Health & Safety

The safety and security of students abroad is our top priority. The Penn Abroad staff works closely with resources like the Office of Risk Management, International SOS, our local contacts onsite overseas, and our many campus partners. With these partners, we thoroughly review and vet programs, put contingency plans in place, and anticipate and mitigate student risk abroad.

While no one can guarantee your health and safety or eliminate all risks from your overseas experience, there are many steps that you can take before and during your travel abroad to educate and prepare yourself, mitigate risk, and increase the likelihood of a safe and healthy international experience.

Whether traveling abroad for one week or one year, the information below will help you prepare for a successful and rewarding time overseas.

Abroad and in need of emergency assistance?

Emergency Contact Information

Be in the Know

flight_takeoff

Pre-Departure

Health & Safety Checklist

  • Meet with your doctor(s). Maintaining good physical and mental health and well-being are fundamental to a successful overseas experience. Schedule check-ups with your physician, dentist, and any other medical professionals you see on a regular or annual basis prior to departure.

  • Make sure your immunizations are up to date. During your physician visit, be sure that all of your childhood immunizations are up to date, and obtain any required or recommended immunizations for your destination country. For the latest information on health conditions and immunization information in your host country, refer to the Centers for Disease Control's Travelers' Health website.

  • Develop a plan to address pre-existing health conditions while overseas. Even mild physical or psychological disorders can become serious under the stresses of life while overseas. If you have a pre-existing condition, discuss your treatment plan with your physician in advance.

  • Prepare to manage your mental health abroad. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and traveling to another country and living in a different culture is not always easy. If you are currently experiencing emotional/relationship/family/academic problems or if you are seeking professional support or are on medication for depression/anxiety or other psychological concerns, be sure to speak to a counselor prior to your time overseas to address how you will best manage your mental health while away from home.

  • Plan ahead to receive any necessary accommodations. If you have a physical or learning disability that requires accommodation, it is imperative you discuss this with Student Disability Services prior to departure. The law and practice overseas with regard to accommodation for special student needs are different than the law and practice here, and it is important to find out what accommodations may or may not be possible while you are abroad.

  • Pack all medications you will need while abroad. Do you currently take medications? Wear glasses or contacts? Use an inhaler? Bring an adequate supply for your entire stay, pack them in your carry-on, leave them in the original container, and carry a copy of your prescription. For extended travel abroad, it is often not possible to fill U.S. prescriptions while overseas, and it is sometimes illegal to ship medications by mail. Medications that are legal in the U.S. may not be legal overseas. Contact International SOS for any questions you have regarding bringing or obtaining prescription medicine overseas.

public

While Abroad

Health & Safety Checklist

  • Learn and be respectful of the local laws of your overseas location. Laws and systems of justice are not universal and you will be subject to the laws of your overseas location. Do not assume that just because something is legal in the United States, that it is legal abroad.

  • Take care of your physical and mental health. If you encounter any medical issues while abroad, contact  International SOS to identify a medical provider near you, or to access emergency assistance. If you are having difficulty adjusting to your host culture or are struggling with any mental health issues while abroad, don’t forget about the resources available to support you. Call or email Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) directly, or Penn Abroad can contact them on your behalf. Additionally, though availability and nature of mental health services vary by location, International SOS is able to direct you to a vetted English-speaking counselor in most locations.

  • Maintain your sexual health while overseas. HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) exist everywhere in the world, but you control your level of risk. Be responsible and careful. Contraception may not be readily available so if you are sexually active, pack the appropriate contraception. Talk to past participants and staff at Student Health Services, Campus Health, and Penn Abroad to increase your knowledge about gender and relationship roles in your host country. 

  • Always be alert and conscious of your behavior. Be discrete and conservative in your actions, dress, conversations, and with personal possessions and electronics. Always travel in pairs or small groups for personal or weekend travel. Do not walk alone at night. If you go out with friends, return with friends.

  • Get to know the cultural norms and attitudes of your overseas location. It is critical that you have an awareness of gender roles, ethnicity, sexual orientation, race, and different religions within your overseas location, as well as local issues affecting your overseas location and its relationship to the worldwide political environment.

  • Avoid environments that increase your risk while overseas. Stay away from demonstrations, protest groups, or other potentially volatile situations.

  • If drinking, drink responsibly and avoid drugs. In many countries of the world, the legal drinking age is lower than in the U.S. However, just because you may be able to drink legally abroad does not mean that you should abandon your good judgment. Remember that most likely, drugs are illegal in your host country, and in some cases, the penalty for drug crimes can be even more severe. The U.S. Department of State outlines recommendations to help keep you safe when confronted with alcohol and drugs overseas.

  • Be smart with money. Keep your money and credit/ATM cards in a secure location, only carrying as much cash on you as needed on a daily basis. When using ATM machines, be aware of your surroundings and preference ATM machines located inside buildings wherever possible.

  • Communicate often. Develop a communication plan with your family so that they know how to reach you, whether it’s an emergency or just to check-in. When planning personal travel outside of your organized program, be sure to share your plans with at least one other person so that someone knows how to contact you.

assignment

Register Your Travel

While you are overseas it is important for Penn to be aware of your location and contact information so that we can contact you effectively and efficiently in the event of an emergency. For this reason, all Penn students traveling overseas are required to register in Penn’s Global Activities Registry (GAR). In addition to providing you access to important country-specific information about your overseas location and allowing Penn to contact you, your registration in GAR also activates your travel medical insurance.

In addition to registering your travel in GAR, Penn also recommends that all U.S. citizens register their travel online with the U.S. State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  Registration makes your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary for a consular official to contact you in an emergency. Non-U.S. citizens should contact their local embassy to see if similar enrollment programs exist.

healing

Medical Insurance

Penn Abroad requires that all Penn students maintain medical insurance coverage that is valid in their home country, even when traveling overseas. In addition, all Penn students traveling on a Penn-approved program including a semester abroad experience, the Global Internship Program, or a Penn Global Seminar, are also covered by Penn’s International SOS (ISOS) membership while abroad.  Penn’s International SOS (ISOS) membership includes travel medical insurance and evacuation assistance.  For a summary of ISOS member benefits, please follow this link to enter Penn’s membership ID and select “International Travel Medical Insurance Summary of Benefits and FAQs.”

flight_takeoff

Pre-Departure

Health & Safety Checklist

  • Meet with your doctor(s). Maintaining good physical and mental health and well-being are fundamental to a successful overseas experience. Schedule check-ups with your physician, dentist, and any other medical professionals you see on a regular or annual basis prior to departure.

  • Make sure your immunizations are up to date. During your physician visit, be sure that all of your childhood immunizations are up to date, and obtain any required or recommended immunizations for your destination country. For the latest information on health conditions and immunization information in your host country, refer to the Centers for Disease Control's Travelers' Health website.

  • Develop a plan to address pre-existing health conditions while overseas. Even mild physical or psychological disorders can become serious under the stresses of life while overseas. If you have a pre-existing condition, discuss your treatment plan with your physician in advance.

  • Prepare to manage your mental health abroad. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and traveling to another country and living in a different culture is not always easy. If you are currently experiencing emotional/relationship/family/academic problems or if you are seeking professional support or are on medication for depression/anxiety or other psychological concerns, be sure to speak to a counselor prior to your time overseas to address how you will best manage your mental health while away from home.

  • Plan ahead to receive any necessary accommodations. If you have a physical or learning disability that requires accommodation, it is imperative you discuss this with Student Disability Services prior to departure. The law and practice overseas with regard to accommodation for special student needs are different than the law and practice here, and it is important to find out what accommodations may or may not be possible while you are abroad.

  • Pack all medications you will need while abroad. Do you currently take medications? Wear glasses or contacts? Use an inhaler? Bring an adequate supply for your entire stay, pack them in your carry-on, leave them in the original container, and carry a copy of your prescription. For extended travel abroad, it is often not possible to fill U.S. prescriptions while overseas, and it is sometimes illegal to ship medications by mail. Medications that are legal in the U.S. may not be legal overseas. Contact International SOS for any questions you have regarding bringing or obtaining prescription medicine overseas.

public

While Abroad

Health & Safety Checklist

  • Learn and be respectful of the local laws of your overseas location. Laws and systems of justice are not universal and you will be subject to the laws of your overseas location. Do not assume that just because something is legal in the United States, that it is legal abroad.

  • Take care of your physical and mental health. If you encounter any medical issues while abroad, contact  International SOS to identify a medical provider near you, or to access emergency assistance. If you are having difficulty adjusting to your host culture or are struggling with any mental health issues while abroad, don’t forget about the resources available to support you. Call or email Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) directly, or Penn Abroad can contact them on your behalf. Additionally, though availability and nature of mental health services vary by location, International SOS is able to direct you to a vetted English-speaking counselor in most locations.

  • Maintain your sexual health while overseas. HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) exist everywhere in the world, but you control your level of risk. Be responsible and careful. Contraception may not be readily available so if you are sexually active, pack the appropriate contraception. Talk to past participants and staff at Student Health Services, Campus Health, and Penn Abroad to increase your knowledge about gender and relationship roles in your host country. 

  • Always be alert and conscious of your behavior. Be discrete and conservative in your actions, dress, conversations, and with personal possessions and electronics. Always travel in pairs or small groups for personal or weekend travel. Do not walk alone at night. If you go out with friends, return with friends.

  • Get to know the cultural norms and attitudes of your overseas location. It is critical that you have an awareness of gender roles, ethnicity, sexual orientation, race, and different religions within your overseas location, as well as local issues affecting your overseas location and its relationship to the worldwide political environment.

  • Avoid environments that increase your risk while overseas. Stay away from demonstrations, protest groups, or other potentially volatile situations.

  • If drinking, drink responsibly and avoid drugs. In many countries of the world, the legal drinking age is lower than in the U.S. However, just because you may be able to drink legally abroad does not mean that you should abandon your good judgment. Remember that most likely, drugs are illegal in your host country, and in some cases, the penalty for drug crimes can be even more severe. The U.S. Department of State outlines recommendations to help keep you safe when confronted with alcohol and drugs overseas.

  • Be smart with money. Keep your money and credit/ATM cards in a secure location, only carrying as much cash on you as needed on a daily basis. When using ATM machines, be aware of your surroundings and preference ATM machines located inside buildings wherever possible.

  • Communicate often. Develop a communication plan with your family so that they know how to reach you, whether it’s an emergency or just to check-in. When planning personal travel outside of your organized program, be sure to share your plans with at least one other person so that someone knows how to contact you.

assignment

Register Your Travel

While you are overseas it is important for Penn to be aware of your location and contact information so that we can contact you effectively and efficiently in the event of an emergency. For this reason, all Penn students traveling overseas are required to register in Penn’s Global Activities Registry (GAR). In addition to providing you access to important country-specific information about your overseas location and allowing Penn to contact you, your registration in GAR also activates your travel medical insurance.

In addition to registering your travel in GAR, Penn also recommends that all U.S. citizens register their travel online with the U.S. State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  Registration makes your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary for a consular official to contact you in an emergency. Non-U.S. citizens should contact their local embassy to see if similar enrollment programs exist.

healing

Medical Insurance

Penn Abroad requires that all Penn students maintain medical insurance coverage that is valid in their home country, even when traveling overseas. In addition, all Penn students traveling on a Penn-approved program including a semester abroad experience, the Global Internship Program, or a Penn Global Seminar, are also covered by Penn’s International SOS (ISOS) membership while abroad.  Penn’s International SOS (ISOS) membership includes travel medical insurance and evacuation assistance.  For a summary of ISOS member benefits, please follow this link to enter Penn’s membership ID and select “International Travel Medical Insurance Summary of Benefits and FAQs.”