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The health and safety of Wheaton students studying abroad is of the upmost importance to us. Therefore the Center for Global Education educates students on a variety of health and safety related topics prior to their departure. It is important that students access the resources provided by our office to fully understand the particulars of the country in which they will be studying. Our goal is for students to have a safe and rewarding experience abroad.
Research the host country
It is vital for students to be informed regarding their study abroad location, potential risks, policies, laws, and any particular situations that may be relevant to their stay in that particular region of the world. We recommend that students visit web sites including, most importantly, the United States Department of State’s website to become aware of potential safety issues in country and how to avoid them prior to departure. This website is regularly updated so students should check it regularly. Students also receive Center for Disease Control Information in their pre-departure packets with information about keeping healthy while abroad in their particular destination.
Travel Advisory Policy
As of January 10, 2018, the US State Department released a new travel advisory system that replaced the former travel warning system. The new system provides tiered levels of advice ranging from Levels 1-4. Travel advisories at Levels 2-4 indicate risk indicators related to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, health, and natural disasters.
Some countries are designated Tier 2 because certain areas of the country are deemed dangerous. These caveats are explained on the State Department website. Students must consult the travel advisory system to see how the country they are considering is rated. In most cases Tier 2 countries will be approved for study abroad however we want students to be aware that it has been rated a 2. Again, it is the students’ responsibility to look into this further. It is important for them to consider why the country has been listed as such and where in the country they will be living and /or traveling.
The following travel advisory policy applies for all Wheaton students studying abroad:
- Travel to a Level I advisory country requires no additional review.
- Travel to a Level II advisory country requires review by the Center for Global Education.
- Travel to a Level III or Level IV advisory country requires a second level review by the Global Advisory Committee and the Risk Management committee. If a traveler is approved to go to a Level III country, the individual will be required to complete an additional waiver form.
Students should keep contact information for host families, Resident Directors, study abroad program advisors, and the Center for Global Education with them at all times. An Emergency Contact Card is given to each student which includes all the relevant numbers necessary in case of an emergency.
Prior to departure
- Read all materials provided by your study abroad program sponsor and the Center for Global Education.
- Attend all pre-departure orientation programs
- Research your host country including its laws and customs
- Know the rules and regulations for airline travel
- Investigate health insurance and property insurance options
In-country safety tips
- Keep belongings locked and in your view in public locations
- Attend all in-country orientation sessions
- Register with the local US consulate or embassy
- Familiarize yourself with your new surroundings
- Stay informed of local news reports
- Read correspondence from Wheaton College and your host country advisors
Travel safety tips
- Always leave a copy of your travel itinerary and contact information with an on-site Resident Director and advisors
- Keep important travel documents in a safe place and keep copies
- Travel with small amounts of cash and keep serial numbers of Traveler’s Checks in a safe location
- Travel with a friend
- Avoid travel in large groups
- Avoid excessive use of alcohol
- Avoid demonstrations and other political gatherings
- Avoid typical American student hangouts (U.S. Embassy, McDonald’s, etc…)
- Always be aware of your surroundings
- Be wary of strangers
- Stay in touch with your family and friends
- Always carry documentation of prescriptions and keep them in proper containers
- Do not hitchhike
- Only take official taxi cabs or public transportation
- Always keep your Emergency Card and important contact information handy
Below are some basic steps that students should take when they encounter an emergency. Students should use their best judgment and decision-making skills when encountering an emergency situation.
Injuries and health issues
Students should proceed immediately to the nearest hospital emergency room or to their university health services. The study abroad program on-site staff can provide assistance in an emergency situation. Contact your health insurance carrier to process any reimbursements for medical care. Be aware that medical care must be paid for at the time of service. This can cost you a substantial amount up front. You will then be reimbursed once the proper forms are filed with your health insurance carrier.
Lost or stolen items
Report lost or stolen items of value to the local police. You should also inform your on-site Resident Director/staff.
If your passport or visa are lost or stolen, you should report this to the nearest U.S. Consulate or Embassy. If copies of these documents have been kept with family or friends they can assist you by faxing these documents to officials in your host country.
The Center for Global Education has created an International Crisis Response Plan in order to deal with instances of political unrest or war while on a Wheaton study abroad program. Students should pay particular attention to the Wheaton pre-departure orientation and the on-site orientation during the first few weeks of their program. If war or civil unrest should occur in your study abroad location, the Center for Global Education in collaboration with the affiliate host university or program will make the best decision for your personal safety.
If students on Wheaton programs must return home due to political unrest, they will be provided with a full refund minus any recoverable costs. The Study Abroad Contract outlines the specific refund policy during acts of terrorism or civil unrest. Students on non-Wheaton programs should contact the study abroad program sponsor and investigate their refund policies in case of war/political unrest/terrorism.
If you should need to return to Wheaton College prior to the end of your program, The Center for Global Education will make every attempt to assist you in integrating back into campus life. Since political unrest and war is something that is unpredictable, the possibility of entering courses or gaining credits will depend on the amount of time missed from courses.
People to contact
If an emergency arises, keep the following people informed of your safety and whereabouts:
- Contact on-site Resident Director, Program director, or staff
- Inform your parents of any emergency issues
- Inform Wheaton’s Center for Global Education
- Inform your host family or other roommates on the study abroad program
Students should use the months prior to departure to plan for their semester or year abroad. The following information is provided in the Study Abroad Handbook given to all students at the pre-departure orientation.
Doctor, Dentist and Specialists
It is a good idea for you to see a family physician, dentist and other health care specialists before going overseas. It is advisable to renew prescription medications and carry copies of the doctor’s prescription orders, extra eyeglasses, contact lenses, etc. Also, you should determine if medications normally taken at home are legal in the host country.
If you have a medical condition that requires on-going monitoring by a health professional, it is recommended that you discuss whether or not to identify a health professional overseas. The Center for Global Education can help you with this aspect of overseas study.
Obtaining a Physical While at Wheaton
Most insurance plans do not cover physicals for the sole purpose of going abroad. A physical would only be covered if there was a positive diagnosis discovered during the exam. Wheaton insurance does NOT cover either the physical exam or required immunizations. Students should check with their individual insurance companies to verify coverage for the exam and the necessary immunizations.
For entry into some countries, and return to the U.S. (or home country), it may be necessary to receive preventative health care for diseases, which are known to be present in and around your region of study (i.e. malaria, typhoid, cholera). This may involve a series of immunizations or prescribed medications to be taken over a period of time before departure.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggests various immunizations and precautions depending on your location of travel. If you are unsure of the proper immunizations or prescriptions to obtain, contact your study abroad advisor and your physician.
While on any study abroad program, Wheaton College requires that you obtain international coverage that is supplemental to your primary health coverage. The international health coverage is offered through Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) and includes a 24-hour International emergency network of health assistance around the world as well as evacuation and repatriation insurance. This coverage is over and above what is provided through your primary coverage. All study abroad students must comply with this requirement and no exceptions will be made to this policy. Students on the Wheaton Insurance Plan do not need to enroll in CISI, for the Wheaton insurance will cover them while abroad.
The Center for Global Education does not insure the personal property of students during a study abroad program. It is impossible to ensure the safety of personal items from damage, loss, or being stolen. We recommend that students investigate property insurance options for items such as laptops, jewelry, and purchased items prior to departure. One web site that students may want to explore for coverage is Insure My Trip.