hospital entranceHealth and Safety

At Lander, the health and safety of our students is always a top priority, not just on campus but on every study abroad program that we offer as well. This section is designed to make you aware of health and safety issues you may encounter abroad, and to prepare you to respond to them appropriately.

Lander’s Office of Student Affairs has produced a brief but information-packed presentation. This presentation identifies and addresses the many aspects of health and safety that concern a student who studies abroad.

Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website to find out if any immunizations and/or medical tests are recommended or required for where you will be traveling. It is your responsibility to obtain any immunizations and/or medical tests before you depart for your program. Note that some immunizations require multiple doses administered over several weeks time, so do not wait until the last minute to check on your immunization needs.

The US Department of State website contains government-sponsored information regarding travel abroad, individual country profiles, travel alerts, travel warnings and worldwide cautions. We strongly encourage you to review this information and take advantage of the following Department of State links and services:

 

Health and Safety Checklists

Once you have been accepted for study abroad, you will be provided with several detailed checklists to help you prepare for your time away. Among these checklists you will find

  • a Basic Health Checklist, to review with your physician before departure;
  • a Before Departure Safety Checklist, with links to US Department of State web pages;
  • a While Away Safety Checklist, with lots of common-sense safety precautions.

Material in these checklists will also be reviewed in pre-departure orientation sessions and in IDSA 201.

 

Pre-Departure Health and Safety
International Health Insurance Information

Lander enrolls all students who participate in a faculty-led Study Tour in iNext international insurance . This insurance includes medical, evacuation, and trip cancellation coverage. Students are enrolled by the Office of Study Abroad. Travelers will receive more comprehensive insurance documents from iNext directly once enrolled.

Students who participate in Lander partner study abroad programs for a semester or summer are required to purchase the Upgraded Comprehensive international insurance policy from CISI (Cultural Insurance Services International). This insurance policy covers medical costs for illness or injury, personal effects, trip interruption, and security evacuation. There is also an optional add-on for trip cancellation.

Students who participate in Lander affiliate programs are enrolled in international insurance by USAC or ASA.

If a student wishes to travel abroad before the study abroad program begins or after it ends, additional days can easily be added to these policies for an additional cost.

Note that international health insurance policies cover students ONLY while they are OUTSIDE the United States, and the policy is terminated upon return to the United States.

Bringing Medications with You
  • Check to confirm that your prescription medication is allowed in the country to which you are traveling. It is critical for this to be confirmed before you leave! If your prescription is illegal or otherwise not allowed, you will need to work out an alternate plan with your US treatment provider.
  • Take medications with you in your carry-on, not in checked luggage. That way, if your luggage is lost or delayed, you will still have access to your medications.
  • Bring a copy of the prescription or some other documentation identifying the medications as legitimately yours. If possible, keep your medication in its original bottle, which has the correct label and instructions.
  • Keep a note in a separate place from your medications, listing the name, dose, and other instructions related to your medications, along with your own physician’s and pharmacist’s phone numbers. That way, if your medications are lost, you will have the information you need to obtain a new supply as quickly as possible.
  • As much as possible, keep your medications in a cool, dry place that is safe from children and from theft.
  • Bring enough medications to last the entire length of the program, or make arrangements in advance for how you will refill the prescription while you are abroad. For example, you may need to find out:
  • Are there pharmacy services where you will be?
  • Is your medication available there?
  • Will you be able to use your US prescription?
  • Is it legal to have medications mailed to you there?
  • How reliable is the national mail service and are other carriers available (such as FedEx)?
  • Remember the effect and effectiveness of your medications can change with variations in stress level, diet, and climate. Even if you have been stable and doing well on your medications at home, plan in advance what you will do if your medications lose effectiveness while you are abroad.
  • Maintain your medication schedule even if it is inconvenient while you are on the road. Remember the schedule of medication may also change as time zones change; ask your treatment provider to advise you on how to adjust your medication schedule to a new time zone.
  • Check whether the local tap water is safe before using it to take medications. If the local water is not safe to drink, use bottled water or bottled soda (unless otherwise indicated by your prescription).
  • If you are going to be abroad a significant amount of time and are not able to speak with your treatment provider remotely, try to locate a provider abroad; a US-trained provider is preferable, for the continuity of your care and to minimize language problems. Your treatment provider, insurance company, program abroad, or the US embassy in that location, are good places to ask for the names and contact information of local providers.

For more information, consult this OSAC (Overseas Security Advisory Council) resource on traveling with medication.

Health Abroad
Covid-19

You should be familiar with any infectious disease outbreak in your destination country prior to traveling. The CDC provides traveler updates regarding outbreaks regularly on their webpages. Traveling may increase your chances of contracting or spreading COVID-19. Students traveling abroad should follow these guidelines prior to traveling and after arrival, to minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19 abroad:

  • Do not travel if you are sick.
  • Do not travel if you have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 10 days, or are symptomatic with COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Do not travel if in the past 14 days you have for at least 15 minutes been within 6 ft of distance of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Maintain physical distancing when traveling through airports.
  • Wear a mask or face covering when traveling; avoid face coverings with political messaging.
  • Wash hands with soap and water frequently when traveling and after arrival. You may use an alcohol based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable.
  • After arrival, familiarize yourself with public health protocols in your destination country; follow them to avoid disrupting their pandemic response.
  • Maintain physical distancing, and avoid crowded public spaces.
  • Continue to wear a mask when in public, or when physical distancing is unreasonable. Some countries may have restrictions about face coverings in public: comply with these regulations if they are in place. In most countries, it is a crime to disregard public health protocols such as masking.
  • Be familiar with the symptoms of COVID-19 infection (listed below). If you become ill during your time abroad, seek medical care for quarantine or isolation advice. Symptoms of COVID-19 include the following:
    • Fever or chills
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Fatigue
    • Muscle or body aches
    • Headache
    • New loss of taste and smell
    • Sore throat
    • Congestion or runny nose
    • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
Food and Water Safety

Food and water contamination is one of the leading causes of illness for travelers. Basic precautions can minimize the risk of diarrhea and other illnesses. Specific food and water recommendations depend on the destination country. It is always best to ask your on-site program administrator for advice on food and water safety.

See the CDC recommendations for Food and Water Safety for more information.

Travelers may also wish to download the CDC’s TravWell mobile app.

Allergies
  • If you have allergies, reactions to certain medications, foods or insect bites, or other unique medical problems, it is strongly suggested that you disclose this information.
  • You may also want to consider wearing a “medical alert” bracelet.
  • Talk with your doctor to determine what the required medical treatment for your allergies should be.
  • You may also wish to carry a letter from your physician explaining any necessary treatment.
  • If you take over-the-counter allergy medication, be sure to research before you leave the availability of your medicine abroad.
Dietary Restrictions

If you have dietary restrictions, it is strongly suggested you disclose this information. Your program advisor/manager can discuss any food limitations or restrictions in an advising appointment or during the program-specific orientation. Research the food available in your host country, and do not assume that the food you want or are used to eating will be readily available.

Learning how to say what your dietary restrictions are in the local language will help you to obtain the food you can eat and avoid the food you cannot.

Safety Abroad
Adherence to Host Country Laws

The rules and regulations of the host country, city, region, and institution will inevitably differ from those at home. Students must abide by the legal system of their host country. Additional information on host country laws may be found on the Department of State website, under “Local Laws & Special Circumstances” on the Country Information page for your country.

  • The laws of the United States do not apply when you study abroad. You need to obey the local laws of the host country in which you’re studying or traveling.
  • An arrest or accident during a term abroad can result in a difficult and expensive legal situation.
  • It makes no difference if you did not know the law.
  • Your US citizenship does not protect you from full prosecution.
  • Many countries impose harsh penalties for violations that would be considered minor in the US.
  • In many countries you are considered guilty until proven innocent.
  • In many countries, you can be detained for photographing security-related institutions, such as police and military installations, government buildings, airports, border areas, and transportation facilities. If you are in doubt, ask permission before taking photographs. You should also ask permission before taking photographs of local people.
  • Do not accept packages from anyone, regardless of what may be offered or what story you are told. You could miss your flight, your exams, or several years of your life behind bars.
  • If you find yourself in a legal jam, contact the closest US Embassy or Consulate for assistance. US Consular employees cannot arrange for local officials to release detained American citizens. Lander University will not be able to assist or intervene on your behalf.

The best policy is to always be aware of your surroundings, walk away from anything that looks or feels like trouble, and keep a distance from others engaged in questionable behavior.

Handling Money Safely
  • Do not carry much cash, and try to keep smaller bills available.
  • Never flash large amounts of money, at any time.
  • Make sure your credit or debit card is returned to you after each transaction.
  • Keep your credit and debit cards in an RFID-blocking sleeve.
  • Deal only with authorized agents when you exchange money or buy tickets.
  • If your money or possessions are lost or stolen, report the loss immediately to the local police. Make a copy of the police report for passport replacement.

Try to use ATMs and banks located in familiar areas, and only during the daytime. Try to have a friend with you as well. As soon as you receive your money from the ATM, put it away in your moneybelt or document pouch. Be as discreet as possible when you’re doing this. It’s a good idea to avoid walk-up ATMs. Instead, look for ones that are located inside a bank atrium.

If Your Wallet is Stolen or Lost

Forfeit your wallet if you’re mugged. Petty theft and pickpocketing are common in many study abroad destinations. Thieves often want cash or new cell phones they can pawn. If you’re mugged, hand over your wallet or purse quickly. Don’t try to negotiate or fight back. If you don’t comply with a thief’s demands, you put yourself and anyone with you at risk of violence.

After you’re robbed, you will inevitably feel upset, anxious, angry, and sad. Try to keep your focus in spite of the whirlwind of emotions.

  • First, find a police officer and report the theft. Itemize everything that was taken from you (e.g., £60 cash, phone, passport, etc.). The more specific the list, the more likely your items will be returned to you if they’re found. Be sure to get a copy of the police report.
  • Next, cancel your debit and credit cards: they can be replaced. In fact, everything can be replaced, even important travel documents.
  • Third, get new travel documents as soon as possible. You cannot return to the United States without a passport. If your passport is lost or stolen abroad, you will need to contact the nearest US embassy or consulate. Inform the attendant about the crime committed against you and your upcoming travel plans. The consular staff will ask to see a copy of the police report. The consular staff may need to expedite your request for a passport so that you can make your flight home.

Keep an emergency debit card in a safe place at your overseas residence. If you are robbed abroad and you call to cancel your debit and credit cards, your bank can issue you new ones. They may, however, be delayed because of slow international mail. It may be a good idea to obtain a separate emergency-only debit card or credit card (from a different bank) before you leave home for your study abroad program. Keep this card along with some emergency cash in a safe place in your apartment, dorm, or host family’s house. If your wallet is lost or stolen, you will be less stressed knowing that you have some cash and an emergency backup card available.

Keep Up with the News

Stay informed of any political unrest that may take place in your city or country. Avoid participating in demonstrations and other political activities. There may be an increased risk of anti-American activity during periods of political conflict. Even demonstrations that are intended to be peaceful can sometimes turn violent, and you don’t want to be arrested for involvement even if you just happen to be there.

Safe-Sex Precautions and Blood-borne Pathogens

Be prepared: always practice safe sex (bring adequate condoms, birth control, and emergency contraception). Educate yourself on social customs of host location(s) with regard to dating, public displays of affection, and sexual intimacy. (It is always best to assume that local social customs will be different.)

There are risk factors associated with the use of needles, blood products, tattoos, piercing, surgeries, and acupuncture. In addition to the risk of contaminated needles, the water used to create tattoo ink is often shared and can be contaminated with blood-borne pathogens.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment occurs abroad just as it does in the US. Even if you have never experienced sexual harassment before, know that in some countries street harassment such as shouting obscenities, comments on your appearance or dress or other verbal or nonverbal sexual harassment may be a cultural norm. Sexual harassment laws also differ from country to country. The country in which you study may not consider unwanted sexual attention harassment even if it would clearly be harassment in the US. Therefore, the safest way to manage unwanted sexual attention is to immediately distance yourself from the individual or situation, speak up in a clear and firm manner when possible, and, most importantly, report the incident immediately to your program administrator or housing coordinator.  Please remember that reporting the incident helps keep you and others safe.

Be aware that some men may mistake friendliness for romantic interest. If you feel that someone is misunderstanding you, distance yourself from them immediately and connect with someone from your group. Dress in ways that are culturally appropriate for the country in which you are studying. Never accept drinks from strangers. If you put your drink down and leave it—even for a moment—throw it away. Never invite people you do not know to your apartment. Even if you know someone, use caution when hosting anyone not in your program in your apartment. Again, making sure that you have a friend nearby helps keep you safer.

Sexual Violence and Relationship Violence

Having a full and engaged experience while studying abroad is important and can be threatened by negative experiences. Sexual violence and relationship violence are traumatic events that can destroy your term abroad. Many of us don’t think about potential dangers and the contexts that provoke certain crimes in other countries. To reduce the possibility of sexual or relationship violence, there are some important points to remember. There is a common perception around the world that American women and men are sexually active, heavy partiers who liberally consume alcohol and other drugs, and want to have romantic or sexual relationships with people from other countries. While these stereotypes may surprise you, they need to be taken seriously in order to reduce the potential for harm. Thus it is even more important for students studying abroad to be educated and aware about the issue and context of sexual and relationship violence. Culture-specific concerns will be addressed in orientation sessions and in IDSA 201.

Violence against women is a growing concern all over the world. Sexual violence is prevalent in all cultures. Sometimes when students are out of a familiar environment, they are even more vulnerable to these crimes. Please remember that if someone commits one of these crimes against you, you are not responsible.

Upon becoming aware of any incident of sexual misconduct, Lander University will seek to respond appropriately to ensure your safety. While studying abroad, if you have experienced or wish to report sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, or stalking, please contact the Title IX Coordinator or any of the Deputy Coordinators. While the 2020 Title IX regulations note that sexual misconduct that occurs outside of the United States is not covered under Title IX, the University’s Equal Opportunity, Non-Discrimination, and Non-Harassment Policy may be applicable. The full policy, pertinent staff contact information, and the online reporting form is accessible HERE. The Title IX Team can assist in securing academic and other supportive measures, as well as discuss reporting options. Our ultimate goal is to help ensure you are safe and connected with all available resources.

Please note that reports to Coordinators or study abroad advisors are not confidential. If you would like to speak to a counselor that can maintain your confidentiality, please contact the University’s Wellness Center. (Virtual appointments are available.) In addition, be sure to research Pathways to Safety International prior to your departure for additional information regarding support and resources. 

Avoid illegal drugs

Do not put yourself or others at risk. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking illegal drugs overseas are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Something that might be considered a misdemeanor or even legal in the US may be a felony in another country. Being a citizen of the United States does not matter—you are subject to the laws of the country you are in. The US Consulate cannot get you released if you are arrested. They can only help notify family and arrange a lawyer. Lander University cannot assume any responsibility for you if you are arrested.

All Lander students are held to the academic and social policies of the Lander University Student Handbook. Regardless of the laws of your host country, use of any drug by a Lander student may result in termination from the program at the student’s own expense.

Alcohol

Drinking ages vary from country to country, but excessive drinking is inappropriate no matter where you are. Excessive drinking can lead to serious consequences, including dismissal from the program. Moreover, all cultures consider drunkenness as socially unacceptable. If you do drink, do so responsibly and in moderation.

What Can You Do in a Crisis Abroad?
  • Avoid obvious risks (e.g., do not swim where a lifeguard is not present).
  • Carry with you local emergency phone numbers.
  • Know the first point of contact for safety at your host school.
  • Inform your program or university staff of your personal travel during the term and your contact information during that travel. Enter this information on your Via TRM portal as well.
  • Know the safety protocol for treating sexual assault survivors. Is it safe to go to the police? Are sexual assault survivors advised to visit the police in all locations?
  • Plan for fire safety.
  • Know how to handle medications abroad.
  • Know where to go and whom to call for hospitalization abroad.
  • Pack a backpack of essential items if evacuation is a possibility due to a natural disaster or a political or health crisis.
Emergency Information

In the event of an emergency overseas, study abroad participants are encouraged to contact the appropriate local authorities as well as any on-site emergency contact. Do your research prior to departure so that you are fully prepared in the event of an emergency. Remember that “911” is not the universal emergency number, so make sure you know the emergency numbers for your host country. You may also contact the Lander University Police Department at 864-388-8222; however, realize that this point of contact is not ideal for crisis situations that require an immediate response. LUPD dispatchers are available 24/7.

Communicating While Away

There are many different ways to communicate while you are away. The best form of communication will depend on you, your interests, and where you’ll be studying. It is important to stay in touch with your family and friends, but not to the extent that it interferes with your experience away. Start talking with your family and friends now about the frequency that you’ll be able to communicate with them. Make sure to consider the cost of international communication if you are traveling abroad, both in terms of time and money, when having this conversation.

 

Email

Email can be used to send group messages to your friends and family. Continue to monitor your Lander email as campus offices will still send communications to your Lander account.

 

Blogs

Blogs are a great way to stay in touch with all of your friends and family all at once without spending a lot of time composing individual emails. Two popular blog sites that allow you to set up your own page are WordPress and Blogger/BlogSpot. You can find links to more blogging sites here.

 

Social Media

You know this already! Social media sites like Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and the older but still widely used WhatsApp, YouTube, and Facebook are tremendously popular for quickly updating a status or posting pictures for friends and family to see. While we definitely recommend limiting the time you spend on social media, sites like these will notify your friends and family on your behalf as you post new materials.

Be conservative with the information you put out on blogs and social media sites, especially regarding location and personal information. Review and customize your privacy settings for your social media sites, understanding the inherent risks of publicizing information online. No matter which platform you use, be sure to check out the safety tips and how to adjust your privacy settings on that site.

 

Cell Phones

Cell phone usage overseas is a constantly changing landscape with new innovations and cost-saving options presenting themselves to world travelers.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • How much do I plan to use my cell phone?
  • Does it make sense to adjust my current calling plan and use my own cell phone abroad? While very convenient, the cost may be prohibitive.
  • Can I purchase a new SIM card for my phone once abroad? This alternative will give you a new local telephone number, but you will preserve all your contacts.
  • Can I wait to purchase an inexpensive cell phone upon arrival in my host country and subscribe to a pay-as-I-go plan? This is the least expensive cell phone strategy, but it also is the most limited.
  • Can I rely on a free, cross-platform instant messaging and voice over IP (VoIP) application, such as WhatsApp or GroupMe, even though these do not work when I am out of WiFi range?

Some study abroad programs provide students with a cell phone or have partnerships with specific wireless providers. Your program will provide you with some recommendations and information in their pre-departure materials.

Former program participants can probably give you the best information about cell phone strategies.

 

Calling Cards

Calling cards can be purchased in-country and used to call back to the US. If you purchase calling cards in the US, make sure they can be used while abroad. Note that US 1-800 numbers are NOT toll-free abroad.

 

Voice over IP

VoIP can be used to make telephone calls from a computer to a computer, landline, or cell phone. Past study abroad students have recommended using programs such as WhatsApp, GroupMe, and Skype.

 

Mailing and Packages

Communicating by traditional mail while overseas is notoriously slow—it really is snail mail.

Receiving packages abroad can be complicated by customs and varying postal services from country to country. A number of students have reported that receiving packages abroad was not worth the effort it took to collect them.

 

Closing Thought

When you are overseas, remember why you are there, and keep in mind that your time there is precious. Resist the temptation to continuously connect electronically with family and friends back home. Don’t allow social media to cause you to miss out on opportunities that exist only while you are away!