Keeping students safe and healthy while they are abroad is a top priority for Case Western Reserve University, and students should make their own health and safety a top individual priority as well. For this reason, all students are required to attend a Pre-Departure Orientation which reviews important health and safety information.
We also recommend that students adhere to the practices outlined below.
Emergency Contact Card
You should fill out your emergency contact card and keep it on your person at all times. In addition, if you have any allergies, you should carry written documentation of your allergies. If you are traveling to a country which has a native language other than English, you may also want to translate this information. If you don’t speak the language of the country to which you’re traveling and you need help translating allergy information, contact the Office of Education Abroad.
Medical and Dental Check-Ups
Make sure you receive full medical and dental check-ups before departing on your study abroad program. Read up on which vaccines are necessary and recommended for your travel destination at: http://www.cdc.gov/travel. You can get vaccines from your local doctor or from the UH Travelers’ HealthCare Center.
Check your medical coverage! Your family’s medical insurance may cover you while you’re abroad. If it does, make sure you get a letter that states this so you can present it to the hospital. Your program abroad may also enroll you in an insurance program; you may wish to check into this. All study abroad students will be enrolled in CWRU’s free Foreign Travel Policy, but note that this policy does not cover pre-existing conditions. Especially in the case of episodic health issues such as anxiety or depression, it is important to have an action plan of how you will be covered if you experience a health issues while abroad.
Take copies of all prescriptions alongside any required prescription drugs. Whenever possible, bring enough of your prescription to last your entire study abroad experience. If refills are required while you are overseas, develop a plan with your overseas advisor. You may be able to fill the prescriptions overseas, or you may wish to have them mailed from home. Note that some FDA-approved medications (Ritalin, for example) are considered controlled substances in some countries. If you take such medicine, you may need a letter from your doctor and a letter from the Drug Enforcement Agency. Please consult with your program director regarding this issue.
Department of State Website
The United States Department of State travel website contains a wealth of safety information on every country in the world. You should look at your destination’s country profile.
Food and Water Safety
Research whether the water in your country is safe for travelers to drink. If not, you’ll also want to avoid eating uncooked fruits and vegetables that may have been washed in the water, and ice that may be made from the water. If you are traveling to a less developed country, ask your program director which restaurants have a good reputation for sanitation. If you do get food poisoning, be sure to drink plenty of fluids to keep yourself hydrated.
Bring a well-stocked first-aid kit with you when traveling. See our Packing for a list of recommended medications.
Alcohol and Drugs
Many accidents involving study abroad participants are related to the use and abuse of alcohol. Make sure that your alcohol use falls within the CWRU alcohol policy, and never drink to excess. Never use illegal drugs. In many countries, the penalties for illegal drug use are stricter than those of the United States, and some countries even administer the death penalty for illegal drug use. At all times, remember that you’re an ambassador for yourself, CWRU, and your country.
Obey Local Laws
Remember that by entering another country, you have agreed to abide by their laws. If you choose not to abide by their laws, then you are beholden to whatever punishments they impose. If you are arrested, contact the US Embassy for assistance, but note that they do not have the power to ask for your release.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Travelers are targeted as victims of theft more than any other crime by far. To avoid being a victim, you can take the following preventative measures:
- Don’t carry more cash than you need. No one can steal what you don’t have.
- Make sure the cash you carry is well protected. Don’t rely on your pocket or one zipper to protect you from theft. Hide your cash well. Consider purchasing a neck or waist safe.
- If possible, blend in with locals. If thieves don’t recognize you as a traveler, they are less likely to target you.
- Be aware of your surroundings. If someone around you is acting suspicious, leave the situation.
- Stay sober. It’s much easier to be aware of your surroundings when you have all of your faculties intact.