Health + Safety
Living abroad means a new environment and lifestyle—two things that can affect your health and safety. However, with planning and awareness, living abroad can be a very healthy, safe, and rewarding experience for you.
CIEE has partnered with experts in producing resources that address health concerns for students who are thinking about studying abroad and, as a founding member of the Interassociational Advisory Committee on Safety and Responsibility in Study Abroad, is committed to the operation of safe and secure study experiences.
All CIEE decisions regarding program operations are made with reference to data from multiple sources. CIEE Program Management staff subscribes to the U.S. State Department’s service and automatically receive Travel Warnings and Advisories as soon as they are issued. The staff also monitors additional resources such as daily OSAC, Center for Disease Control, and White House Office briefings and international news alerts. Resident directors make every reasonable effort to keep abreast of local conditions and changes with local safety and health risks and inform participants of these changes.
CIEE has established protocols to be used in the event of a political crisis, natural disaster, act of war or terrorism, health emergency, serious accident, crime, rape, or death of a participant. First, the Resident director (RD) will contact you as soon as possible to ascertain your well-being, and to provide information, instructions, and advice. Following that conversation, you are advised to contact your emergency contacts as soon as possible. Second, the RD will call the CIEE U.S.-based program director to provide information and discuss any necessary follow-up plans. In the event of major emergencies impacting a specific study center location, CIEE resident staff and program management will work together in order to decide what action should be taken, if any, regarding the possible modification, early termination, or suspension of a program. Additional outside resources will be consulted in order to make a careful and appropriate decision. In this situation, the CIEE U.S. office will post notices on its website, communicate with sending schools, and attempt to communicate with participants’ emergency contacts.
You can call 1-800-40-STUDY (1-800-407-8839) or 207-553-4000 24/7. If you receive a recording during normal business hours, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Eastern time (ET), press zero to reach an operator. After 5 p.m. ET, follow the prompts for the CIEE emergency answering service.
There are health-related things you need to know about their host country before you go—from the immunization requirements to the laws governing the import of medications to the quality of water and medical care.
Do your research. Information can be found online as well as from other resources including your physician(s), campus health services, campus study abroad advisor, local public health department, local Red Cross, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1-800-311-3435), U.S. State Department Overseas Citizens Emergency Center (202-647-5225), and Mobility International (503-343-1284) if you have a disability.
Lifestyles, practices, and expectations will be very different from home—even in places that seem on the surface to be relatively similar to the U.S. Make sure you understand how things work. Don’t assume that behavior you took for granted at home will be accepted in your host country.
People will see you as a representative of the U.S., and you’ll probably stand out as an American because of your mannerisms, dress, and speech—be aware of the way you present yourself. People may associate you with, and want to discuss with you, American things from foreign policy to pop culture. Look at it as an opportunity to teach others about your country and to learn about the culture in your host country. When discussing anything, political or personal, be respectful of others’ opinions, even if you disagree. You may be concerned about anti-American sentiment when traveling to certain places; however, most students report that they encountered much less unfriendliness than they expected.
Helping you stay safe in both day-to-day and emergency situations is something all study abroad providers work hard at. However, no provider can guarantee your safety—ultimately, that’s your responsibility. The single most important factor that affects your personal risk is completely in your control—your own behavior.
Health and Safety Tips
- Consider information from your program provider about safety, health, legal, environmental, political, cultural, and religious conditions in the host country.
- Conduct your own research on the country.
- Participate fully in orientations. Every CIEE program begins with a comprehensive orientation to the country, city, university, and the program by the resident director. This includes an explanation of any local risks that have been identified, tips for enhancing personal safety, and the distribution of local emergency contact information to each participant.
- Be aware of local conditions and customs that may present safety risks.
- Some study abroad packages include health insurance as part of the program fees and some do not. Check your regular policy to see what coverage it provides for medical services abroad.
- Visit your physician, gynecologist, and dentist to ensure you leave the U.S. healthy—and prevent possible emergencies abroad. Get necessary immunizations. Check whether medications and medical supplies are available in your host country. Get copies of all medical records and prescriptions, and if you think you’ll need regular medical care abroad take along a letter of introduction from your doctor that includes details of your medical treatment.
- Learn where and how to get routine and emergency medical help before you need it. If you need any special help such as a self-help group or services for a special need or disability, find out how to get that as well.
- Learn how to find legal services abroad.
- Consider your physical and mental health and any special needs when choosing a program. Communicate any health requirements you have when applying for a program and making housing arrangements—allergies, psychological therapy, dietary requirements, and any other medical or special educational needs. Disabled students study abroad successfully all the time, though resources and services for people with special needs vary widely by country and region. In some cases, your needs may determine which program is suitable for you.
- Comply with your program's Terms of Participation, Codes of Conduct, and emergency procedures.
- Obey host country laws.
- Avoid irresponsible consumption of drugs and alcohol.
- Behave in a manner respectful of others.
- Accept responsibility for your decisions and actions.
- Give accurate physical and mental health information to your program provider. If you have a medical condition, tell those in your host country who can be of assistance, including doctors who can provide care, and people in your dormitory who can help in an emergency.
- Register with local U.S. authorities (embassy, consulate, or U.S. interest section)
- Designate your parents as your emergency contacts and then keep them, and the program staff, informed of your activities, whereabouts and well-being.
- Express any safety concerns to program staff.
Facts and circumstances regarding safety and health in each study locale are constantly changing. To monitor the latest available information for a program location, please consult the websites of the U.S. Department of State and the Center for Disease Control. For different perspectives, CIEE also advises checking with the The Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Canadian Department for Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom.
This information explains the efforts made by CIEE to help participants enhance their safety and respond to emergency situations. Nothing in this plan is a guarantee that any specific action will be taken in any given situation, nor is anything in this document a contract or part of a contract between CIEE and any other party, nor is any statement in this document intended to sell a service to a prospective customer, nor to attempt to persuade any party to avail themselves of any program or service provided by CIEE. Safety, health, and recovery from emergency situations are the sole responsibilities of each individual participant.