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Health and Safety on Study Abroad

Health and Safety on Study Abroad

Health and Medical Care

Living and studying abroad presents significant physical and psychological challenges. Even mild problems may be exacerbated by the stress associated with adjusting to a new cultural environment. If you are not in good physical and emotional health, you should carefully consider your plans to study abroad at this time. If you have any questions about your situation, be sure to consult with your parents, health and counseling services, or your private physician and/or counselor. Be sure to provide the Hollins Abroad office with accurate and complete physical and mental health information on your Health Report and Release form. Having this information can make the difference in our ability to meet your medical and psychological needs while abroad. While you are abroad, as at home, you are more likely to stay healthy if you eat well, get enough sleep and exercise, and refrain from risky behaviors, including excessive drinking, drug use, and having unprotected sex.

  • If you need medical care while abroad, the Hollins Abroad director can recommend private physicians, dentists, and counselors as well as hospitals for emergency care and can assist in making appointments.
  • If you need a particular type of medication, bring a sufficient supply with you for the duration of your time abroad. All prescription medication brought into another country should be accompanied by a photocopy of the prescription, preferably noting the generic name of the drug.
  • If you require allergy shots, you should notify the Hollins Abroad office with the details, so we can look into the feasibility of arranging shots for you abroad.
  • If you wear glasses or contact lenses, bring an extra pair or the prescription with you. Also bring a supply of care products for your glasses/lenses.
  • If you have any physical condition that may require emergency care, you should purchase and carry an identification tag, bracelet, or card on you at all times, indicating the specific nature of your problem and what should be done in the event you are unable to communicate.

If you would like further information about health emergencies, please visit the State Department website. 


Students on Hollins Abroad are required to enroll for health insurance through Hollins University's study abroad insurance provider, Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI). This comprehensive insurance covers claims outside the U.S. and the premiums are included in your comprehensive fee. You will receive the CISI plan and schedule of benefits after you return the enrollment form (included in your acceptance packet.)



Life in most European cities is as safe as, or much safer than, life in a large city in the U.S. Violent crime is relatively rare, although petty theft is quite common. It is important that you use common sense and observe reasonable safety precautions while you are abroad, as you would at home.

  • Register your trip on-line with the U.S. Department of State STEP program (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program). This will enable Department of State officials to communicate with and assist you in an emergency. You can register at this on-line site as soon as you have your overseas address.
  • Do not leave your bags or belongings unattended at any time. Security staff at airports and train stations are instructed to destroy any unattended luggage. Do not agree to carry or look after letters, packages, or suitcases for anyone.
  • Never keep all of your documents and money in one place or one suitcase. Once you arrive, keep your passport in a safe place. Don't carry your passport with you unless you need it. A U.S. passport is an enticing target for thieves; thousands are reported stolen overseas every year and passports can no longer be replaced at U.S. embassies and consulates overseas except in emergencies and only for travel home.
  • Don't ever keep all your money and credit cards with you. Just take what you need for each day and leave the rest in a safe place.
  • Remember that, at least at first, you will be unfamiliar with your surroundings, local customs, behavior, and body language. You won't know whom to trust. Be more cautious than you would at home, where you are better able to "read" a given situation.
  • Avoid walking alone in poorly lit or deserted streets, parks, and other areas.
  • Even when accompanied by others, stay away from areas of a city reputed to be dangerous.
  • If you find yourself in uncomfortable surroundings, act as though you know what you are doing and where you are going.
  • Know how to use public phones and how to contact the police. Have necessary coins or phone cards with you.
  • Areas around public telephones and the underground are common places for pickpocket activity. Keep backpacks and purses in hand. Safeguard calling card numbers.
  • Do not leave money, credit cards, IDs or valuables in a backpack that you carry behind you.
  • If you don't want to or can't afford to lose something, don't take it with you. When traveling, don't show off cash or expensive jewelry or watches in stores or on the street. Keep your money in a money belt or bag that fits across your chest when you are on the street, on public transportation, and in public buildings.
  • Be aware of the dangerous effect that alcohol consumption can have on your ability to use common sense and make good judgments, especially in unfamiliar situations. Don't accept drinks from or get drunk with strangers.
  • Stay away from illegal drugs entirely. Use of illegal drugs is grounds for immediate dismissal from the program. Most foreign countries have extremely strict laws regarding even small quantities of drugs and there is very little that program staff or U.S. officials can do to help you if you are caught with illegal drugs. 
  • Remember that you are subject to the laws of whatever country you are in, which may be much more restrictive than those in the U.S. U.S. standards of due process may not apply in overseas legal proceedings and Hollins cannot provide or pay for legal representation of program participants. Familiarize yourself with local laws and don't jeopardize your studies and your freedom by breaking them.
  • Do not hitchhike or accept rides from strangers.
  • Let your hosts, friends and/or the program director know of any travel plans and how they can reach you. Have the director's phone number with you at all times in case of emergency.
  • When traveling, do not tell strangers where you are staying.
  • Always have two sources of funds available to you - an ATM card and traveler's checks, for example. If for any reason you can't get money from one source, you'll still have access to cash.
  • Go the opposite direction of any disturbance. Do not get involved. Avoid political demonstrations and protests. In the case of sudden political upheaval involving the U.S. or your host country, rely on instructions from the program director.
  • Remember that any behavior that puts you or your fellow students in danger is grounds for dismissal from the program.

In the current world situation, some added precautions are advisable:

  • Avoid places frequented by Americans--pubs, fast food restaurants, U.S. business and government offices.
  • Avoid rowdy behavior in public.
  • Avoid dressing in ways that readily identify you as an American.
  • Be cautious about how much you tell strangers or people you don't know well about your program, its location, your residence, or any travel plans.
  • Do not invite strangers or recent acquaintances to your program building.
  • Report any suspicious people or packages to the front desk staff.

The website of the U.S. Department of State ( ) provides a wealth of information on safety and security in overseas travel. The consular information sheets provide cultural, practical, and safety information on every country in the world. It is a good idea to read these information sheets before traveling to any country. Other worthwhile links can be found via the US State Department under Students Abroad.

We strongly recommend that you regularly monitor the Department of State's website for alerts issued for U.S. citizens abroad. There are two kinds of alerts issued by the State Department. The first is a "public announcement," which notifies Americans of a potential threat and suggests measures they should take when traveling in a particular country or region. The second is a higher level of alert, called a "travel warning," which is generally a recommendation that Americans not travel to a particular country or region. We suggest that you go to the website before departure and read examples of each of these types of warnings so you will be familiar with them and the reasons they are issued. While travel warnings are uncommon in Europe (except in the Balkan region), public announcements are sometimes issued, especially when a controversial international meeting is scheduled and large demonstrations are expected. The Hollins Abroad office receives these bulletins as they are issued and immediately forwards them to the program directors and all students if they cover countries or cities to which you might travel.

In the unlikely event that a travel warning is issued for the United Kingdom while Hollins Abroad is in session, we will consult with the U.S. Department of State here and our director will consult with the U.S. embassy in London to determine the safest course of action. Hollins Abroad has emergency plans ready for implementation should the need arise.

Hollins cannot assume responsibility for actions or for events that are not part of the program nor for those that are beyond our control or for situations that may arise due to the failure of a participant to disclose pertinent information.

Health and Safety Resources

International Emergency Contacts
A list of police, medical, embassy and consulate contact information organized by country.

U.S. Department of State – Information for Students Traveling Abroad
Here you will find safe travel suggestions, contact information for consulates, and information on their Smart Traveler Alert Program (STEP) which is free, and provides you with timely updates regarding any potential civil or weather related dangers.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Infectious Diseases: Travelers' Health
Includes vaccination recommendations and information on the latest outbreaks of diseases around the world, and provides health information on specific destinations.

Center for Global Education
Features a Study Abroad Safety Handbook which explains how foreign laws apply to American students and provides tips on dealing with cultural differences.

Mobility International
Mobility International USA (MIUSA) is a resource center for disability-related questions about your international study, work, volunteer, teaching or cultural program.