Health and Safety Information

In study abroad as in other settings, students' personal decisions and behaviors can have a major impact on their personal health and safety. Ultimately, traveling abroad involves preparing for many of the same precautions that one would take while traveling within the U.S.  However, depending on a student's destination and his or her personal choices, students may need to be aware of additional potential health and safety risks when traveling overseas. There are many resources available to help students better understand risks associated with traveling and living in foreign countries as well as precautions that can be taken. Additionally, while it is not possible to eliminate all potential risks while abroad, there are many things that students can do in advance of their travel to prepare for a study abroad experience and minimize potential risks. 

To aid students as they plan and consider potential health and safety considerations, we have put together the information below to address various topics related to health and safety while abroad.  In addition to the information provided on this page, study abroad students must attend a mandatory pre-departure orientation session in which health and safety issues are covered. Contact the International Center for specific date(s) regarding pre-departure orientations.  Additionally, refer to the Study Abroad Handbook (pdf - 311 KB) for additional health and safety information.

In an Emergency

In the event of an emergency overseas, study abroad participants should first contact the appropriate local authorities as well as their on-site emergency contact. Each program has an on-site person whom you can contact for any emergency situation. This may be a program director or someone in the international office at your host university. Make sure that you know who your on-site emergency contact is as soon as you arrive in your host country.

In the case of a serious emergency abroad, contact the Winthrop University Police Department at 803/323-3333. They have a representative available 24 hours a day to respond to student emergencies.

Remember that "911" is not the universal emergency number; make sure that you know the emergency numbers for your host country.

Health Insurance

All Winthrop students are required to have sufficient health and accident insurance protection during their study abroad program. Winthrop University has worked with Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) to offer comprehensive international health insurance to Winthrop students for $40/month. The insurance has no deductible. Students can get further details and enroll in the CISI policy through the International Center.

Personal Safety

As wonderful an experience as study abroad can be, it is important for students to make responsible personal decisions while abroad. Students are encouraged to carefully take note of the safety risks and relevant precautions involved in traveling and living in a foreign country. Issues of safety are covered in the Study Abroad Handbook (pdf - 311 KB) that study abroad students receive prior to studying abroad and are also reviewed during the mandatory pre-departure orientation. When students arrive at their study abroad sites, they usually receive additional information regarding safety issues. Students should carefully read the Study Abroad Handbook and consider all materials issued by the program sponsor that relate to safety, health, legal, environmental, political, cultural, and religious conditions in their host country.

Similar to living in the U.S., being cognizant of personal safety concerns is also important while overseas. It is a good idea to guard valuable personal items and avoid visibly handling large amounts of cash, expensive jewelry, and/or technology in public areas. As part of a student's personal safety, students are encouraged to create a duplicate lost passport kit for themselves and provide a kit for their parents/family members prior to leaving the US. The duplicate lost passport kit should contain two passport photos, an official copy of his or her birth certificate, a photocopy of the photo, signature, and visa pages of passport. If a student's passport is misplaced, lost or stolen, the items in the kit will facilitate a smoother transition for replacing your document(s). Identity theft is a global problem, so it is also a smart choice to share credit card numbers (especially the 800 numbers on the back of the card) with parents or family members in the event that a card is lost or stolen.  

The U.S. Department of State

The U.S.Department of State offers valuable information for students who are planning to travel or study abroad.  Students should read the State Department's Country Information Sheet for the country in which they plan to study or visit, and check any Public Announcements or Travel Warnings that may pertain to that particular country. Country Information Sheets provide an overview of conditions pertaining to travel in each country. Students are strongly advised to register with the US embassy in their host country. Students can do this via the embassy's website. Students who are not US citizens should register themselves with their country's embassy in the host country.  

iPhone App Smart Traveler

The U.S. Department of State has released the iPhone App Smart Traveler. This app is a tool designed to provide easy access to frequently updated official country information, travel alerts, travel warnings, maps, and U.S. embassy locations. Pulling from content posted to the U.S. State Department website and, this free app allows users to see travel warnings and alerts issued by the State Department, gather background information about different countries, and find U.S. embassies and consulates overseas. 

Students are also advised to consult the website of the U.S. Department of State at and to find resources including:

Country Information Sheets
Tips for American Students Abroad
U.S. Embassies around the World
Travel Warnings
Registration with Embassies

U.S. Department of State - Students Abroad
Students and their families should be aware that the U.S. Department of State maintains a website for U.S. citizen students who are, or will be, studying abroad. This is a one-stop reference for Country Specific Information, tips for safe travel, and other important information about studying, traveling, and living overseas. Students and parents may download flyers and tip cards.

U.S. Department of State Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheet
Lists travel warnings for Americans in light of political unrest or health issues in individual countries as well as announcements for particular regions. In addition, please visit the Nations Online site which pulls together global travel warning information from 10 different national governments plus the World Health Organization.

Registering with the U.S. while Overseas

US citizens living abroad can register with their nearest embassy or consulate through the U.S. Department of State's website. By doing so, students will receive updated information on travel and security within the country to which you are heading. Registering with the US Department of State can also make it easier for the U.S. Embassy (and your family) to locate you in case of an emergency or disaster.

Personal Health & Immunizations

The most frequent health issues faced by students abroad are those that affect travelers in general and include gastrointestinal troubles, colds, and flu. The stress of adjusting to a new culture and new physical environmental can also contribute to health problems. Minor, moderate, and serious (physical and mental) health issues can and do arise.  Sometimes these issues are not new to the student but are exacerbated when the student tackles the challenges of living in a different culture far from his or her normal routine and support system. Some health issues may be new to the student or unique to the host country or region. The Health & Wellness Center on-campus has a Travel Clinic where students can seek advice on health issues involved with living in another country. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recognized as the leading federal agency for promoting, preventing, and controlling disease, injury and disability. The CDC's website has a Travelers' Health section that students should consult prior to departure. This site will also help students determine, with their doctor's guidance, the immunizations required and suggested for the area(s) where they plan to travel. Because some inoculations require a series of medical visits over the course of several months students should begin to investigate whether or not they need immunizations well in advance of their study abroad experience. The CDC and World Health Organization (WHO) have websites containing helpful information on health risks and considerations for most countries and regions around the world.
Winthrop Travel Clinic

World Health Organization

Mental Health Abroad

Studying abroad is not a cure for existing mental health conditions. In fact, the stresses associated with studying overseas may make  existing conditions worse by adding stress, unfamiliarity, culture shock, language barriers, and removing a student from his/her  normal support system. If you are struggling with a mental health condition, you should carefully consider whether or not studying abroad is right for you, and consult with your physician as you make plans. Be sure to describe to your doctor your intended study abroad plans, including which countries you intend to visit, what you would be doing, and the duration of the program. The Study Abroad Office can help make sure that you have the support and resources necessary to be successful overseas. 

Medications Abroad

If you are taking any prescription medications, ensure you have all the proper documentation for bringing your medication into your host country. We recommend you visit your doctor at least one month before departure to make sure you are fit to go abroad and that any medication complications are worked out. Not all medications approved in the U.S. are legal in other countries, and some countries have stricter regulations than others. This is especially true of ADHD medications and other psychotropic medications. Ask your doctor if your medication is legal in your host country, and if it is not, talk to your doctor about switching to another medication. 

If your medication is legal, you must:

  1. Bring your medication in its original containers, which should be clearly labeled.
  2. Bring a copy of your prescription.
  3. Bring enough medication for the duration of your time abroad.
  4. Bring a note from your doctor explaining your medical condition, the medication, and why you are carrying such a large supply.
  5. Be sure to bring all of these things in your carry-on luggage to present at customs.  DO NOT PACK YOUR MEDICATION IN YOUR CHECKED BAGGAGE.  It is important to have all of these documents on hand so your medication is not held up at customs.  It can be very difficult and costly to get a new prescription in your host country.  It may also be illegal to have any medication shipped to you.


If you have allergies, reactions to certain medications, foods, or insect bites, or other unique medical problems, it is strongly suggested you disclose this information to the Study Abroad Office as well as the host institution where you will be studying abroad. You may also want to consider wearing a "medical alert" bracelet. Talk with your doctor to determine what the required medical treatment for your allergies should be. You may also wish to carry a letter from your physician explaining any necessary treatment. If you take over-the-counter allergy medication, you will want to research the availability of your medicine abroad. 

It is a good idea to learn how to say what you are allergic to and describe your allergic reaction in the language of your host country.

Dietary Restrictions

Your host country's gastronomy may differ significantly from what you typically eat and consume in the US. If you have dietary restrictions, it is strongly suggested you disclose this information to the Study Abroad Office as well as the host institution where you will be studying abroad. Certain programs may have dietary and food restrictions that will be discussed during the program. Your program manager will discuss any food limitations or restrictions during their program-specific orientation. 

Learning how to say what your dietary restrictions are in the country's host language will help you to obtain the food you can eat and avoid the food you cannot. Research the food available in your host country, and do not assume that the food you want or are used to eating will be readily available. 

Learning about your Host Country

The more a student understands about his or her host country prior to studying abroad, the better prepared the student will be in day-to-day interactions and in the event of an emergency overseas. Make sure to take some time to research the culture and customs of your host country. Some important topics to consider:

  • Local weather patterns
  • Typical dress for people from that country (including gender norms)
  • Views on citizens of the U.S.
  • Water & food safety
  • Personal safety concerns

University Response

When there is a known significant increase in the level of potential danger to Winthrop students in a city or region where they study abroad, University officials meet to determine what steps to take to maximize student safety. U.S. Department of State Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, the travel advice of other governments, news sources, the resident directors and international student offices at the study abroad sites, and other information sources are all instrumental in informing University decisions. Encourage students to utilize their on-site resources in-country while overseas, but also know that the staff at the International Center are also available to assist as appropriate.