Health and Safety
Prepare for your program by taking into account important topics such as health insurance coverage, safety & security, and vaccination information.
Suddenly finding yourself in an entirely new culture and climate is stressful and can open you up to a risk of illness or aggravation of a latent condition. Even something as simple as a common cold can take on whole new proportions when you are in a foreign country.
There are some simple steps you can take ahead of time to avoid your first on-site activity being a tour of the medical and pharmaceutical facilities.
All UND students studying abroad are required to have international travel/medical insurance.
UND Study Abroad works with Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) health insurance which specifically covers international health issues that most domestic health insurance does not cover for health related issues outside of the U.S. This coverage is required for students participating in exchange, direct-enroll, and faculty-led programs at UND.
This policy costs $40 per month. Students are billed during the term they are abroad through Campus Connection.
The International Center insures that students are covered for the duration of the Study Abroad program. If a student decides to stay longer, they can purchase additional insurance. It is the student's responsibility to purchase additional coverage from the CISI website.
*Students studying at UND exchange or direct-enroll institutions in Australia, New Zealand, and Germany are required to purchase health insurance through their host institution. This is an important step to complete prior to applying for a study visa. These insurance policies do not meet the state of North Dakota's needs for students studying abroad. Therefore, students studying at exchange or direct-enroll institutions in Australia, New Zealand, and Germany will be enrolled in additional coverage with CISI that meets our travel and medical insurance standards at an additional cost through UND.
The Team Assist Plan is designed by CISI in conjunction with the Assistance Company to provide travelers with a worldwide, 24-hour emergency telephone assistance service. It can also be used to prior to travel to confirm services abroad and what medications may be brought with. Multilingual help and advice may be furnished for the Insured Person in the event of any emergency during the term of coverage. The Team Assist Plan complements the insurance benefits provided by the Medical Plan. If you require Team Assist assistance, your ID number is your policy number. In the U.S., call (855) 327-1411, worldwide call (01-312)935-1703 (collect calls accepted) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Already Have Insurance
It is recommended that students maintain their domestic health insurance for the duration of the study abroad experience. If the insurance covers international items, it is the students responsibility to provide his/her Study Abroad Advisor with proof of coverage (including a schedule of benefits that meets or exceeds the coverage provided by UND and dates of service that must cover the student for the entire duration of their program). This documentation must be submitted by Pre-Departure Orientation.
It is a good idea to visit your physician and dentist for check-ups before you spend any extended period of time outside the country. Your doctor can also give you any vaccinations recommended for traveling to your host country.
For details on safeguarding your health while abroad, visit the Center for Disease Control’s website.
Students can also visit UND Student Health Services with questions about vaccinations and travel prep.
If you take prescription medication, be sure to bring enough to last through your entire stay abroad. The medication you need may not be available in the same form in your host country. Brand names are usually different, and your medication may not be easily recognizable to pharmacists or to customs agents.
Be sure to pack any medicine — prescription or over-the-counter — in your carry-on luggage when you travel. Take copies of your prescriptions and a letter from your doctor explaining what the medication is and why you take it. Keep over-the-counter drugs in their original packaging.
If you regularly take any over-the-counter medicine for recurring medical problems such as headaches or stomach ailments, bring a least enough with you to last until you find a suitable local alternative. Some students, especially those prone to allergic reactions, may wish to take enough to last their entire stay.
Everyday life in other countries is different enough from your life in the U.S. to pose interesting and constant challenges. The best way to keep yourself ready to meet the unexpected is to maintain your basic physical and mental health. Being sleep-deprived, having a headache, or being overly hungry can all exacerbate relatively minor incidents (like missing the bus or having difficulty communicating your needs in a foreign language), and allow them to turn into larger aggravations. The following are some basic tips to help you keep your head above water.
- Drink plenty of fluids to stay properly hydrated. This begins as soon as you get to the airport on your way out of the country. It is expected that you will be tired and suffer from jet lag when you arrive on site. Staying well hydrated also allows your body to better combat common illnesses like colds and flu.
- In some less-developed regions it may be necessary to drink pre-bottled beverages only and avoid ice; avoid uncooked foods and un-pasteurized milk. Sanitation practices are different in other countries, and your body may not have the same natural defenses that local people have built up to resist bacteria.
- Always wear adequate clothing and footwear. Sturdy walking shoes are a must, as you won’t be driving everywhere like you do at home. In addition, pack/wear appropriate attire for the weather conditions.
- Regardless of where you go in the world, you should be wearing sunscreen. This is extra important in regions of the world where the sun’s rays are stronger than what you are used to. Be sure to wear sunscreen anytime you are going outdoors. Even minor sunburn or heatstroke is at best a nuisance, and easily preventable.
- Get enough sleep and rest. It is easy to push yourself too hard academically and socially, and college students are notorious for not getting adequate rest. Try to get at least eight hours of sleep a night, and consider taking a nap if you find yourself feeling over-extended during the day.
Even if you feel this issue doesn’t apply to you, please pay attention to this section — you may be able to help a friend. Be aware of the conditions and potential risks in your host country; safety is always a priority, and it is better to be well-informed than to be caught in a situation where you feel you have no control.
The Center for Disease Control has country-by-country information on prevalent STDs and outbreaks, and how to protect yourself. No matter what the local circumstances, please consider practicing abstinence. It is truly the only fail-proof method of preventing STDs and accidental pregnancy. However, if you do choose to remain or become sexually active while abroad, USE CONDOMS. Birth control pills will not protect you from STDs! Take condoms with you, as what is available overseas may be of questionable quality or difficulty to find due to local customs.
Customs and laws regarding drugs and alcohol vary greatly worldwide. It is important that you familiarize yourself with how the people of your host country regard alcohol consumption, and equally importantly, how their laws apply to the use and misuse of it. Many countries have much stricter laws than the U.S. regarding drug and alcohol abuse. Remember that you are subject to the laws of your host country (and any country you are traveling through), and that if you are arrested, there is very little the American government can do to help you. Please see consular information at travel.state.gov.
Overindulging in alcohol is an excellent way to become a victim of petty crime — or far worse. Please protect yourself and your companions. If you choose to drink, drink responsibly, and stay with people you trust. NEVER accept a drink from someone you don’t know, and hold onto your glass when you are at the club or bar. Use of date-rape drugs or similar substances is unfortunately present in other countries.
Nothing can truly guarantee your safety abroad (or anywhere, for that matter), but behaving in an informed, culturally appropriate manner can greatly minimize the risks of foreign travel. What is most import is that you accept responsibility for your own decisions and behavior. Know your own limits and respect them.
Trust your own judgment and intuition. If you ever feel yourself at risk, please contact the proper local authorities, your host program staff as well at the UND Study Abroad Office immediately with your concerns. We are here to help you, and your safety is our priority.
- Educate yourself about the political, cultural, and social conditions in your host country.
- Understand and abide by any conditions imposed by the study abroad insurance policy provider.
- Understand and follow the policies of your study abroad program as well as the laws and codes of your host country. Remember that you are subject to these laws, no matter whether you are familiar with them—or agree with them—or not.
- Notify the Study Abroad Office and your host country program representative of any mental or physical conditions you have that may require attention during your stay abroad. This will help them respond appropriately to your needs.
- A federal law called FERPA limits what Study Abroad can release unless written permission is granted by the student. Students are required to list a contact in the event of an emergency. The contact listed will be contacted if an emergency situation arises.
- Keep your contacts at home and in your host country informed of your plans. Make sure at least two people always know how to get in contact with you wherever you are, and leave itineraries with a responsible party when you travel, even on short trips.
When traveling, use public transportation. The International Center strongly discourages students from renting or driving any motorized vehicles while abroad, and accepts no liability for students who choose to do so. If you do, never get in a vehicle being driven by someone under the influence of alcohol.
- When taking public transportation, avoid empty subway or railway cars and buses. Travel with another person whenever possible. Never take a taxi alone at night.
Travel is a great opportunity to see the world. However, it can also be a trigger for conditions such as depression, anxiety and more, especially if someone already has a mental health history. Just like it is important to take care of your physical well-being, you should also take care of your mental well-being. Below, you can find some resources on how to take care of your mental health before and during your travels.
- CDC Mental Health & Travel
- Ups & Downs of International Travel
- 4 Things to Know about Travel & Mental Health
- Ways to Maintain Mental Health Abroad
- Disability, Mental Health, & Self-Care Resources
Make sure that you talk to your doctor before you go abroad to see what they suggest and to fill up on any necessary medications to take with you.
During your time abroad, you are likely to experience things you never even thought of before leaving the country. Encountering situations that are completely different from what you are used to can be daunting, even though you are excited about life abroad. You will learn to adapt to your new surroundings, but the process can be difficult for many people. Remember that this is normal! Although each person’s individual experience will be different, generalized stages of adjustment have been identified. Familiarizing yourself with these will help you know what to expect when you are immersed in a different culture.
Stage 1: The Tourist
At this stage you have just arrived in the country and you are really excited to be there. You have been planning this experience for a long time. It is everything you dreamed of.
All things the “tourist” sees and encounters are new and exciting. The host culture is perceived as exotic and interesting, although the “tourist” plays only a passive role, and mostly observes the culture from the outside.
Stage 2: The Stranger
Now that you have had a chance to observe your surroundings you are ready to start interacting with your host culture and its people. However, that feeling of being an “outsider” has not gone away and may actually intensify as you understand that host country nationals see you as the foreigner. You may feel more critical of the culture as things that were initially exotic and interesting become strange and even annoyingly different. A feeling of homesickness usually appears at this stage, partly brought on by the anxiety and stress of adjusting to a different way of life.
Stage 3: The Participant
By this time, you are beginning to feel much more comfortable as you gain more of an understanding of the locals and their customs. You start to feel less like a “stranger” and more accepted a part of everything that is going on around you. As a result, you are more positive about your experiences, and are learning not to judge situations from an American perspective but in a culturally relative context.
Stage 4: The Resident
By now the host culture, along with its customs and people have become normal for you. You are enjoying life in this environment; you know what to expect in most situations and how to behave appropriately. You may even start to compare your new life with American culture and customs, and view your host culture as superior in some ways. You might have adopted certain behaviors from the locals, and feel like you fit in—possibly even better than at home.
Culture shock usually occurs during the initial stages of adjustment, but can recur at varying degrees throughout your stay. It is all part of adapting to the new environment, and is absolutely normal. The following are recognizable symptoms of culture shock:
- Feeling helpless
- Sleep (too little/too much)
You can help combat culture shock by doing the following:
- Realize it's normal
- Try to understand the differences
- Give yourself quiet time
- Journal to write down your feelings
- Talk to trusted friends - especially those on-site with you as they may be going through a similar experience and can relate