Health and Safety on Study AbroadSafety
Information on safety concerns in all countries is provided in the U.S. State Department’s consular information sheets that can be found at www.travel.state.gov. In most countries to which our students travel, the most common crime is petty theft, and foreigners, especially those considered likely to be carrying money or valuables, are prime targets. As an American, you will be assumed to be wealthy and a worthwhile target of theft. It is important that you use common sense and observe reasonable safety precautions while you are abroad, as you would at home.
We suggest the following to students studying abroad in any country:
- Do not leave your bags or belongings unattended at any time. Security staff at airports and train stations are instructed to remove or destroy (sometimes within less than a minute) any unattended luggage. Do not agree to carry or look after letters, packages, or suitcases for anyone.
- Never keep all of your documents and money in one place. Once you arrive abroad, keep your passport in a safe place. A U.S. passport is an enticing target for thieves; thousands are reported stolen every year and passports can no longer be replaced at U.S. embassies and consulates overseas except in emergencies for travel home.
- Don’t keep all your money and credit cards with you. Just take what you need for each day and leave the rest in a safe place. Remember that, at least at first, you will be unfamiliar with your surroundings, local customs, behavior, and body language. You won't know whom to trust. Be more cautious than you would at home, where you are better able to “read” a given situation.
- Avoid walking alone in poorly lit or deserted streets, parks, and buildings. Even when accompanied by others, stay away from areas of a city or country reputed to be dangerous. If you find yourself in uncomfortable surroundings, try to act like you know what you are doing and where you are going.
- Know how to use public phones and how to contact the police. Have coins or phone cards with you. Tourist attractions, areas around public telephones, and public transportation vehicles and stops are common places for pickpocket activity. Keep backpacks and purses in hand. Safeguard calling card numbers. Do not leave money, credit cards, IDs, or valuables in a backpack that you carry behind you, especially in crowded situations such as public transportation. Leave valuables at home.
- If you don’t want to or can’t afford to lose something, don’t take it with you. When traveling, don’t show off cash or expensive jewelry or watches in stores or on the street. Keep your money and credit cards in a money belt or bag that fits across your chest when you are on the street, on public transportation, and in public buildings.
- Be aware of the dangerous effect that alcohol consumption can have on your ability to use common sense and make good judgments, especially in unfamiliar situations. Excessive drinking is one of the greatest risk factors for students traveling abroad and makes you much more vulnerable to sexual assault, mugging, and other crimes. Don’t accept drinks from or get drunk with strangers.
- Remember that you are subject to the laws of whatever country you are in, which may be much more restrictive than those in the U.S. Laws against searches and arrests without probable cause and the assumption that a suspect is innocent until proven guilty do not apply in all countries. Familiarize yourself with local laws and don’t jeopardize your studies, your freedom, or your mental and physical health by breaking them.
- Stay away from illegal drugs entirely. Use of illegal drugs is grounds for immediate dismissal from any Hollins program or course abroad. Most foreign countries have extremely strict laws regarding even small quantities of drugs and there is very little that program staff or the U.S. embassy can do to help you if you are caught with illegal drugs. For more information, click here.
- Do not hitchhike or accept rides from strangers. Let your hosts, friends and/or the program director know of any travel plans. Have the director’s contact information with you at all times in case of emergency. Do not divulge information about yourself, your fellow students, where you are staying, or other details of your program to strangers.
- Discuss your travel plans with your bank and credit card company and advise them of any and all countries you intend to visit. Failure to do so may result in the freezing of your account, as they might assume your card or account information has been stolen.
- Go in the opposite direction of any disturbance. Do not get involved. Avoid political demonstrations and protests. In the case of sudden political upheaval involving the U.S. or your host country, rely on instructions from your faculty leader.
- Avoid places frequented by Americans—pubs, fast food restaurants, U.S. business and government offices. Avoid loud and boisterous behavior in public with other Americans. Avoid dress and behaviors that readily identify you as an American.
Your faculty leader will provide you with emergency contact information and instructions on how to proceed if an emergency arises. If there is a major safety or security concern while your program is in session, you should rely on information and instructions from your faculty leader.
Just as Americans stereotype people from other countries, people from other countries stereotype Americans, based primarily on what they see on TV, in movies, and in other media. Among the common negative stereotypes of Americans is that they are loud and demanding, have lots of money to spend, drink too much, are promiscuous, are always in a hurry, expect all foreigners to speak English, make no effort to adapt to local customs, and think the U.S. is better than any other country. If you encounter negative stereotypes of Americans that you think are unfair or inaccurate, prove them wrong by your own positive behavior. Be prepared to encounter anti-American attitudes and, perhaps, the assumption that because you are American you support the U.S. government’s actions (regardless of whether you do or not). You should not feel compelled to defend U.S. foreign policy, but you should be prepared to defend your own personal views intelligently if you enter into political discussions.
Here are a few things to keep in mind: In most other countries, people tend to be well-informed about local, national, and world politics; engaging in political discussions is a way of life, as is criticizing their own and other governments. In many countries, people tend to be very direct in expressing their political views; it is not considered impolite to openly disagree with others; political discussions can get very heated, even angry, but in the end everyone remains friends. Don’t enter into heated discussions when you or those you are conversing with have been drinking heavily. Don’t take criticism of the U.S. government, president, or foreign policy personally—you are not responsible for U.S. foreign policy, whether you support it or not. Don’t make assumptions. If someone treats you disrespectfully, whether in a discussion or on the street, don’t automatically assume it’s because you are an American—maybe the person is having a bad day or maybe he’s just rude to everyone. Be open-minded and remember that people with different life experiences and world views see things differently. An important part of the abroad experience is encountering and evaluating different perspectives.
Health and Medical Care
Traveling abroad presents significant physical and psychological challenges. Even mild problems may be exacerbated by the stress associated with adjusting to a new environment. If you are not in good physical and emotional health, you should carefully consider your plans to go abroad. If you have any questions about your situation, be sure to consult with your parents, health and counseling services, and/or your private physician and/or counselor. While you are abroad, as at home, you will be more likely to stay healthy if you are careful about nutrition and get enough sleep and exercise. Refrain from risky behaviors, including excessive drinking, drug use, and having unprotected sex.
If you routinely take a particular medication, bring a sufficient supply with you for the duration of your time abroad. Remember that all prescription medication brought into another country should be accompanied by a photocopy of the prescription. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, bring an extra pair or the prescription with you. Also, bring a supply of care products for your glasses/lenses. You may also wish to bring along over-the-counter medications that you routinely use.
If you have any physical condition that may require emergency care, purchase and carry an identification tag, bracelet, or card with you at all times, indicating the specific nature of your problem and what should be done in the event that you are unable to communicate.
Additional information is available on the State Department website.
While you are abroad, be sure to let your faculty leader know if you are sick or have a medical concern that needs to be addressed.
University policy requires that all students have adequate medical insurance while enrolled at Hollins. Please confirm your insurance carrier and policy number on your Health Report and Release form. Also, prior to departure, confirm with your carrier that your health insurance covers you outside the U.S.
As you are probably aware, in most cases, physicians and medical facilities overseas will require that medical services be paid for out-of-pocket. Students can request reimbursement from their insurance companies upon return to the U.S.
Students studying abroad through Hollins are required to enroll in the Hollins University study abroad group insurance coverage through Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI). This comprehensive insurance covers claims outside the U.S. and the premium has already been included in the cost of the trip. You will receive a CISI enrollment card and a copy of the group plan via e-mail after you return the enrollment form. It is critical that you save or print a copy of your policy information once you have received it.
Grounds for Expulsion
You will be dismissed from your course and required to return home (at your own expense, with no refunds whatsoever) if you:
- Break the laws of the country in which you are studying (ignorance of the law is neither an excuse nor a defense)
- Use a drug which is illegal in either the U.S. or the country in which you are studying
- Engage in behavior that jeopardizes your own welfare or the welfare of the group
- Persistently engage in disruptive behavior
- Persistently act or dress in ways which are inappropriate in your host culture despite being warned by the course’s faculty leader
- Faculty leaders may also deem other behaviors or activities to be grounds for expulsion. No full or partial refunds will be issued to students who are expelled from courses.
- Travel bulletins, consular information sheets on individual countries, information for Americans traveling and living abroad, and passport information and applications: www.travel.state.gov
- Please enroll in the State Department’s STEP program – click here for info
- Information on health conditions around the world and recommended inoculations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control: www.cdc.gov/travel
- Information on air travel from the Federal Aviation Administration: www.faa.gov/passengers/index.cfm
- Information on luggage restrictions from the Transportation Safety Administration: www.tsa.gov
If you have any questions or concerns about any of these guidelines, please your contact the faculty and/or staff members in charge of your trip.