans tend to be much louder and more boisterous than many other cultures.
    • Don't wear t-shirts or sweatshirts that seem uniquely American such as a Vikings tee.
    • Speak the local language in public.
    • Follow cultural norms.