Health, Safety & Security Abroad

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Studying abroad is an incredible opportunity, but one that requires careful thought and planning. Review the information in this section to ensure your study abroad experience is as healthy, safe, and secure as possible.

Before You Go

Planning for a Healthy Experience Abroad

Once you have been accepted to a Sarah Lawrence Study abroad program, we’ll want you to complete a comprehensive health assessment with your doctor. Besides meeting our college requirements, this assessment gives you the opportunity to create a personal health plan for your time abroad. Whether you are traveling on a Sarah Lawrence Program or one of our approved international programs, we suggest that you begin your health assessment by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Is my physician or mental health practitioner aware of my plans to travel?

  • Do I have any pre-existing medical or mental health issues that will need attention while abroad?

  • Am I taking any medication that will need to be prescribed and/or monitored while abroad?

  • Do I have health care plan or need help creating one for my medical or mental health needs?

Once you have reviewed any possible health concerns, it is also important to think through any social, emotional, and physical adjustment issues that may be relevant for you. Consider the following:

  • Do I manage well with new situations and people?

  • How important is it for me to have a structured daily routine?

  • Am I looking to create distance from problems or other students at school?

  • Have I just ended a relationship or am I planning to continue in a relationship long-distance?

  • Have alcohol and/or drugs become regular part of my college experience?

Answers to questions like these will help you think through any physical and emotional issues that may accompany you on your travels. We suggest that you speak with your physician, your family, and other members of your support network to help you address any concerns you might have. Your college Health & Wellness Center is also available to help you plan for the treatment of any medical or mental health concerns while you are abroad. Planning for support, rather than ignoring issues, will go a long way in helping you maintain your physical and emotional wellbeing while studying abroad.

Prescriptions

Many students who study abroad have prescription medication that they take along with them. From contraceptives and allergy medications to antidepressants and ADHD medications, prescriptions have become a part of our everyday life. Therefore, it is critical to plan ahead for your medication needs before you leave the United States.

Begin by speaking with your doctor about any and all medications that you take regularly. Determine if you will be able to take an adequate supply of medication with you, or if you will need access to a pharmacy or prescription provider during your time abroad. The US State Department suggests that you “bring an extra quantity [of medication] with you and pack it in your carry-on. Just remember to keep it in its original container and clearly labeled. In fact, you should check with the local embassy to make sure the medication is acceptable to carry into the country. Some countries may consider your prescription medication to be illegal.”

We recommended that students pack copies of prescriptions (including brand names and generic names) and letter from an at-home doctor if regular medication is needed. Keep in mind that beginning a new academic experience in foreign country is typically not best time to discontinue medical prescriptions, so make sure to plan ahead.

It is also wise to bring along multiple copies of your medical records detailing medical history, as well as current problems and treatment and any important test results.

Medical Insurance

Proof of comprehensive medical and mental health coverage is required for participation in all Sarah Lawrence International Programs. If you are individually insured, or insured through your parents or your educational institution, check with your individual health care provider for information about the limits of your health coverage.

Unfortunately, many US medical insurance plans do not cover individuals when they travel out of the country, so it is important to know if you are covered for a study abroad program. If you are covered for study abroad, find out the details of your coverage. Since all medical bills incurred during study abroad will be your responsibility, it is important to know the extent of your medical coverage in advance, including coverage for medical evacuation and repatriation benefits. If you are not covered for study abroad, you will need to purchase additional coverage.

All students on the Sarah Lawrence Study Abroad Programs are required to have study abroad insurance through GeoBlue. This coverage is automatically purchased for any student enrolling on a Sarah Lawrence study abroad program. The GeoBlue insurance Plan ONLY covers students while they are abroad and only for the duration of their academic study (fall and/or spring semester). All enrolling students will receive notification to register online with GeoBlue prior to the start of their program.

Please be sure that you also have the necessary health insurance coverage in the United States. The GeoBlue insurance policy provides coverage for students outside the US only and for the designated time abroad on the study abroad program.

Students on non-Sarah Lawrence programs should contact their program provider for information on health insurance coverage.

Health Tips

There are many things to remember and consider as you plan for your experience abroad. Here are some tips to remember about the basics of staying healthy:

  • Get enough rest. Recovering from jet lag can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Help yourself out by establishing a regular sleep/wake schedule and try to stick with it throughout your trip.

  • Stay hydrated. Dehydration is a major travel issue that can cause serious complications. Make sure you drink plenty of bottled water or other non-caffeinated/non-carbonated fluid each day.

  • Eat wisely. Of course you’ll want to sample the local fare, but use common sense when selecting eating establishments. If a dining room or food cart looks dirty, chances are that it may be a health hazard. Be careful about eating raw foods, since food that has not been stored or cooked properly can make you sick.

  • Be physically active. Making sure you get physical exercise each day, whether it’s walking to explore your new city or dancing at a nightclub, will help you balance the intellectual and emotional demands of your new experience.

  • Manage your stress. Transitioning to a new culture with all the excitement of a new language, new people, and new surroundings, on top of an academic workload can be overwhelming. Take time to relax and unwind each day. Allow yourself to experience the ups and downs of emotional adjustment and be sure to have people to connect with to provide any necessary support.

  • Pack a small first aid kit of over-the-counter medicines. This will help you deal with minor illnesses and emergencies. We recommend that you include:

    • Band-Aids

    • Antibacterial ointment

    • Pain reliever

    • Sunscreen

    • Anti-diarrhea medication

    • Regular medications

While You're There

Jet-Lag

An issue for all travelers who cross multiple time zones, jet lag cannot necessarily be avoided, but taking a few simple steps before, during and after your flight can ease its effects.

  • Be well rested before your flight.

  • While in transit, stay hydrated lots of water and avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages.

Upon Arrival

  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals, including plenty of protein and complex carbohydrates. These foods will help you maintain your energy level, as will eating small, frequent meals each day.

  • Daily exercise will fight fatigue, increase energy and improve your sleep patterns as well. Walking your new city is an excellent way to build exercise into your routine while learning your new surroundings at the same time.

For more health tips, read the Medical Preparation While Studying Abroad Checklist.

Alcohol Use

Although the legal drinking age may vary from country to country, the importance of caution and common sense when using alcohol remains constant. Keep in mind that excessive alcohol use can impact your judgment and impair decision-making.

Unfortunately, incidents of assault, sexual molestation, and other violent crimes often occur abroad each year due to alcohol intoxication. While the frequency of such incidents is low, especially compared to many college campuses, it is important to be aware of the laws that govern alcohol-related crimes in your host country. Likewise, driving under the influence of alcohol and public intoxication are illegal activities in most countries that can get you arrested and put behind bars.

Illegal Drug Use

Let’s be clear: Do not travel with, buy, use or have illegal drugs in your possession while you are abroad. Penalties for the purchase, use, or possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia can be severe and unyielding—from imprisonment without bail to sentences ranging from fines and jail time to years of hard labor. The US State Department cautions:

"Obey the local laws of the country you are visiting. An arrest or accident during a trip abroad can result in a difficult legal and expensive situation. Your US citizenship does not make you exempt from full prosecution under another country's criminal justice system, and the US government cannot bail you out. Many countries impose harsh penalties for violations that would be considered minor in the United States, and unlike the US, you may be considered guilty until proven innocent. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, so be informed."

Health Services Abroad

The most important thing to remember when managing your health abroad is communication with the study abroad program staff. Pay attention during your pre-departure and on-site orientations and learn how to access routine medical and mental health care before you need it.

Sarah Lawrence students must register online with GeoBlue before arrival in country.

If you have a pre-existing medical or mental health issue, make sure that Sarah Lawrence is aware of your needs prior to departure so the appropriate services are in place.

  • Will you need access to a physician or therapist while you are abroad?

  • Will you need access to a pharmacy for filling prescriptions?

  • What other types of medical or mental health support services are available?

Open communication with your study abroad staff will go a long way towards insuring that you have access to individual health services. However, unforeseen circumstances can always occur. Make sure you know your program’s health emergency protocol.

  • What is the equivalent of the US 911 in your host country?

  • What is your program’s internal emergency number? Emergency information such as this should be provided in detail during your study abroad program orientation. But if it’s not, or if you need clarification, be sure to ask.

Your program director and staff have years of experience in their host countries, including detailed knowledge of medical and counseling resources. Take advantage of their expertise. They are there to help.

All Sarah Lawrence Study Abroad Program directors are required to consult with Prema Samuel, Associate Dean for International Programs, when they are concerned about a student’s health and well-being. The program director will also consult with the Director of Counseling and/or the Dean of Studies at Sarah Lawrence College at any time for advice on matters concerning a student’s health and well-being.

Culture Shock

Regardless of how much you have traveled or how familiar a location may seem, you should anticipate some type of culture shock when you arrive in your host country (this includes English speaking and Western countries).

Experts agree that there are several phases of culture shock.

Phase 1:

The “honeymoon phase” is characterized by feelings of euphoria and well-being.

Phase 2:

Characterized by some or all of the following at various times:

  • Sadness, loneliness, melancholy

  • Insomnia, desire to sleep too much or too little

  • Changes in temperament, feeling vulnerable or powerless

  • Trying too hard to absorb everything in the new culture or country

  • Lack of confidence

  • Feelings of inadequacy or insecurity

  • Longing for family or friends

Just know that these feelings are normal. However, if you find yourself feeling out of sorts or emotionally unstable over a long period of time, let someone know. Be sure to contact your program director or one of the program staff members. They can help you determine if you need additional support as you adjust to your host country.

Phase 3:

The third phase is marked by an acceptance of cultural differences and the ability to critique the positives and negatives of your home country and your host culture. Highlighted by personal growth and the integration of disparate ideas, thoughts and values, the majority of the study abroad experience takes place within this last phase.

Laws, Customs & Safety

When participating in a study abroad program, the most important thing to keep in mind is that no matter how comfortable you may feel in your host country, chances are that the laws, customs, and security issues are different than what you are accustomed to in your home country. Behavior that might be tolerated or encouraged at home may be considered wrong or dangerous. And conversely, actions that would not be acceptable in the US may be a fact of life in your host country. Take the time to learn all you can about the culture and values of your host country. Pay attention during your orientations before you leave and when you arrive in country.

Some basic safety tips and a healthy dose of common sense will go a long way toward keeping you safe during your study abroad experience:

  • Be aware of your new surroundings. Learn where you can go safely and at what time. Find out if it’s safe to travel alone.

  • Secure your personal possessions. Lock your doors whenever you leave your room or apartment.

  • Don’t carry much cash in your wallet at any given time.

  • Learn the rules of the road and pedestrian traffic. Find out how and when it is safe to use public transportation.

  • Determine appropriate dress.

  • Travel with a buddy and always let someone know your plans or itinerary.

  • Always carry US student abroad identification.

Safety & Security

General Information

Sarah Lawrence College is taking every possible measure to ensure the safety of our students in our programs abroad. Students on the Sarah Lawrence Study Abroad Programs will receive information on safety and security before they leave, during the term, and during the vacations. We ask that students notify our program staff of any travels away from the program site. Any student who chooses to leave the program before completion may jeopardize their chance of receiving credit for the semester's work.

Students enrolled on Sarah Lawrence programs abroad are automatically provided Political Security and Natural Disaster Evacuation Services through the GeoBlue insurance that Sarah Lawrence provides.

General safety advice to students studying abroad:

  • Dress as inconspicuously as possible and avoid displaying money, wearing jewelry, or carring valuables such as laptop computers or cameras.

  • Never mention that you are traveling alone or give out personal information.

  • Understand the city’s geography and avoid high-crime areas or areas affected by protests or riots, such as government institutions, where possible.

  • Avoid disputes, demonstrations, political rallies, and commotions on the street. Do not stay to watch or photograph them. Adhere to curfews.

  • Ignore comments from passers-by—do not get into an argument—and avoid eye contact with strangers.

  • Always carry some form of communication equipment, such as a cell phone pre-programmed with numbers that would be useful in an emergency (police, embassy, University contacts).

  • Memorize important local phrases.

  • Avoid walking in city streets after dark, especially alone.

  • Be alert to your surroundings and be especially aware of loiterers.

  • If you suspect you are being followed, enter any busy public place and call for help.

  • Limit alcohol intake.

  • Do not use public transport at night.

  • Only use accredited taxi services with radio communication.

  • Distribute cash in more than one pocket.

  • Where possible, obtain small denominations of currency and keep the bulk of cash and cards in a money belt, which should only be accessed in private places.

In case of an emergency after office hours, please call the Sarah Lawrence College emergency telephone number at 914.395.2222, provide your telephone number, and request that Prema Samuel, Associate Dean for International Programs, be contacted as soon as possible.

Important Contacts

Office of International Programs
Sarah Lawrence College
Bronxville, NY 10708
914.395.2305

Emergency Contact After Business Hours
Sarah Lawrence security desk: 914.395.2222. Security will contact Prema Samuel, Associate Dean of International Programs to return your call.

London Theatre Program Office
011-44-207-487-0730 (5 hours ahead of EST)

Oxford Program Office
011-44-1865-277-541 (5 hours ahead of EST)

Paris Program Office
011-33-1-43-22-14-36 (6 hours ahead of EST)

GeoBlue General Emergency & Medical Emergency Contact
Global Health & Safety
800.257.4823 (Toll Free—US)
610.254.8771 (Collect)

Emergency Policies & Procedures (Sarah Lawrence-Administered Programs)

We would like you to be aware of the following emergency and evacuation information and policies pertaining to Sarah Lawrence College's International Programs:

  • Under what conditions will we cancel a program?

Sarah Lawrence College has never canceled a program and would only do so if directed by the US Department of State to evacuate all civilians from that country or location. If US citizens are asked to leave, we would require our students to return home. The International Programs office at Sarah Lawrence College and each of the study abroad offices receive regular Department of State worldwide cautions, travel advisories and warnings as well information from the equivalent body in each country. Please visit www.travel.state.gov to review information from the Department of State and to see individual US Embassy websites.

  • When would students be evacuated?

We would evacuate only in the event of a call from the US government to evacuate all US citizens. A call for the withdrawal of US citizens is an extreme measure and a last resort.

  • How would students be evacuated?

In the event of an evacuation, the overseas resident director and several designated officers of the Sarah Lawrence campus in Bronxville, New York would analyze the event and work together to create an appropriate response. The overseas directors are in regular contact with the US Embassy or Consulates in their respective countries. We would closely follow the directors’ recommendations and notify students and their parents of the specific plan and recommended time frame. We would arrange for students to be moved either to the US or to another destination, according to the specific advice from the US Department of State and the US Embassy.

  • What is the cost of evacuation?

Students who study abroad through Sarah Lawrence College will be covered for specified costs of emergency evacuations. In the event of an emergency security situation or declared natural disaster, emergency evacuation by means consistent with students’ health and safety will be provided and paid for. Services during the evacuation may include transportation to the nearest safe haven and then to the student’s home country, as well as the arrangement of food, lodging and other reasonable expenses if needed. Sarah Lawrence College will make all arrangements and initially cover the costs for return flights home, including airline penalty fees for flight changes. These costs will be charged to the student’s account and the College will expect to be refunded for all travel related costs.

  • How and when will students and parents be notified?

Sarah Lawrence College and program offices keep contact information for all registered students. In the event of a serious emergency, Sarah Lawrence College would undertake measures to contact all students by telephone and email. Sarah Lawrence College would communicate immediately with parents or guardians if a program were to be canceled and students were to be evacuated. Each of the study abroad program offices has emergency parent/guardian contact information for each student. Please ensure that you notify the offices of any changes to the contact information.

  • How does a student communicate with Sarah Lawrence College in an emergency?

All students are required to have a local cell phone so that they can be reached without difficulty.

At orientation, students are given local emergency instructions and numbers for police, ambulance, etc. In an emergency, a student should contact our overseas emergency or office number (after receiving any necessary assistance from police or medical professionals). We would assist students with contacting family members. Each of our overseas offices has a 24-hour emergency contact system for students. We ask students to always carry an emergency contact number for their parents or guardians in their wallets at all times.

  • What happens if a student chooses to leave the program?

Students who choose to leave a program must notify the overseas director of the date of departure and all information relating to the journey and destination and additional contact details. Students who withdraw from a program that has not been canceled during the semester will not receive any credit. Students who leave a program that has not been canceled are subject to Sarah Lawrence College's normal refund policies.

  • If the program is canceled, will there be a refund?

If Sarah Lawrence College cancels a program we will refund recoverable money to any student currently enrolled in the program. Recoverable money is defined as any tuition or housing fees that the College is not obligated to pay when a program is canceled. Sarah Lawrence College will make all arrangements and initially cover the costs for return flights home, including airline penalty fees for flight changes. These costs will be charged to the student’s account. The College will expect to be refunded for all travel related costs.

  • If the program is canceled, how will the student receive course credit?

If a program is canceled mid-semester, partial credit will be awarded for work completed. The number of credits will be determined on an individual basis.

Emergency Policies & Procedures (Non-Sarah Lawrence Programs)

Students who study abroad on non-Sarah Lawrence programs will need to contact their program provider for specific information on coverage provided.

Study Abroad Safety Handbook for All Students

The Center for Global Education's Safety Abroad Handbook provides resources and preparation tips for students considering studying abroad and parents trying to help them.

The Handbook should help you ask the right questions and find helpful resources for international study and travel.

Other internet resources can be found on GeoBlue's website. These include:

  • Doctor and Hospital Profiles: Search the database of profiled GeoBlue doctors and facilities in the GeoBlue-contracted community.

  • Brand Name Drug Translation Guides: Find the country specific brand name under which common prescription and over-the-counter medications are sold.

  • Medical Phrase and Term Translation Guides: Translate idiomatic healthcare terms (“hay fever”, “CAT scan”) and critical healthcare phrases (“When can I travel?”) in six common languages.

  • CityHealth Profiles®: Learn critical information about healthcare services in the world’s most popular destinations including emergency phone numbers, high quality hospitals, vaccination requirements, pharmacy information and more.

  • Security Profiles: Peruse up-to-date country level information about political climate and communication infrastructure. This is done at city level and focuses on the prevalence of crime and terrorism and on the reliability of police, hotels and transportation.

  • Health and Safety Alerts: Read alerts that include articles relaying tips on national healthcare systems abroad and healthy travel practices, as well as warnings on health hazards and disease outbreaks around the world. These alerts can be customized, regionalized and personalized.

For further insights on safe and healthy travel, visit www.healthytravelblog.com.

When You Return

Saying Goodbye

You may experience a range of feelings and thoughts at the end of your abroad program—from the excitement and anticipation of returning home to the sadness and loss of leaving your host country. Although endings can be difficult and many of us would prefer to be distracted with last-minute adventures, it is important to think about how to experience a meaningful goodbye.

Before your last week:

  • Spend some time gathering up memories of your experience: photographs, postcards, journal entries, ticket stubs, recipes, addresses, etc.

  • Exchange contact information with new friends and faculty members who you would like to keep in touch with.

  • Be sure to ask your program director about local customs around departures as well. In some countries, small gifts to your hosts may be appropriate, while in other countries the reverse is true.

Re-Entry Culture Shock

Many students expect that their transition home will be relatively easy and are surprised when they experience re-entry culture shock. Just as culture shock has its own phases of adjustment, re-entry culture shock follows a similar pattern of acclimation.

Phase 1:

The first phase is typically marked by excitement and joy of being home and re-connecting with friends and family.

Phase 2:

The second phase is characterized by feelings of alienation, low mood, feelings of loss and/or boredom. Just know that these feelings are normal. However, if you find yourself feeling out of sorts or emotionally unstable over a long period of time, let someone know.

Phase 3:

The third phase is characterized by personal growth, the integration of disparate ideas, thoughts, and values, and adjustment and acceptance of cultural differences.

Self-Assessment

It’s likely that you’ll have discovered a lot of new things about yourself while studying abroad. Just as you have changed, there’s a good chance that people at home have changed as well. Try to be patient with yourself and with others who are interested in learning about your experience, and who have also had experiences of their own while you were away.

Try to avoid making comparisons between cultures and resist the temptation to be too critical of home. It might be helpful to seek out students who have also returned from study abroad, or others who have had international experiences, to discuss your re-entry process.

Making the Most of Your Abroad Experience

Many students struggle to integrate their study abroad experience with academics back on their home campus. Here are some tips on how to make the most of your study abroad experience once you return:

  • Academic Courses

    • Select courses that will deepen the knowledge you’ve gained during your experience abroad. Look for courses that will allow you to present new perspectives and confront culturally ingrained ideas and attitudes.

  • On-Campus Opportunities

    • Contact your campus International Programs Office and volunteer to be a resource for international students studying on your campus.

    • Join or start an International Club or Foreign Language Club to maintain your connection with the language and culture of your host country.

    • Participate in campus-diversity forums. Offer to speak or organize a panel discussion for your campus on cultural sensitivity and awareness.

    • Volunteer to participate in your campus Study Abroad Fair. 

  • Community Organizations

    • Many colleges and universities have community outreach programs which prize experience in cultural diversity. Speak with your institution’s Director of Community Outreach about opportunities to utilize your international experience locally and nationally.

Students Abroad—Go From Here

This website has been designed by the US State Department’s Office of Overseas Citizen Services specifically for students preparing to travel abroad.

University of Michigan Resilient Traveling—Managing Stress & Enhancing Your Experience Abroad

This resource provides tips on how students can become more resilient when facing stress, loneliness, culture shock, and other challenges of traveling abroad.

State Department Travel Sites

The US State Department’s Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management (ACS) administers the Consular Information Program, which informs the public of conditions abroad that may affect their safety and security.

CDC—Travelers' Health

CDC Travelers' Health offers information to assist travelers and their health-care providers in deciding the vaccines, medications, and other measures necessary to prevent illness and injury during international travel.