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
To make the most of your study abroad experience, it is important to be informed about health and safety issues!

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 your medications, contact lenses, documents, and computer with you on the plane. Leave unnecessary valuables at home, and it can be helpful to pack a lock as you never know when you might need it!
  • Make Friends — Get to know the people you will be traveling with, or the people in your destination. Reach out and ask questions to better prepare for your trip.
  • Passport & Visa — Make a few copies of both your passport and visa, and be sure your passport is valid during your travel days.
  • Medical Insurance — Your insurance plan should begin the day you depart for your trip, and make sure you have the insurance ID card 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.
  • Organize Your Money — Decide whether you are going to use your credit card, local currency, traveler’s checks, etc. Check if you have any ATM fees, exchange rate fees on your credit card, and do some research to see if cash or card will work in your destination.
  • 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. 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'll need to present your passport (and visa), and it doesn’t hurt to ask for the seat assignment of your choice.
  • Security check — Take your laptop and phone out when going through security. You may need to take off your shoes, and pull out a quart-size bag with all your liquids and gels (should be 3.4 ounces or less). 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, you may have food and drinks included, so prepare appropriately! You may want to also bring headphones, a travel pillow, and a blanket.

Once You Arrive

You will need to go through local customs. Make sure you have filled out any immigration forms on the plane, have your passport handy, and bring any educational documents in case this is requested.


Getting Adjusted

You may feel jet lag upon your arrival overseas, 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:

Get Sleep
Eat Well
Make Friends
Put Yourself Out There
Get Exercise
It is possible that you may experience culture shock after a few weeks or months of arriving in your new country, and this is normal as you may miss your friends, your family, and even food back home. It typically goes away after a few weeks, but if it persists you may want to reach out for help. Here are some ways to help overcome depression while abroad, and if you are still struggling, please get help from a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist.

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 In Your New Home — Find out where the safe and not-so-safe places are in your town and know your route, including using 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 for the occasion!
  • 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 and know the 911-equivalent 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