Students play an important role in managing their own health, safety and security, beginning with preparation prior to the program and continuing through their time abroad. By being knowledgeable about the host country, making responsible decisions, identifying available resources, and asking for assistance when necessary, students can prevent a number of possible issues.
Students are ultimately responsible for their own personal preparations. The following guidelines will help you as you make preparations for your health and safety while abroad.
Your Health Abroad
General steps prior to departure:
Review all materials issued by Rice Study Abroad, your individual program, the Department of State, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and International SOS for recommendations related to safety, health, legal, environmental, political, and cultural conditions in your host country.
Consider your individual health and other personal circumstances when applying to study abroad. Learn how medical care differs from home and how to handle personal health concerns at your destination
Schedule a routine checkup with your primary care physician, dentist, and any other necessary health care professionals.
Disclose any ongoing physical or mental medical conditions to your program and Rice Study Abroad, plus any other personal information relevant to individual health and wellbeing. Past conditions for which you no longer require treatment should also be included, as being in a new and challenging environment can in some cases cause recurrence.
Plan for access to required medication while abroad. Make copies of any important health records and know how to contact your physician or therapist from abroad, if necessary.
Obtain and maintain appropriate insurance coverage. Many foreign universities/programs mandate that their international students obtain health insurance during their study abroad. In some cases, your program will include health insurance as part of their program fees, while in other cases you'll need to obtain coverage on your own. You may wish to check if it's possible to take out a short-term international plan with your U.S. healthcare provider, or alternately you can check with your university/program if they recommend a provider. Be sure that your insurance coverage is sufficient for any special needs you may have.
Verify immunization/vaccination requirements for traveling to your destination. Your program should have the best information, and your can also verify with the sources/contacts listed above.
Plan for prescriptions
If you take prescription medications, bring a supply to last throughout your time abroad. In other countries, some medications cannot be distributed in large quantities, and others can be difficult to travel with. Carry prescription medications and copies of the prescription itself in your carry-on luggage. Some medications abroad may not be the same as those in the United States, may be marketed differently, or are only available in different doses. Your may wish to discuss with your doctor whether it is necessary to receive from them a letter from describing the conditions being treated, your medications and their generic names, and their dosages. It is also prudent to take note of the active ingredients for any medications you may need to purchase while abroad.
Getting medical assistance while abroad
If you become ill or injured while abroad, contact your program staff or International SOS for information and advice on doctors and pharmacies in your host country. The U.S. embassy or local consulate should be able to provide information of English-speaking doctors in your area. Be aware that in many countries, especially those with nationalized healthcare systems, doctor’s visits are only for emergencies; for common ailments, seek out a pharmacist to help you find the appropriate medication.
Prior to departure
Research conditions at your destination before you decide where to study abroad. Learn as much as you can about the political, living, health, crime and general safety conditions. The Department of State maintains a comprehensive travel website, with consular information sheets and travel advisories.
Discuss your plans and make sure that your parents/guardians and any other necessary individuals have a clear understanding of your itinerary and how to contact you. Make sure they have copies of relevant travel documents (including your passport), and your program's contact information. Develop a plan for regular contact, as well as contact in case of emergency.
Register your travel with the Department of State's Smart Traveller Enrollment Program (STEP) and International SOS.
Keep program staff informed of your whereabouts and well-being as per the program’s guidelines.
Understand and comply with the terms of participation and codes of conduct in your program, as well as the Rice student code of conduct, and obey host country laws.
Be aware of local conditions that may present health or safety risks in your daily life. Inform program staff of any health or safety concerns.
Become familiar with the procedures for obtaining emergency health and law enforcement services in the host country.
Use normal common-sense precauations like you would in the U.S. (e.g. the buddy system, keep cash and important documents safe, avoid unsafe areas).
Drugs and alcohol
Drinking to excess places you at risk for accidents and could also result in judgment lapses that may result in you being victimized by crime. Furthermore, every country has different laws regarding alcohol and drug use, and consumption can carry severe legal consequences. Avoid possession and usage of drugs deemed illict by the host country; penalties are substantially more severe than the U.S. in many foreign countries.
Sexual harassment and assault
Sexual violence can occur abroad just as it can on campus or at home. Rice students participating on study abroad programs are bound by all Rice policies contained in the General Announcements, as well as Title IX policy prohibiting sexual misconduct. While abroad, it is essential that students know whom to contact in an emergency, and that they are familiar with the [resources on campus should sexual violence occur. Students who experience sexual violence while abroad are advised to first ensure that they are safe. Program staff who are on-site are primarily responible for your wellbeing and should be contacted soonest; you may also wish to contact International SOS (who will inform the appropriate party at Rice), on-campus resources such as the Wellbeing and Counselling Center, or Student Judicial Programs, depending on the circumstances. Students who are studying abroad and experience sexual violence have access to all of the resources at Rice University.
Know how to communicate in an emergency
Carry contact information with you at all times including that of your program director/host country university, host family or university residence, International SOS and Rice Study Abroad Office. Note the telephone number and address of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Check to see what your host country's "911" number is.
Host country contacts and your itinerary
Make sure that your foreign university/program staff, host family, or whoever on-site is responsible for your welfare knows how to contact you in an emergency. Share your schedule and itinerary every time you plan on traveling, even if only during the day or overnight.