Health and Safety Abroad — Explained For — Study Abroad Students

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page

Saint Augustine
Over 332,000 US students studied abroad in 2017 according to the Open Doors Report
Studying abroad is a very exciting experience! In all your preparations, it is important to take into account health and safety concerns.

4 Steps to Prepare for Your Study Abroad


Before You Leave

You are about to embark on a new journey to study abroad! Make sure you are prepared.
  • Pack The Essentials — Make sure to bring any medications, important documents, and your computer with you on the plane. It is smart to keep these on the person so you have them at the ready if needed. Packing a lock can be helpful for securing your belongings in a given situation. Leave unnecessary valuables at home.
  • Make Friends — Get to know the people you will be traveling with, individuals in your program, or those who will be living in your destination area. Reach out and ask any questions you have as you prepare for your trip.
  • Passport & Visa — Be sure your passport is valid during your travel days, and make a few copies of both your passport and visa.
  • Medical Insurance — Your insurance plan should begin the day you depart for your trip, and make sure you have the insurance ID card or proof with you. Learn more about Travel Insurance Benefits to decide which plan is best for you if insurance is not provided by your school or program.
  • Money — Decide whether you are going to use your credit card, local currency, traveler’s checks, etc. It will help to do some research to see if cash or card will work best in the area. Check if there are any ATM fees or exchange rate fees on your credit card. You should also call your bank to let them know of your travel plans so that they do not freeze your card.
  • Cell Phone — You may want to call your phone provider to see if your cell phone plan will work overseas, and what the additional cost may be. You may need to get a new SIM card. Be sure you have a communication plan in place for your arrival.

The Flight

International flights generally require you to arrive 3 hours in advance. Be prepared:
  • Checking In — You may have the option to check-in to your flight online prior to arriving at the airport to save time. You may also check-in once you arrive. Make sure to have your passport and visa handy, as you will need to present them. You can take any checked bags to the drop-off location before going through security.
  • Security check — Take your laptop and phone out when going through security. You may need to remove your shoes. Any liquids and gels (must be 3.4 ounces or less) traveling with you often need to be in a quart-size transparent bag. To avoid setting off the metal detector, remove all metal (including belts, jewelry, accessories, etc.). For a complete list of what you can bring, check out TSA’s website .
  • Get comfy — Depending on the length of your flight and airline, food and drinks may be included, or you can bring snacks yourself. You may want to also bring headphones, a travel pillow, and a blanket. Some flights offer these items.

Once You Arrive

You will need to go through local customs. Make sure you have filled out any immigration forms beforehand, have your passport handy, and bring any educational documents in case they are requested.


Getting Adjusted

You may feel jet lag upon your arrival, and this can last a few days. Get plenty of sleep before you travel, drink plenty of water before and during your flight, and eat light meals on the flight.

Staying Healthy While Studying Abroad

You have arrived, now it’s time to enjoy. Be sure to maintain your mental and physical well-being while abroad. Want to learn more? Check out the Top 5 Ways to Stay Fit and Healthy Abroad! To be successful on your trip, remember: You’ve arrived, and now it’s time to enjoy! Be sure to maintain your maintain your mental and physical well-being while abroad so you can have the best experience possible. Want to learn more? Check out the Top 5 Ways to Stay Fit and Healthy Abroad! In order to enjoy your trip to the fullest, do your best to:

Get Sleep
Eat Well
Make Friends
Put Yourself Out There
Get Exercise
It is possible that you may experience culture shock a few weeks or months after arriving in your new country, and this is very common. You may miss your friends, your family, and even food back home. Culture shock typically can go away after a few weeks, but consider seeking support, especially if it persists. Although it is not always easy to turn the situation around, here are some ways to deal with the feelings or problems that come with culture shock. If you are struggling, please make an appointment with a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist – they are there to help.

Staying Safe While Abroad

Not only do you need to think about being healthy both mentally and physically, but we also want you to be safe! Here are some tips on staying safe:
  • Familiarize Yourself — Find out where the safe and not-so-safe places are in your town. Know your route as well as how to use public transport and taxi services.
  • Be Alert — Travel in groups and keep an eye on your belongings.
  • Stay Updated — Keep up-to-date on local and world news, enroll in travel alert services , and stay in touch with your advisor.
  • Keep Your Documents — Keep a copy of your passport and medical insurance on hand at all times.
  • Don’t Be Flashy — Expensive jewelry, phones, watches, etc. can make you a target, so dress appropriately.
  • Avoid Demonstrations — If you find yourself caught up in a demonstration, avoid documenting with your phone and stay as far from the activity as possible.
  • Know what activities are culturally and legally appropriate.

Be safe, and be sure to:

  • Know what your school or program’s emergency plan is
  • Keep your phone charged (think about getting a portable charger) and know the country’s emergency number
  • Carry contact information for your program staff and embassy
  • Keep your health insurance card with you and find the closest hospital

Return to our "Insurance Explained" section for more information and help