Health and Safety Off Campus
Your personal well-being should come before all else while studying off campus. Consider the important steps you should take to have to remain both healthy and safe while off campus. While some precautions may just seem like an inconvenience, remember that the more time and thought you put into taking care of yourself, the much less likely you are to face any major personal problems during your experience.
Also note that Lawrence will cancel a Lawrence-sponsored program or will withdraw its approval for study on a Lawrence-affiliated program if a State Department Travel Warning and/or a CDC or WHO travel advisory is in place for the country. Consult the US Department of State for additional information. This policy applies to students attending programs where such a warning or alert is in place before the program begins (even if there may not have been such a warning or alert for the host country when the student applied and/or was accepted to the program).
Be sure to consult with your doctor before leaving for your program. Also consider the following other health-related matters before leaving:
- Have a physical.
- Medications: It is often best to bring enough Rx medication for the program – in original bottles with prescription information – in carry-on luggage.
- Letter or records: Obtain a vaccination record, letter/prescription explaining prescription, or info on any condition for which you are being treated.
- Vaccinations: Consult info from host program, CDC, WHO, and/or your doctor about needed vaccinations – talk to the Health Center ASAP if you want to get shots on campus.
All students on international programs will be enrolled in the mandatory Lawrence University study abroad insurance program through the Off-Campus Programs office. The only exception to this requirement is for students on programs provided by IES or the ACM (students on IES and ACM programs will not be enrolled in the LU group coverage through CISI). A copy of the plan will be sent to all confirmed students on applicable international off-campus study programs.
The policy covers non-routine medical expenses. It also covers evacuation for medical, natural disaster, and political unrest. The fee for this coverage (currently $41 per month of coverage) will be billed to your LU account. You will usually be expected to pay any doctor or hospital bills in full at the time of service. Keep all receipts! Then file a claim form with the insurance company for reimbursement.
- Travelling with Medications
- Managing Jet Lag
- Travelling with Food Allergies
- How to Be a Responsible Traveler
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT) -- Great resources and advice for people traveling with particular medical concerns, country-specific information about health risks, and tips for healthy travel.
Studying off-campus is full of new and unfamiliar situations and experiences. There are many good risks you will take that will challenge you as a student and transform you as a person. Your behavior and choices have a great impact on your personal security, so it is important to be aware of those risks that can endanger your health, safety, or well-being.
- Obey the local laws of the country you are in. Once you leave U.S. soil, U.S. laws and constitutional rights no longer apply.
- Follow the advice and policies of your program. Take the advice and local expertise of your program’s staff seriously. Heed their advice (or ask their advice if you have questions) about local security – public areas, neighborhoods, or tourist destinations to avoid at this time, safety when walking or using public transportation, etc.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Take common sense precautions. Don’t do risky things you wouldn’t do at home. Would you get in a car with a stranger, visit apartments of people you just met, get on a moped with a stranger wearing a machete, or swallow a pill given to you by a stranger because they tell you it is safe?
- Watch the news - Don't be ignorant of potential dangers.
- Avoid protests, marches, or demonstrations – Crowd situations can be difficult to get out of and peaceful protests can turn violent quickly.
- Be aware of road safety. Motorized vehicle accidents are a leading cause of death of Americans abroad. Although motorcycles are a common form of transportation in many countries, these can be dangerous. Avoid riding on motorcycles. If you must ride on a motorcycle, be sure to wear a helmet. Be aware of road conditions and safety precautions along the roadway. Always wear seat belts in buses and vehicles.
- Take precautions for the worst - Just to be safe, leave copies of your passport and address/contact information of where you are going with someone at home. Become acquainted with the whereabouts of the U.S. embassy in the country you are visiting.
- Familiarize yourself with the international insurance coverage you have.
- U.S. citizens should register their stay outside of the US with the State Department Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP is a free online service so that the local Embassy can get in touch with you if need be (whether because of a family emergency in the U.S., or in the event of an emergency in the area in which you are traveling). International students should investigate registering travel with local embassies of their country of nationality.
- Talk with local program staff. Use their guidance, support, and local expertise. Have questions about what constitutes appropriate behavior or dress? Want to know about what type of crime is most common? Are there areas that are more or less secure? Is it safe to walk alone at night? Are there safety concerns with different types of transportation?
Contributing factors that often increase risk:
- Being intoxicated
- Being in a known high-crime area
- Being alone at night in an isolated area
- Carrying large amounts of cash or otherwise making yourself a target for theft
- Failure to follow program policies or advice
- Safe behavior abroad - Dickinson College
- Safety and Security for US Students Traveling Abroad - FBI
- Study Abroad Safety Tips for Female Students
- Safety and Security: A Parent's Guide
- Study Abroad Parent Guide - Safety Tips
- Understand the Culture of Safety
Studying abroad helps students to define themselves and their culture in relation to the culture that they are experiencing, making them more culturally aware overall.While there may be some truth to stereotypes, there has to be room for individuality to emerge too. Use information like stereotypes to guide you through your experience, not control you; dare to see things outside their stereotypical boxes. Study the culture, learn from it—but still allow yourself to be unique. Strive to maintain and expand your own identity—not to lose sight of yourself. Simply allow the culture to make you a better person, and a healthier you (Williamson).
When you are confronted by stereotypes, you have two options: you can either weaken a stereotype or reinforce it—the power is in you. You cannot significantly change the stereotypes of the world, but you can challenge them. If you face discrimination abroad, the best way to manage is to learn about the area and people, to find creative ways of bridging the perceived gap between “you” and “them,” and to ask for help.
Discrimination of one form or another exists in all countries, but the targets of discrimination, as well as the nature and content of the discriminatory practices, may differ significantly from those found in the United States. You may wish to speak about these specific issues with recent study abroad returnees and international students from the country or region where you will be studying.
- Diversity Abroad - a fantastic resource with Diversity Guides for many countries, tips for living abroad, articles about considerations about studying abroad, scholarships, and many more resources for students concerned with issues of discrimination and study abroad.
Be aware that accommodations vary greatly from country to country, especially with regard to non-physical disabilities. It is strongly recommended that you inform your program of your disability in advance of your participation. This will allow both you and the program to delineate and address potential issues in advance of your participation.
- Mobility International - has many resources for traveling and living overseas with disabilities.
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
LGBTQ life exists almost everywhere, but the degree to which it is visible at first glance varies. Some cultures are very welcoming to LGBTQ people, some cultures are less supportive, and homosexuality is illegal in some countries. Local laws, customs, and mores vary, so research the environment and resources of your host culture. It will ultimately be up to you to strike the balance between being true to yourself while staying safe in your particular context, be open to different opportunities, and be respectful of locally acceptable behavior. It is advised that you research your host country so you know local cultural views, resources, and legal protections that may impact your experience. Be as open and honest as you can with your study abroad advisor and program staff so they can tell you about specific resources or issues that might be valuable for you.
- NAFSA - Rainbow SIG
- US State Department LGBTI Travel info
- International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
- International Lesbian and Gay Association
- Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Transgender Traveler page
- National Center for Transgender Equality (useful information on air travel and the US passport application process)
- Transgender Europe
Gender Roles and Sexual Harassment
Gender roles vary from culture to culture. Women are treated differently and have different day-to-day lives in different cultures. Some cultures rely on gender as a primary way to define identity, while many cultures see gender as one of many factors that define identity. You should be aware that, in many countries, the attitudes regarding sexual behavior and sexual consent differ significantly from those in the United States. The perceived seriousness of crimes of sexual violence, such as rape, may also differ. Behavior that violates local social mores may be seen as justification, consent, or provocation. Please exercise caution and make certain to inform yourself of what procedures to follow in the event of incident.
To reduce the possibility of harassment you may wish to consider the following:
- To avoid harassment you may need to distance yourself from certain people, if not be actively unfriendly. If you find yourself in a situation in which you feel threatened, you should immediately take steps to rectify the situation, even if this might be seen as “culturally insensitive.” Listen to your instincts. Personal safety should always be your first concern.
- As unfair as it might seem, in many countries young American women are stereotyped as “promiscuous.” Thus it is possible that innocuous, natural ways of interacting in America (such as eye contact or holding hands) may be misinterpreted in another cultural context. Be especially careful with your clothing and body language. As a rule, you should try whenever possible to observe local customs and try not to stand out.
- Research gender roles in your host culture and the dos and don’ts. Your program sponsor will be one good resource for this information.
- Don’t become complacent. As you become more comfortable understanding daily life in your host culture, don’t forget that differences in gender and relationship roles can still manifest themselves.
- If you encounter abuse or harassment, have questions about culturally appropriate behavior, or find yourself having questions or feeling uncomfortable, contact your host program staff. Also, always feel free to contact Laura with LU’s Off-Campus Programs office.
What you can do
Many students who go study off campus find themselves faced with a basic dilemma: how to study and serve in ways that benefit those in our host cultures when the focus is on what the experience will do for us. Everyone has an inner idealist, considering that there could, in fact, be a higher purpose to life. The most powerful thing you can do to fight terrorism is to travel, learn about the world, come home with a new perspective, and then work to help your country fit into this planet with less fear (Steves). As fear and nationalism make peaceful coexistence more challenging, it will be more important than ever to travel in order to build understanding and bridge conflict between nationals.
Global learning can contribute to healing the world, but only as it sets our imaginations free to see and experience the world differently (Slimbach) To change the world, we have to change our consciousness and the stories we live by. This requires subscribing to a social contract—basically, what you agree to give up in order to live together peacefully (Steves).Grand, heroic acts are not necessary to participate in the process of change. Small acts, carried out in hope and with an understanding of our effect on a structurally unequal world, can quietly help us to bring in a brighter future (Slimbach). Regardless of your journey, you can put a little “pilgrim” in your travels and find your own personal triumph (Steves).
Also remember that, by hearing the story of an event from people who lived through it, you can feel what happened. A lack of understanding can make us unnecessarily fearful about other cultures and religions—and the actions we take because of these fears can create a situation where we need to be afraid. As the world gets smaller and more cultures cross paths, communication is key; people-to-people travel experiences can be a powerful force for peace, and travel can help build understanding between different cultures.
What to remember
Travel can help you understand that our political enemies are just people with passions we don’t understand, or may not even be aware of. A traveler learns that the love of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness comes in different colors and knows no borders. There are friends to Americans everywhere who are ready to put the past behind them and to be inspired once again by our ideals and our leadership. And remember, attention-grabbing bombast does not necessarily reflect the feelings of the man or woman on the street. Politicians come and go, but the people are here to stay (Steves).
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010.
Steves, Rick. Travel as a Political Act. New York, NY: Nation, 2009.
Williamson, Wendy. Study Abroad 101. Kalamazoo, MI: Agapy Pub., 2004.