Health and Safety

Health and Safety

Please read these important topics below:

  • Medical & Emergency Insurance
  • Safety before Departure
  • Document Safety While Abroad
  • Safety Precautions
  • Dating and Intimate Relationships
  • S. State Department Citizen Services

Medical & Emergency Insurance

Students traveling abroad under ECSU programs are covered by HTH Worldwide Travel Insurance. To locate an English speaking physician overseas please visit their website at

Please feel free to call the Office of International Programs at (252) 335-3970 if you have any questions or concerns regarding this information.

Safety and Security before Departure

Between now and your departure, it is your responsibility to stay informed about developments in the country/countries in which you will spend time (including any countries you'll visit that are not part of your study abroad program's itinerary). You can do so by checking the U.S. State Department's Web page: you will find: Consular Information Sheets, Public Announcements, and Travel Warnings. The following are brief descriptions of these types of information:

  • Consular Information Sheets are issued as a matter of course, and are available for every country of the world. They include such information as location of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the subject country, unusual immigration practices, health conditions, minor political disturbances, unusual currency and entry regulations, crime and security information, and drug penalties.
  • Public Announcements are issued as required, and are a means to disseminate information about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term and/or transnational conditions posing significant risks to the security of American travelers.
  • Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department decides based on all relevant information, to recommend that Americans avoid travel to a certain country.

For more detailed descriptions of the above information, please refer to the State Department Web page. Periodically checking this Web page is a good idea and especially important if your program and/or travel takes you to regions of the world where unstable conditions exist or are likely to develop.

Document Safety while Abroad

  • Do not take any credit cards, keys, or other items not needed abroad. Make (2) "emergency files" containing copies of the following documents:
      • Airline ticket(s)
      • Passport
      • Travelers checks
      • Blood type and Rh factor
      • Eyeglass prescription 
      • Name of doctor and dentist
      • Supplemental insurance policies and the credit cards you take abroad.
  • Leave one "emergency file" set at home and keep another with you in a separate place from the originals.
  • Leave a copy of your itinerary and contact information with family/friends at home and OIP.
  • NEVER pack your passport or any other important documents in your checked-in luggage or your carry-on luggage.
  • Passports including visa page, credit cards, and money should be worn in a pouch or a money belt as close to your body as possible.
  • Be aware that certain reading material or literature may offend officials of some countries.

Safety Precautions

While you are abroad, you are expected to exercise the same safety precautions you would at home. Use common sense, avoid confrontations, familiarize yourself with the area and PLEASE do not place yourself in any unnecessarily dangerous situations.

The following are some tips to help keep you safe while abroad:

Personal Responsibility and Communication

  • Be aware that you are responsible for your own decisions and actions.
  • Understand and comply with all terms and conditions of your program.
  • If you have been a victim of a crime, report this immediately to your leader or International Programs Office.
  • Do not be free with information about yourself or other students, including your travel itinerary or class schedule.
  • Develop a plan for regular communication so that in times of heightened political tensions or local incidents, you will be able to communicate with your family directly about your safety and well-being.

When Going from Place to Place

  • Try to blend in. Traveling as an identifiable U.S. American group of students may attract attention and lead to problems.
  • Avoid arriving late at night to unfamiliar places and take a reliable guidebook that lists resources and hotels/hostels.
  • Try to stay on well-lit, heavily traveled streets.
  • Avoid walking too close to streets or buildings.
  • Walk against the flow of traffic so oncoming vehicles can be observed.
  • It is preferable to travel with another person. It is not advisable to sleep on a train if you are traveling alone.
  • Hitchhiking is not advised.
  • Travel light!
  • If you have an agreement with your leader or resident director about leaving the site and/or staying with others, be sure to give him or her your and itinerary and contact information.

Your Surroundings

  • Remain alert within your environment - be aware of what is normal about your surroundings so that the unusual is easily detected.
  • Obey host country laws and observe local customs.
  • In large cities and other popular tourist areas, try to avoid places frequented by U.S. Americans.
  • Whenever possible, speak in the local language!
  • Avoid deserted areas and exercise caution in crowds.
  • Avoid impairing your judgment due to excessive consumption of alcohol.
  • Keep up with local news, and in the event of disturbances or protests, do NOT get involved.
  • Report suspicious events of any kind to your leader or the International Programs Office immediately.
  • Learn the location of the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
  • Behave in a manner that is respectful of others, and encourage others to behave in a similar manner.
  • Learn the procedures for obtaining emergency health and law enforcement services in the host country.
  • Be aware of local situations that may present health or safety risks when making daily decisions and promptly express any concerns tothe program staff or other appropriate individuals. 

Personal Belongings

  • Avoid using U.S. American logos on your belongings, especially athletic wear.
  • Keep all valuables on your person, preferably stowed away in a money belt or pouch that hangs around your neck and/or under clothing, and NEVER leave valuables unattended.
  • Do not wear or carry expensive items, including expensive luggage.
  • Do not agree to watch the belongings of a stranger.
  • Do not borrow suitcases, and ensure that nothing is inserted into yours.
  • Remove your luggage tags after arrival.
  • If possible, always lock your handbags/baggage. If the item has a shoulder strap, wear the strap across your body.
  • Do not put valuables in the exterior pockets of backpacks or in bags that are open at the top.
  • Be aware of pickpockets, as they tend to prey on people who look lost or unfamiliar in their surroundings.

Dating and Sex "A Different Culture Equals Different Norms"

Women and men should both be aware that the ways people interact vary widely by region and country, and issues around dating and sexuality can be particularly difficult in a cross-cultural setting.

Eye contact, dress, and body language can all send different messages by region and culture. Observing interpersonal interactions within a culture can help you to choose the way you communicate verbally and non-verbally with others in that country.

Some people consider traveling an aphrodisiac. Meeting new, exciting, and different people may stimulate action that you would not have taken under similar circumstances in the United States. Don't be foolish in assuming that you are invulnerable because you are a visitor in the country and no one is judging your behavior. Ask yourself why you are choosing to be sexually active and be aware of and set your boundaries and partner expectations.

Be Responsible and be Prepared

If you choose to be sexually active, use safe sex and protect yourself and your partner against unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, and misunderstandings about the meaning of the relationship. Take a supply of condoms with you since conditions of availability and purchase may be limited, and conditions of manufacture and storage may be questionable.

Be responsible if using alcohol or prescription drugs because they can affect your behavior. Don't leave the country with anything you didn't bring: this means a pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, or AIDS.

Special Note to Women

In some instances, women may have a hard time adjusting to attitudes they encounter abroad, both in public and private interactions with foreigners. Some men openly demonstrate their appraisal of women in ways that many women find offensive. It is not uncommon to be verbally and loudly approved of, and, in general, to be actively noticed simply for being a woman, particularly an American woman. Sometimes the attention can be flattering. Soon, it may become very annoying and potentially even angering.

You will have to learn the unwritten rules about what you should and should not do. Be sure to attend your host institution's orientation for international students like you. If this is not covered, ASK! You may wish to meet with other participants early in your stay abroad to discuss what does and doesn't work for dealing with unwanted attention.

U.S. American women are seen as liberated in many ways, and sometimes the cultural misunderstanding perceived in that image leads to difficult or unpleasant experiences.

Needless to say, all of this may make male-female friendships more difficult to develop. Be careful about the implicit messages you are communicating, messages you may not intend in your own cultural context. Above all, try to maintain the perspective that these challenging and sometimes difficult experiences are part of the growth of cultural understanding which is, all things considered, one of the important reasons you are studying abroad.

Tips for Avoiding Unwanted Attention

  • Female travelers are more likely to encounter harassment such as unwanted sexual gestures, physical contact, or statements that are offensive. Uncomfortable situations such as these may be avoided by taking the following precautions:
  • Dress conservatively; while short skirts and tank tops may be comfortable, they may   encourage unwanted attention.
  • Avoid walking alone at night or in questionable neighborhoods.
  • Do not agree to meet a person whom you do not know in a non-public place.
  • Be aware that some men from other cultures tend to mistake the friendliness of U.S. American women for romantic interest.

If, after acknowledging cultural differences, you still feel uncomfortable with what you interpret as sexual harassment, you should talk with your leader, resident director, or other on-site personnel. This conversation may provide you with some coping skills and a possible action plan to avoid future encounters. It may also help you gain a different perspective by understanding the local customs and attitudes.

Citizens Emergency Center

You should register on-line with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate before you go. This will be helpful to you and your family if there is a need to locate you or family members in the event of an emergency.

The Citizens Emergency Center of the Bureau of Consular Affairs provides emergency services pertaining to the protection of U.S. Americans arrested or detained abroad, the search for U.S. citizens abroad, and the transmission of emergency messages to those citizens or their next of kin in the United States.

Assistance at the Citizens Emergency Center is available:

Monday through Friday: 8:15 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (EST)
  • Saturdays: 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at (202) 647-5226.

A duty officer from the U.S. State Department Operations Center is available for emergencies at the following times and phone numbers:

5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at (202) 647-5226 and 10:00 p.m. to 8:15 a.m. during the week and at all times during weekends and holidays at (202) 647-1512.

Further information regarding the emergency services to U.S. citizens abroad and related U.S. State Department services can be obtained on the following Web sites:

You should check these sites regularly until your departure to ensure you are familiar with events on-site and any concerns of which you should be aware.

Worldwide Health Conditions and Information:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Call 404-332-4559 or 404-332-4565 to obtain a faxed information sheet for ordering documents, then call again to have the necessary information faxed back. CDC's International Travellers' Hotline is 404-693-2572. Its website is

The State Department's Overseas Citizens' Emergency Center: Call 202-746-5225 for information on medical, financial, or legal problems while abroad.

The State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs maintains a website that provides easy access to a wealth of information on travelers' health and safety:, including links to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The International Association for Medical Assistance for Travelers offers information on English-Speaking doctors abroad and other helpful items. Call 716-754-4883.

International SOS Assistance, a Philadelphia-based emergency worldwide medical and travel assistance service, provides insurance for travelers to cover emergency medical needs and other services, including 24-hour multilingual assistance in centers around the world. 800-767-1403 or 215-244-1500,

Medex International, based in suburban Baltimore, for services similar to those of International SOS. 800-537-2029,

For guidelines on Road Travel:

Association for Safe International Road Travel

Adapted from the University at Buffalo The State University of New York Study Abroad Programs and Michigan State University International Studies.