Study Abroad Safety and Health Precautions
When traveling overseas, there are a number of precautions which you should follow in order to travel safely.
Americans are easy targets. We dress differently, we speak loudly in groups, we carry backpacks, wear tennis shoes and the American accent is unmistakable. Thus, and occasion could arise where someone wants to become friends with you in order to obtain your money or your passport.
USE COMMON SENSE AND BE CAUTIOUS
Advice to the Woman Traveling Alone
A woman traveling by herself may encounter more difficulties than a man by himself. Some of the best methods of avoiding hassle are to fit in and try to understand the role of the sexes in the culture of which you are traveling. Flexibility means observing how the host country’s women dress and behave and follow their example. What may be appropriate or friendly behavior in the U.S. might bring unwanted, even dangerous, attention in another culture. Try not to take offense at whistles and other gestures of appreciation, regardless of whether they are compliments, invitations, or insults. Realize these gestures are as much a part of the culture as its food, history, and language; but if your intuition tells you a situation is dangerous, act as if it is. Situations may arise when the unwanted attention becomes very annoying or even frightening. Do not compromise your personal safety to remain culturally tactful. You have a right not to be harassed or frightened. Learn to say, "No, please leave me alone," in the host country’s language and say it firmly. Be extra careful when giving your trust. This applies generally, but it is especially important when traveling alone.
A WORD TO THE WISE
If you are ever considering buying or carrying drugs across international borders, think again. Don’t fool yourself into believing that you can outsmart officials; they know every conceivable way people try to smuggle drugs. Every train, plane, or ferry that leaves "sensitive" countries is routinely checked by drug-sniffing dogs, If you appear even the slightest bit suspicious, customs officials have the right to search you an your belongings including a strip search.
Take, for instance, the story of one student a few years ago. This student returned to the U.K. from Amsterdam without any drugs per se, but he did have what he considered "souvenirs;" i.e. various smoking instruments. He was detained, questioned, strip searched, and almost arrested at the London Airport for the possession of these goods. The movie Midnight Express is also a true story about a Marquette University student arrested for smuggling drugs in Turkey. He was not so lucky and spent close to nine years in a Turkish prison before he escaped. Be smart, don’t try it.
If you are caught with either soft or hard drugs overseas, you are subject to local – not U.S. – laws. Penalties for possession or trafficking are often the same. If you are arrested, you will find that:
If you are convicted, you face a sentence of:
If you are arrested on a drug charge or any other charge, it is important that you know what the U.S. Consular officer CAN and CANNOT do. The U.S. Consular CAN:
The U.S. Consular Officer CANNOT:
Don’t get involved with drugs or any other illegal activities overseas. It can ruin your life!
ISU-sponsored programs all have health insurance included, or in the case of ISEP, purchased separately, but is mandatory. Be sure and check your policy to understand how it works. In general, the on-site director will be on hand to help in an emergency, so be sure and pay attention to health issues during the on-site orientation.
For students who may be direct-enrolling or not going through an ISU-sponsored program, you will need to purchase health coverage. Check first if there is national health coverage available. HTH Worldwide provides a policy. Applications are available through the Study Abroad Office or online (http://www.hthstudents.com/).
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT IDENTITY CARD
The ISIC (International Student Identity Card) can be quite useful especially in Europe. The card provides discounts on airfare and reduced admission to cultural site worldwide. In order to purchase discounted student airfare through STA Travel, an ISIC card is needed. It can be purchased directly through http://stratravel.com/.
The ISIC card also provides supplemental health coverage, in particular emergency medical evacuation. With this card you have access to a toll-free help line for assistance with medical or financial emergencies. The card comes with a detailed handbook that provides information on all of its uses.
Visit your doctor or dentist prior to departure for a routine examination. Discuss immunizations, medications, and health practices that may be required of your host institution with your doctor. Visit the Center for Disease Control website (http://www.cdc.gov/) for information specific to your host country and countries you will be traveling to.
Consult with your doctor regarding prescription drugs and whatever you need to take, and pack them in your carry-on luggage. Have your doctor clearly write the name of the prescription in generic medical terms. Take an adequate supply for your trip because you may not be able to obtain certain prescriptions overseas. If you wear glasses or contact lenses take an extra pair and a prescription with you. Also, take extra contact solution and cleaners because these items may be hard to find or expensive.
TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOURSELF
Culture shock can affect not only your emotions, but your body as well. Your body and immune system can be affected by new climates, and new food. Be kind to your body. A good diet and exercise will make all the difference in maintaining good physical and mental health.
IN CASE OF ILLNESS
See your site director immediately. They can assist you in finding the proper doctor or medical facility. In case of serious illness, contact your parents/family, site director, and Janis to determine whether it is necessary to return home. Medical care in other countries may be different than what you are used to receiving in America. The US consulate or embassy can also be of assistance with a list of health care providers, or in the case of a serious medical situation. Upon your request, they will contact family and friends.
Read carefully the excellent information provided in the packet of information provided by your program.
I will be thinking about you, so take good care wherever you go!
AIDS and International Travel
--What is AIDS? AIDS, the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, is the viral disease which breaks down the body’s immune system and leads to infections and cancers that may be fatal. Even though there are no known vaccines to prevent AIDS, there have been several medical breakthroughs recently in drugs and assistance in preventing AIDS.
--The AIDS virus can be transmitted in four general ways:
1. Through intimate sexual contact-the virus can be transmitted from any infected person to his or her sexual partner, when semen, blood, or vaginal fluids are exchanged.
2. Through infected blood and blood products. This includes blood transfusions in which the blood donated either is not screened or is improperly screened for HIV antibodies.
3. Through contaminated needles or any other HIV-contaminated skin piercing instruments.
4. From an infected mother to her infant before or during delivery, or possibly while breastfeeding.
--The AIDS virus is not transmitted through casual contact. The World Health Organization states: "AIDS is not spread by daily routine activities such as sitting next to someone, shaking hands, or working with people. Nor is it spread by insects or insect bites. AIDS is not spread by swimming pools, public transportation, food, cubs, glasses, plates, toilets, water, air, touching, hugging, coughing, or sneezing."
--Why special concern for the traveler? When traveling abroad, be aware that some countries may require HIV antibody tests, a test for antibodies to the human immune-deficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS. Travelers should also know that some countries may not have the resources to adequately screen blood or provide sterile needles. Living oversees may present greater risks to those who test positive for the HIV virus. Many overseas locations have limited medical facilities that can not monitor the progress of such infections. Therefore, if you believe you may be infected, knowing your HIV status will help in planning your trip. Some countries now require incoming foreigners, including students, to take the HIV antibody test. Usually this is required for long-term stays. If you are studying abroad, check with the consulate to see if that country requires testing. You may need a doctor’s certificate showing the results of such a test. For those traveling abroad who are HIV positive, contact the consulate or embassy of the country(ies) you plan to visit. Each country may have specific entry requirements or requirements regarding carrying medicines that you should know about before you leave.
--If the country you are going to requires testing:
1. Learn about the HIV antibody test and its ramifications. Talk to a trained counselor who can give you more information and address your concerns and questions.
2. If you decide you want to be tested, do so only at a center that offers pre- and post-test counseling. There are many institutions whose primary focus is AIDS counseling.
3. Allow yourself two weeks for the testing process.
4. Consider getting tested twice-first anonymously, then again for a certificate, if needed.
--While many countries such as the US and parts of Europe have mandatory screening of donated blood for the AIDS virus, not all do. Travelers should inquire at the local Red Cross office of Western embassies about safe sources of blood oversees. In some locales, ascertaining the availability of HIC-screened blood and blood products may be difficult. Because of obvious uncertainties, consider these precautions:
1. People traveling together can form a "walking blood bank" in which members know each other’s blood type and agree to be possible donors for each other.
2. If you are injured or ill while abroad, avoid or postpone any blood transfusions unless it is absolutely necessary. If you do need blood, try to ensure that screened blood is used.
3. If you need a doctor’s attention overseas, ask for a "western style" hospital in order to receive proper care.
--Regardless of the blood screening practices abroad, always try to reduce the risk of serious injury which may require blood transfusions by taking everyday precautions such as wearing a seatbelt, driving carefully, using a condom if you are sexually active, and taking good care of yourself. Condoms are not always as easily available in many countries as they are in the US- you should take them with you. Abstinence is the safest alternative.
--Here in the US, we make take for granted disposable equipment such as needles and syringes. Be advised that some foreign countries will reuse even disposable equipment. In some countries, if an injection is required, you can buy needles and syringes and bring them to the hospital for your own use. Avoid injections unless absolutely necessary. Use caution regarding instrument sterilization with all instruments that pierce the skin, including tattooing, acupuncture, ear piercing, and dental work. The CDC recommends that "Diabetics or other persons who require routine or frequent injections should carry a supply of syringes and needles sufficient to last their stay abroad." Carry a note from your doctor if you need to carry needles and syringes.
--Finally, don’t be put off if other cultures treat you differently simple because you are an American. The AIDS epidemic may have given some people in foreign countries another reason to be wary of Americans.
*This is adapted for material made available to CIEE/Council Travel by Juan Carlos Garcia and Alejandro M. Martinez, PhD, Cowell Student Health Center, Standford University. Special thanks to Mr. Chuch Frutchey, Director of Education, San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
Name (Print): _________________________________________________________________
Date of Birth: ___________________________ ID #: 991-____________________________
To ensure that you are able to receive appropriate medical care while you are studying in a foreign country, you are asked to provide a candid evaluation of your health. If there are special arrangements that need to be made for you (i.e. see a doctor on a regular basis, administer prescription medication, special diet, etc) please let us know in advance. Please respond to all questions.
1. Do you have any dietary restriction or known food allergies? Yes_______ No_______
If yes, please explain:
2. Are you currently undergoing treatment or taking medication? Yes_______ No_______
If yes, please explain:
3. Do you have any disabilities for which you may need special Yes_______ No_______
medication or care?
If yes, please explain:
4. Is there any other information about your health (physical or Yes_______ No_______
emotional) which is important for us to know?
If yes, please explain:
5. Are there any questions regarding your health, family history Yes_______ No_______
or other matters you wish to discuss with a member of the ISU
Health Services Staff?
(It is recommended that you have a physical examination prior
to your departure)
The answers that I have given are correct to the best of my knowledge.
Student’s Signature Date