Health + Safety

While the benefits of study abroad are immense, the thought of ones child living so far away in another country can rattle the nerves of even the most easygoing parents.  The majority of students enjoy safe and incident-free experiences abroad but there are inherent risks in traveling, studying and living abroad and you and your student must become educated and prepared for them.  Common sense and good judgment are the best tips for staying safe anywhere in the world, so one of the most important things you can do as a parent is to make sure that your child is mature enough to study abroad and that they approach the experience seriously.

Research risks and be informed

Crime, natural disasters and political upheaval can take place anywhere in the world, even here at home.  It is important to research where your child is going but it is also important to keep the information learned in perspective and to check facts.  Most crime and disease statistics are almost always given for the overall population and not for the small subset of tourists or international students that your child will be among.  One of the best ways for your child to stay safe is to be as informed about his or her destination as possible before arriving.  Encourage your child to seek out information from official websites such as those listed below, as well as from program staff.  Here are a few tips:

  • Research current events, customs and culture, politics, economics, history, religion, geography and climate.
  • Read about everyday behaviors and practices of the people well before departure and from several different resources.
  • Talk to people who either grew up or spent considerable time in the country where they are going and ask them specifically about differences abroad and how to deal with them.
  • Ask about U.S. stereotypes people may have encountered while studying abroad and how to deal with them.

Once your student is abroad and on their program, it is essential that they listen and adhere to all safety recommendations and advice given to them by the on-site program staff and local officials like the police and embassy.

Some of the best sources for information are:

The U.S. Department of State, which issues country-specific travel advisories and up-to-date information on health and safety issues, especially in those countries where extra caution is warranted.  The site offers safe travel tips and a comprehensive list of action steps to take both before departing and while travelling.  They also have a specific site just for students abroad.

http://www.state.gov/travel/

http://travel.state.gov/content/studentsabroad/en.html

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides detailed information on staying healthy while traveling, including - but not limited to - lists of required immunizations and other health recommendations, tips on food and water safety, and confirmed outbreaks of disease.

http://www.cdc.gov/

Travel guides, books and websites focused on LIVING abroad (rather than visiting for a short time) offer valuable information.  Some countries and cities have websites for American ex-patriots living there which can be a great resource.

Talk about health and safety

Whether your student is a seasoned traveler or a first-timer, they must think about personal safety and understand the risks inherent to being in a foreign land.  In addition to doing research about your child's destination, you should talk together about the importance of safety and making smart decisions.  Some tips:

Be very alert upon arrival.  Fatigue and excitement upon arrival can make your child more susceptible to dangers.

Be familiar with local laws.  Once on foreign soil, your child is subject to all laws of that country and is expected to know about and obey them.  They should also pay attention to the news and keep up with what is going on in the area.

Get to know the neighborhood.  Soon after arriving, your child should get to know the neighborhood, safe and unsafe areas, local markets and laundry, public transportation and emergency services.  With Google Earth, it is easy and fun to virtually explore before arriving which can help to ease some of the anxiety.

Don't bring expensive things or anything of personal value.  Pick pocketing is an unfortunate reality in most other countries of the world so students need to be very careful.  They should not carry their passports around with them on a daily basis but use a copy as a form of ID.

Do not drink alcohol or take drugs. Most safety incidents that occur abroad involve alcohol and or drugs so students are strongly advised to either not drink at all or do so in moderation and responsibly. Students should never buy or use illegal drugs.

Be careful on the road.  Auto accidents account for student deaths abroad every year.  Advise your student not to rent a car or moped, avoid taxis without seatbelts and only use recommended and established public transportation or buses.

Medical insurance abroad

Trinity College requires all students studying abroad to have comprehensive medical insurance for their time away.  Although many insurance plans in this country may claim to provide coverage abroad,  the type and amount of coverage can vary greatly.  For this reason, all students will be enrolled in special study abroad insurance, at no additional cost.

Trinity programs include comprehensive insurance and all students will be enrolled in HTH Worldwide Insurance.  HTH has many important services, such as information on the availability, doses, and names of medications overseas, access to a network of English speaking doctors worldwide, emergency medical and political evacuation, and 24/7 emergency help. Through the HTH website, http://www.hthstudents.com, you may book doctor’s appointments, search for local clinics and health care, and even receive comprehensive travel advice.

Approved External programs can vary with their insurance coverage.  Some have a comprehensive insurance policy that has been vetted by the Trinity Office of Study Away which students will be automatically enrolled in by the program and the cost is included in the program fee.  For programs that have moderate to minimal coverage, Trinity will automatically enroll those students in the HTH Worldwide plan and the cost is covered by the Trinity Study Away Fee. 

Regardless of which type of program your child is studying on, it is important to keep your child enrolled in their insurance here in the US for the time they will be away.  In a rare case, a student may have to return home early from a program so they will need to have coverage.

Enroll in STEP

American students should enroll in the STEP program through the U.S. Department of State.  It is a very easy process to do online and registers the students travel plans so that American government personnel know of their whereabouts if anything should happen in the country they are going to.  They can also warn students of pending situations to avoid in their area.

https://step.state.gov/step/

Encourage ​common sense

No matter how familiar your child is with their surroundings or knows the language, simple common sense plays a key role in keeping students safe abroad.

Protect valuables and look out for scams.  Pick pocketing is the predominate crime in most foreign countries so students must take extra measures to keep their belongings safe.  Program staff can alert students to the scams to look out for.

Keep friends and the program updated on whereabouts.  Whether your child spends the night away from their home abroad or goes travelling for a few days, they must let friends and the program staff know where they are.

Maintain a low profile.  Keeping a low profile as a foreigner is a good practice to be able to experience the culture more but also to avoid  potential situations targeted at visitors.

Don't walk around at night alone.  Students should always be with a friend when walking around at night and never leave a friend behind anywhere.

Don't take short cuts through alleys or neighborhoods that are unfamiliar

Don't accept food or drinks from strangers.  Especially in bars, students should keep their hand and eye on their glass at all times so there is not an opportunity for someone to slip something into it.

Don't get drunk.  Alcohol is the cause of the majority of safety incidents that occur abroad.  At the same time, alcohol is an important aspect to many cultures which students should learn about and respect.

Don't use drugs.  Aside from the safety risks with buying or using drugs, local laws vary and often there is a stricter no-tolerance policy than students may be used to here in the U.S.

Practice safe sex.  In many parts of the world, STD's and AIDS/HIV are major health problems so students must protect themselves by using condoms.

Stay away from high crime areas.  Students should pay attention to the advise given by their program staff about places to avoid.  if they are unsure, they can always ask someone about a particular area.