Health & Safety
How safe is Study Abroad?
While some parents and students focus their concerns about study abroad on the cataclysmic- acts of terrorism, violent crime, or natural disasters- the truth is that, just as in the United States, much of student’s safety abroad depends on his or her exercising mature and responsible behavior and on making good decisions. Traveling with companions rather than alone, especially late at night; using caution in interactions with strangers; staying away from dangerous areas or activities; not drinking to excess, and avoiding the use of illegal drugs; following the laws and knowing and respecting the customs of the country- these are the best ways your child can maximize his or her study abroad, just as at home.
Before your child goes abroad, talk to him or her about any concerns you may have about his or her safety and give them a chance to express theirs. If there are specific concerns you have about the country in which your student is traveling, talk about them with the program provider. Although they cannot guarantee your student’s safety, or anyone’s, in most cases these professionals will be able to give you a good sense of what the real risks are, how to minimize dangers, and what your student can do to keep him or herself safe and healthy while abroad.
What do I need to know about health concerns abroad? What should I do to help prepare my child for their time abroad?
As will all other aspects of planning for study abroad, when it comes to your child’s health issues, the sooner the planning begins, the better.
Students can begin by researching country specific health issues by visiting the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Travelers Health website. The CDC offers comprehensive and up-to-date international health information and also has a travelers’ hotline accessible from within the U.S. at 1.877.394.8747.
Here are a few very general things to keep in mind:
- Whether or not he or she is traveling to a part of the world where there are special requirements or recommendations for immunizations, make sure his or her immunizations are up-to-date and will remain so throughout the period of study abroad. The CDC website has a country-by-country list of required and recommended immunizations.
- Whether or not the program requires it, make sure your child has a good physical before going abroad. Have your student tell the health care provider about their travel plans and ask if there is anything special they should do to prepare.
- Make sure your student will have medical insurance coverage while abroad. Some programs offer medical insurance as part of the package. But some providers (as well as some states and countries) require students purchase separate medical insurance for their study abroad. Your student will most likely have to pay up-front for any medical treatment they receive abroad, and then file for reimbursement from the insurance company. Be sure understands the importance of obtaining and saving the necessary documentation to file a claim.
- If your student needs prescription medication, make sure that she has sufficient supply to last while abroad, or a plan for how to get refills while away. Be sure your student also has a copy of their prescription in a safe place.
*adapted from NAFSA Education Abroad Series