Study Abroad

Health and Safety

We want to make sure that all of our study abroad students are healthy and safe while participating in a program abroad.

Health: In-Country

Keeping yourself in good health is of paramount importance when you study abroad. Changes in climate and the fast pace of travel may cause health problems abroad. Colds, sore throats, coughs and gastrointestinal disorders associated with different foods and water are inevitable. It is important to be aware of the things that can affect your health, so that you can enjoy your time abroad more fully.

Primary and Supplemental Medical Insurance

While participating in a BenU study abroad program, you are required to maintain your primary insurance coverage. You will be asked to provide information about your current health insurance provider. Additionally, you are required to provide proof of supplemental travel insurance (or study abroad insurance). Please let a copy of your insurance information with the education abroad coordinator and carry your insurance cards with you at all times during your time abroad. If you are in need of non-emergency medical care overseas, first contact your host institution contact person who can help you locate a medical facility.

Medical Emergencies

What should you do if you become ill or are injured? In the event of a medical emergency, contact your host institution coordinator immediately. If you are unable to reach these individuals and your medical condition requires immediate attention, go to the nearest hospital or medical facility.

Emergency Contact Guidelines
  1. Contact your resident director, host institution coordinator, or other in-country contact person immediately.
  2. Contact IPS, during regular office hours, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Ask to speak with your study abroad advisor.
  3. After hours and on weekends, call the University Police Department 24-hour number at (630) 829-6666 to report your emergency. This 24-hour number will be answered by University Police, who will take your information and contact the appropriate university personnel.
  4. Contact your family or appropriate person(s) in the United States and establish a communication schedule.
Other Emergencies

Non-medical emergencies are situations that do not involve injury, illness, or urgent medical attention. Nevertheless, such circumstances can be upsetting and stressful and need to be promptly resolved. In the event of a non-medical emergency, follow the emergency contact guidelines above. In some cases, it may be necessary to file a police report with local authorities, particularly if you are assaulted or robbed. If your passport is lost or stolen, you will need to report it to the U.S. consulate in your host country as soon as possible. If your credit/debit cards are lost or stolen, you should immediately contact the bank or financial institution that issued the cards.

HIV/AIDS

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) remains a prevalent health problem worldwide. Contaminated blood and unprotected sexual contact remain the primary means by which HIV is transmitted.

There is no foolproof list of guidelines that will protect you from the AIDS virus. However, while you study abroad, there are things you can do to significantly decrease the risk of infection. Keep the following suggestions in mind:

  • Act responsibly.
  • Avoid injections, IVs, or medical or dental treatments unless you are certain that needles and instruments are sterile.
  • If you have a health condition that requires injections (e.g., diabetes), you should take an adequate supply of syringes and needles. Please bring a note or prescription from your doctor if you carry syringes or needles with you.
  • Avoid blood transfusions if at all possible. If you require a blood transfusion due to an injury, then you, your resident director, or treating physician can call your personal physician for advice before you provide consent.
  • Refrain from high-risk activities, which involve the use of needles or syringes such as skin piercing, tattooing, acupuncture, or intravenous drug use.
  • If you are sexually active, use latex condoms. Some countries may require foreign visitors (usually those staying more than three months) to take an HIV test. Before traveling abroad, check with the embassy of the host country to learn about entry requirements, whether HIV testing is one of those and if you may need to show documentation upon arrival.

To review country specific information, including entry and exit requirements, visit travel.state.gov and click on International Travel. For more information about HIV and AIDS, contact:

National AIDS Hotline: 1-800-342-2437
Centers for Disease Control: cdc.gov

Safety: In-Country

BenU is strongly committed to providing a safe, healthy and productive learning experience for all students on study abroad programs. The following guidelines have been developed to promote the safety and well-being of every study abroad participant and to raise students' awareness of potential areas of concern.

Study Abroad and Safety

Student safety and well-being are the foremost concerns of BenU. From pre-departure orientation to on-site orientation and continuing throughout the program, BenU and its host institutions provide guidance on maintaining personal safety while overseas. In addition, IPS implemented the following protocol for all of our study abroad students:

  • All BenU students are strongly encouraged to register with the U.S. Department of State for the period of time they are out of the United States. The website is here.
  • Education abroad coordinators maintain regular email and telephone contact with BenU host institutions where our students are studying.
  • All BenU students are required to obtain supplemental health insurance, which includes emergency medical features.
  • BenU University Police are available by telephone and email 24 hours a day to address study abroad student concerns. Additionally, University Police have the ability to contact the education abroad coordinator 24/7 via phone.
  • BenU reminds study abroad students to take personal responsibility for their own health and safety.
  • BenU draws upon a variety of information sources to assess the security situation in countries where students are sent. We routinely monitor U.S. government travel advisories issued from the U.S. Department of State and by U.S. embassies. We encourage potential and current study abroad students to regularly visit the U.S. Department of State website (state.gov) for security updates and related information for U.S. citizens who are overseas. We solicit information and insight from our host institutions as well as other U.S. universities with overseas programs. We also take advantage of the expertise of Benedictine faculty members who have experience in the regions and countries where we send students. While total safety cannot be guaranteed abroad – just as it cannot be in the United States – BenU is committed to take the steps to maximize safety for students who participate in study abroad programs.
STEP: Smart Traveler Enrollment Program

IPS strongly recommends that Study Abroad students sign up for the free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (formerly known as "Travel Registration" or "Registration with Embassies") to receive the latest travel updates and information from the U.S. Department of State.

The website for STEP is here. A well-informed traveler is a safer traveler. Consular officers around the world compile country-specific information, travel alerts, travel warnings, fact sheets and emergency messages to provide you with timely and accurate travel information about every country where you may travel. In addition, STEP reports on possible risks and security threats so that you can make informed decisions about your travel plans and activities. Stay informed by connecting with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so you can have safe and enjoyable travels. International students cannot register through the U.S. Department of State travel website. If you are an international student participating in a BenU study abroad program, you are encouraged to check the website of your home country embassy to find out if you can register your overseas travel. BenU is nonetheless committed to ensuring the safety and welfare of every study abroad student. In an emergency, contact your resident director or host institution coordinator first. If this is not possible, call University Police 24-hour emergency number at (630) 829-6666 to locate the help and resources you need.

U.S. Department of State Information for Students

The U.S. Department of State has also created a very comprehensive website devoted to health, safety and other important resources specifically for students who are preparing to go abroad is available here.

Independent Travel

Depending upon your study abroad program, you may have opportunities to travel in the country/region where you will be studying. Doing research on the country will help you decide which extra activities to do while you are there. Many education abroad coordinators will give you some program-specific websites during your orientation session as well. Make yourself the most informed traveler possible. You should also invest in a good travel guide for the country or region you are visiting. Travel guides give you very specific information about the country and culture, even down to which side of the bus offers the best view. They also give price guides that are more in line with a student traveler's budget. Recommended guides include: Lonely Planet (lonelyplanet.com), Let's Go (letsgo.com) and Rough Guides (roughguides.com). Beyond guidebooks and websites, students from the country you will be going to and/or students who went previously on your program can be a great source of information about the must-see things to do while on your program. Whether traveling on a study abroad program or independently, students need to take personal responsibility for their own health and safety.

Safety guidelines

These safety guidelines have been developed to provide useful, practical information for students studying abroad, as the health and safety of study abroad participants is one of our primary concerns. Although no set of guidelines can guarantee the health and safety of each individual going on a study abroad program, these guidelines address issues that merit attention and thoughtful judgment. As a study abroad student, you should exercise the same, and even more, personal safety precautions overseas as you would at home. Be aware that you will stand out overseas, possibly making you an easy target. At times, the people you meet may see you with stereotypical eyes. You may find that Americans dress and speak differently than people from your home country. Meeting people and making new friends is an important part of studying abroad, but be mindful. It is possible an occasion may arise when someone may want to become your friend in order to take your money or your passport. It is important to use common sense at all times.

Protect Yourself:
  • Know the basic help phrases in the local language.
  • If you go out alone, always tell someone where you are going.
  • Always report your travel plans to another individual.
  • If you think someone is making bad decisions about safety issues, share your concerns with the person or with the host institution.
  • Do not give your home phone number or address to someone you have just met.
  • Do not hitchhike. Use only reputable taxis.
  • Choose clothing that will not draw attention to you. Avoid camouflage clothing and T-shirts with slogans and/or words that could be offensive to the host culture.
Protect Your Possessions:
  • Wear a concealed money belt or neck pouch.
  • Keep your money in two places. If you are robbed or lose some money, you will have a reserve fund.
  • Do not leave luggage unattended or accept packages from strangers.
  • Leave copies of all important documents in more than one place (e.g., at home in the United States, and in your bags or room while abroad).
  • Leave your passport and other valuables in your room or in a hotel safe. You do not need to carry your passport on a daily basis unless you are going to cash traveler’s checks.
  • Have your valuable items (laptop, iPod, camera, etc.) insured.
Be Vigilant:
  • Do not stand out as a group or individual. Try to blend with your surroundings as best you can.
  • Adopt an attitude of watchfulness and notice the people in your proximity. If someone seems to be following you, vary your route. Go to a store or a populated place or flag down a taxi.
  • Do not go out alone with someone you have just met. Try to meet in a public place.
  • Know the local laws. Laws and systems of justice are not universal. You are subject to the laws of the host country while abroad.
Situations to Avoid:
  • Avoid crowds, protest groups or other potentially volatile situations.
  • When using public transportation, avoid deserted trains, buses and metros. Move to where other people are sitting. Use only registered or legitimate taxis.
  • Avoid deserted streets and exercise caution in unfamiliar neighborhoods.
  • Watch your alcohol consumption. Excessive drinking is neither appropriate nor safe in another culture and in unfamiliar surroundings. If you drink, know your limit.
  • If you are sexually active, take proper precautions to avoid AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancies.
  • Resisting robbers' demands can lead to unpleasant outcomes. Items are replaceable; you are not.
Especially for Women:
  • Educate yourself beforehand about gender roles in the country you will be visiting.
  • Dress conservatively. Clothing that is acceptable in the United States may be perceived as provocative in another country or disrespectful in a specific context (e.g., visiting a religious site).
  • Do not overreact to stares, whistles or other forms of attention, as they may be intended to be compliments rather than harassment.
  • If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, walk away or go to a safe spot or public place.
Sexual Harassment

Study abroad participants, both women and men, should be aware that BenU is committed to providing a living and study environment free from sexual harassment. The University encourages study abroad participants to report concerns and complaints so that prompt corrective measures can be taken to stop sexual harassment whenever it occurs.

What should you do if you experience sexual harassment while studying abroad?
  • Be assertive and let the individual concerned know that his or her conduct is unwelcome and offensive to you.
  • Document what has happened in writing.
  • Report the situation to your in-country contact and your education abroad coordinator. If you are uncomfortable discussing the situation with your host, contact your coordinator directly. BenU is committed to taking prompt and appropriate action in your support. If appropriate, an investigation will be conducted, and if at all possible, your identity will remain confidential. Appropriate disciplinary action will be taken whether BenU or foreign students and/or faculty are involved. If the evidence is inconclusive, some action may still be in order. You will be kept informed on the outcome of your complaint. If the individual who harassed you is not an employee of BenU or host institution, you should still report the incident, because the university may be able to act on your behalf with regard to the situation.
Politics

It is important to educate yourself about current political and social issues of your host country as well as the political and economic relationships between your host country and the United States. You will discover that people in other countries are often very knowledgeable about U.S. issues and they may approach you to ask questions or discuss opinions. It is possible that the political situation will be unstable in some countries you may visit during your study abroad experience. It is extremely unwise to become involved in any sort of political demonstration or activity while you are abroad – whether leftist, rightist or anything in between – no matter how strongly you may feel about the issue. Also while abroad, you may encounter political demonstrations which are specifically anti-American. Try not to take the criticism of U.S. politics personally. You do not have to agree with the critics, but trying to listen to their point of view may be a great learning experience. Even if you agree with the demonstrators, you must remember that you are in another country and should refrain from any action that may jeopardize your status in your host country. Above all, know and obey the laws of the host country because no matter what your country of citizenship is, you are subject to the laws of your host country.

Safe Road Travel

Driving customs and etiquette vary from one country to the next. For example, driving on the left side of the road is the law in many countries, especially in the UK, Australia, and many countries in Africa and Asia. Unusual traffic patterns, traffic roundabouts, and laws regarding passing or right-of-way can seem confusing and disorienting for someone unfamiliar with the traffic laws and practices of the host country. Statistics indicate that road accidents are the single greatest cause of serious injury and death to U.S. citizens traveling abroad. Also, pedestrian rights vary widely from country to country and unfamiliarity with traffic patterns has occasionally resulted in accidents and serious injuries. Most countries have safe, convenient and reliable modes of public transportation. If you travel by taxi, use only reputable taxi services.

For more information on international road travel, visit:

Association for Safe International Road Travel: asirt.org
U.S. Department of State: http://www.state.gov/

U.S. Department of State Advisories

The U.S. Department of State monitors political conditions in every country of the world. Students and parents with concerns about crime and security threats in a given country are urged to take advantage of U.S. Department of State travel advisories. These come in three forms and are available to the public free of charge:

  • Travel Warnings are issued when the U.S. Department of State decides, based on all relevant information, to recommend that Americans avoid travel to a certain country.
  • Travel Alerts offer information about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term or transactional conditions posing significant risk to the security of U.S. travelers.
  • Country specific information is available for every country of the world. This includes information such as immigration practices, health conditions, minor political disturbances, unusual currency and entry regulations, crime and security information, and drug policies. If an unstable situation exists that is not severe enough to warrant a travel warning, this is duly noted.

For current information, travel advisories or warnings, you can contact the US Department of State's website here.