Health & Safety
Education Abroad in a Changing World: WKU’s Commitment to Student Safety
October 11, 2016
WKU and the Office of Study Abroad & Global Learning (SAGL) understand that students and families are concerned about international experiences during this time of increased political tension and insecurity at home and abroad. The health, safety, and security of WKU students is of the utmost importance to all of us at WKU, and SAGL makes every effort to mitigate, to the greatest extent possible, the risks our students may face during their time abroad.
SAGL is staffed by a team of international education professionals with experience studying, living and working in countries around the world. SAGL advisers work with students throughout every step of the education abroad experience: we provide our students with expert advice about study abroad opportunities, prepare them for the overseas experience with a mandatory pre-departure orientation, maintain contact with them when questions and concerns arise while they are abroad, and, in case of emergencies, are available 24/7 to advise and communicate with the student and those who can assist the student.
Because the safety environment around the world is constantly changing, SAGL monitors the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website as well as relevant U.S. Department of State (DoS) websites. We receive daily updates on health, safety and threat assessments from the DoS’s Overseas Security Advisory Council. SAGL staff also assist each student to register with the U.S. DoS’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) so that they receive local updates by text message while in their host country. With the student’s contact information, the Embassy or Consulate can more easily assist students in need.
For semester-long programs, we work with overseas partners that have on-site staff members fluent in the local language and expert on the health and safety resources available in their communities. Upon arrival in their host countries, students are typically required to participate in an additional, country-specific orientation. The orientation will include review of rules and regulations for the students, where and how to access police or medical help, areas in the city or location to avoid, etc. Onsite staff are available 24/7 to assist students.
Additional information is available by contacting Caryn Lindsay, SAGL Director, or visiting the SAGL Health and Safety website at http://www.wku.edu/studyabroad/new/health_safety.php
Study abroad medical insurance via Academic Health Plans (AHP) is mandatory for all WKU students studying abroad on a WKU faculty-led program, exchange program, Harlaxton College (semester), or any other program that does not include comprehensive insurance in the program fee. AHP study abroad medical insurance will be in effect ONLY while you are outside the U.S., during your approved program dates. If you plan to travel before or after the approved dates, you will need to notify the Study Abroad office and make arrangements for additional health insurance coverage. The Study Abroad Office will determine the method of payment and amount based upon the duration of your program. If the cost of insurance is not included in your program cost, a charge will be posted to your TopNet account.
Message about Zika Virus: If you are planning to study abroad in a South or Central American country, SAGL recommends that you review information related to the Zika virus outbreak on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website (http://www.cdc.gov/zika/) and follow CDC recommendations for prevention. At this time, WKU has no plans to cancel programs or to restrict travel to affected countries/regions. SAGL is monitoring the status of the Zika virus outbreak and will keep students informed of any further developments related to programs in affected regions. If you have specific questions related to the virus and health risks, consult with your health provider.
Below are some tips on health matters for studying abroad:
- Consult with your physician about any recommended inoculations or medications. The CDC's website is very helpful for information on traveler's health.
- Inform your program director or faculty leader about all medical conditions. You may think that it is irrelevant to your study abroad program, but traveling abroad can affect people in different ways. If you happen to need medical attention, it is important that your program director/professor can tell the medical personnel the information that they need to know.
- If you regularly take medication, it is recommended that you carry a sufficient amount with you in their original containers in your carry-on luggage when you travel abroad. Medications may be different from or difficult to find in other countries. However, please check with the embassy or consulate of the country you will be visiting to make sure that the drugs you will be taking are not considered illegal in that country.
- If the water source is questionable, drink bottled water and avoid ice in other drinks.
WKU is committed to the safety of students, faculty and staff who are participating in study abroad programs. Should an emergency occur, we have procedures in place to make sure our response is immediate and appropriate. All participants should attend a study abroad orientation prior to departure to learn about our emergency procedures and health and safety recommendations and should carefully review all information provided through the online study abroad application and by program provider/program leaders.
Below are some tips for a safe study abroad experience:
- Make copies of your passport, entry visa (if applicable), credit cards, insurance claim forms (if applicable), travel itinerary and plane tickets (if you have paper tickets) and leave them with a responsible person at home. Keep another copy with you but separate from the originals in case they are lost or stolen.
- Carry emergency contact information with you.
- Be vigilant with your bags and belongings. Keep them close in public spaces.
- Put money in a zippered or buttoned pocket if possible. Consider purchasing a money belt to carry documents and money underneath clothing.
- Avoid traveling alone. If you must travel alone, make sure that someone knows where you are going and when you will arrive at your destination or return.
- Dress to fit in with the locals if possible. Avoid standing out or wearing expensive jewelry, flaunting expensive gadgets, etc.
Preparing strategies to reduce risk is the responsibility of everyone involved, but you will be responsible for making daily decisions to keep you safe and your study abroad a positive experience. This link provides information on recognizing and reducing risks.
U.S. Department of State (DoS), Bureau of Consular Affairs | DoS Students Abroad | DoS Travel Alerts and Warnings | DoS Smart Travel Enrollment Program (STEP) | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) | SAFETI (Safety Abroad First Educational Travel Information) | DoS Overseas Security Advisory Counsil (OSAC)
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