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Safety, Emergencies & Health

Safety Information for Parents and Familiess

BE INFORMED.  BE PREPARED.

You may need to travel to your student's location, particularly if your student is in the hospital. Have a valid passport, with the correct visa if necessary. Generally, passports should have at least six months of validity when traveling internationally. Most countries will not permit a traveler to enter their country unless the passport is set to expire at least six months after the final day of travel.

Involve yourself with safety planning as your student prepares. While total safety in the US or abroad cannot be guaranteed, UCEAP has health and safety measures in place. The University of California partners with global security and emergency travel assistance providers to help UCEAP students get assistance anywhere in the world. UCEAP staff and partners abroad and in California monitor current international political, social, and economic conditions and events at our program locations. In addition, faculty and staff at the program site are trained to support students who may need medical assistance. Before departure, students receive ample health and safety information about their program site.

All students have coverage through the UCEAP travel insurance.  One of the benefits of participation in UCEAP is that through our assistance partners, and local staff/partners, we provide immediate travel and emergency assistance, automatic registration with internet-based intelligence agency iJET International, and 24/7 response to emergencies. All students will receive travel alerts automatically from iJET based on their program location.


Encourage your student to take the initiative to plan and prepare before their study abroad experience. UCEAP's expectation is that your student will be proactively committed to their preparation before departure, and will call staff in California or abroad if they need help or have additional questions.
 
For an overview of UCEAP's health and safety protocols, please refer to UCEAP International Risk Management and Emergency Response​. Other health and safety resources include the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Department of State Traveler Information and US Department of State Student Information.

For quick facts on reported student incidents abroad, refer to the 2015-16 incident report.

Ask your student to share information with you. As students are legal adults, our communication will be primarily with the student. We encourage students to share important information with their parents, guardians, and other family members. During emergencies, we will communicate with the student's emergency contacts as allowed by Federal laws.

UCEAP Student Responsibilities

Your student can stay safe and healthy abroad by taking some simple precautions. 

 
Several documents outline student responsibilities: the UCEAP Statement of Understanding, the UCEAP Student Agreement, Guide to Study Abroad, Program Guides, and UCEAP policies. In addition to reviewing the above documents, students should: 
 
  • Read all program documentation and research their destination countries.
  • Review Safety Tips for Students.
  • Attend all pre-departure and on-site orientations.
  • Register online with the US Department of State.
  • Recognize and acknowledge the risk of various activities, taking precautions as needed.
  • Obtain appropriate travel immunizations and medical advice.
  • Report all incidents to the local UCEAP staff and/or partners abroad.
  • Have an operational cell phone that works abroad for local calls, and text message service that does not depend on local Wi-Fi.
  • Check official campus email account regularly during stay abroad.
  • Update local contact information (phone number, email, local address) in MyEAP.
  • Indicate when/where they are traveling through the travel sign-out feature in MyEAP. UCEAP local staff will be able to locate your student in the event of an emergency.
  • Follow all official UCEAP instructions in the event of an emergency or crisis.
  • Respond to contact from UCEAP and local staff in a timely manner.

Preparation and Awareness

No amount of planning can anticipate every single problem that may arise but it is critical to be prepared.  


Emergency situations can include environmental (earthquakes, floods), personal (petty theft, assault), health (illness, exacerbation of pre-existing conditions), or safety issues (civil unrest, arrest, sexual assault). Students should research various online resources (for example: US Department of State Students Abroad, and US CDC Travelers Health) to understand basic health, local endemic illnesses, travel vaccinations, and safety issues before leaving the US.

Health and Safety Preparation Checklist:
 
  • The health section of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad covers a number of important issues to address with your student before departure. Contact our office if you have questions.
  • Encourage your student to disclose any physical or mental health issues before departure on the relevant UCEAP health forms. Medical professionals can give advice and help plan for obtaining ongoing support while abroad.
  • Talk with your student about the different situations that they may encounter, and how to handle them. This can help in creating a personal emergency action plan.
  • Know whom you and your student should call in an emergency.
  • Advise your student not to take risks that they would not take at home.
  • Understand your student's schedule the first few days. You may not hear from your student for several days after the start of the program as it will be a busy and overwhelming time. Communication may be a challenge during the first couple of days.
  • Ensure your student has a cell phone while abroad. Having a cell phone with local and international plans is a necessity. In the event of an emergency or crisis abroad, local UCEAP staff and partners will reach out to your student (via text, email, phone, or chat applications). It is critical for your student to have a phone with a local plan that does not reply on Wi-Fi so our staff and partners can reach your student even if your student is not close to a hotspot.
  • Encourage your student to regularly review the US Department of State travel information for the study location. Discuss travel plans independent of the study abroad program and keep a copy of your student's travel itinerary. 
  • Encourage your student to register online with the US Department of State STEP to receive important security messages directly from the local US Embassy/Consulate.
  • Ensure that your student will carry, at all times, the 24/7 contact information for the UCEAP Study Center and local emergency services. Keep a copy of all contact information in your possession. This information is on your student's online program guide.
  • Make copies of all important documents such as your student's passport, visa, itinerary, and credit cards.
  • Emphasize maintaining regular communication with the UCEAP Study Center while abroad. If your student contacts you from abroad and is upset or frustrated, it will make you anxious. Direct your student to reach out to the local staff/partners for support. Any questions or concerns from your student while abroad can be managed much more efficiently and in real time by the local staff or partners. 
  • Locate the nearest US Embassy in the city or cities your student will visit.
  • Sexual Violence is a global problem, not only in the US In the event of a sexual assault abroad, UCEAP students are urged to seek local support from their Study Center, or directly by contacting a local survivor support organization. UCEAP has compiled a list of sexual violence resources​ available in all program locations, and on each UC campus. Review resources on how to support a survivor.
  • Be aware of fire safety and fire hazards abroad. Fire safety standards vary dramatically around the world. Consider purchasing a travel smoke alarm and fire safety kit from the Fire Safety Foundation.  

UCEAP Policy Limitations

The University of California Education Abroad Program provides information for required pre-departure and on-site orientation sessions that cover health and safety topics. However, UCEAP cannot:
 
  • Guarantee the safety of participants or ensure that risk will not be, at times, greater or similar than on a UC campus.
  • Eliminate all risks from the UCEAP environments abroad.
  • Monitor or control the daily personal decisions, choices, or activities of individual participants.
  • Prevent participants from engaging in illegal, dangerous, or unwise activities. 
  • Assure that US standards of due process apply in legal proceedings or provide or pay for legal representation for participants. Your student will be subject to the country’s laws and regulation, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the US and may not afford the protections available to the individual under US law. Legal and administrative processes may be substantially different from those in the US and slow by our standards.
  • Assume responsibility for situations that may arise due to the failure of a participant to disclose pertinent information.
  • Assure that American cultural values and norms will apply in the host country.

UCEAP holds adult students accountable for following UCEAP and host institution policies, country laws, program-specific regulations, and for respecting and being responsive in a timely manner to UCEAP program officials, UCEAP representatives abroad, and partner institution officials. The decision to ignore or violate policies and regulations, to respect UCEAP officials and those acting on their behalf abroad, or to endanger the safety or security of others will result in disciplinary action.

UCEAP Student Policies

Parents and students should educate themselves on official UCEAP policies, terms, and conditions. Students are governed by and responsible for complying with this sets of policies:
 
​​​

Emergencies

BE INFORMED.  BE PREPARED.

You may need to travel to your student's location, particularly if your student is in the hospital. Consider having a valid passport, with the correct visa if necessary.  Generally, passports should have at least six months of validity when traveling internationally. Most countries will not permit a traveler to enter their country unless the passport is set to expire at least six months after the final day of travel.


UCEAP Emergency Response Protocols

No amount of planning can anticipate every problem that may arise but it is critical to be prepared. The UCEAP Systemwide office in California and representatives worldwide monitor local conditions (political, natural, social, disease, etc.) 24/7 in all UCEAP locations. UCEAP operates a robust emergency response system, categorizing student incidents or situations in given locations, and a multi-phased approach in response to relocation or evacuation triggers. for an overview of UCEAP Emergency Response Protocols, refer to the following document: UCEAP International Risk Management and Emergency Response


Medical Emergencies

In addition to UCEAP local and partner staff in charge of student welfare, the University of California partners with United Healthcare Global Assistance to provide worldwide medical and travel-related assistance services. Medical evacuations are the responsibility of local treating physicians and United Healthcare Global medical team. During an emergency, your student should contact the local UCEAP Study Center or partner institution staff for immediate assistance. Students should print and keep their Travel Insurance Card with them at all times. 

Personal Emergencies

If your student is in the program location, and a personal emergency occurs, your student should contact local UCEAP Study Center or partner institution staff for immediate assistance.
If your student is outside the program location, your student should contact the UCEAP assistance provider, United Healthcare Global, for immediate assistance.

If your student calls you directly, encourage them to contact UCEAP staff. If it is regarding an emergency or unresolved matter, let us know immediately as well.

  • UCEAP 24/7 emergency line: 1+ 805 - 893 - 4762  Emergency calls will be returned as soon as possible. Non-emergency calls will be returned the following business day.

Program, Regional, or Country Emergencies

During a local emergency, UCEAP's first concern is to determine the safety and whereabouts of all students. We respond immediately to the emergency abroad, working closely with on-site staff and following comprehensive emergency contingency plans. We employ different communication tools to contact as many students as possible in the shortest period of time, and will contact your student's emergency contacts directly, when necessary.

While media fulfill a significant communication role during a natural disaster or crisis situation, media outlets work under pressure and time constraints to report, and may as a result report exaggerated broadcast about the magnitude of a particular crisis situation or natural disaster. We constantly check different media outlets for accuracy to minimize anxiety and the spread of rumor.

In the event of a regional situation affecting US citizens, the local US embassy will post notices on its website, broadcast information through local media channels, and contact US citizens using any known email addresses or phone numbers for students registered in the US Department of State’s STEP program. In the rare case that the situation is potentially life threatening, the embassy will advise all US citizens to leave the country, and it may be able to offer some assistance in doing so. UCEAP will work with the local Study Center or partner institution staff, and the UCEAP security assistance provider. If your student is studying in or traveling to a country that is prone to natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions or floods, or places where political and social upheaval is commonplace, they should take extra precautions by becoming familiar with local evacuation plans on the country’s website.

Updated emergency information affecting an entire program, region, or country, is posted on the UCEAP Worldwide Alerts page.

Security Evacuations

The decision to proceed with a security evacuation is the responsibility of the UCEAP Crisis Management Team, local faculty and staff, and the UCEAP insurance carrier. If needed, UCEAP will relocate or evacuate students and faculty from their location.

In partnership with student responsibilities regarding their own health and safety, UCEAP provides:

  • Our Worldwide Alerts page, kept up-to-date with accurate information on situations at our program locations.
  • A focused, multi-level approach to emergency preparedness and emergency plans, tailored for each location in order to effectively coordinate timely local response resources.
  • UCEAP travel insurance coverage anywhere in the world 24/7, starting 14 days before the official start of the program and up to 31 days after the end of the program, including security evacuation, emergency medial evaluation, and repatriation and other non-medical benefits.
  • 24 hour travel and security assistance through the Health, Safety, and Emergency Response unit at UCEAP, and our partners in keeping travelers safe:
  • Proactive assessment and management of risk for all UCEAP programs and locations.
  • Constant communication flow, maintained between UCEAP Systemwide office in California, and Study Centers and partner institution staff abroad.
 
Suggested Student Personal Emergency Plan: Checklist to cover with your student.
 
  • Talk through a personal emergency contingency plan in case your student is injured or ill while abroad. Students are instructed to print and carry at all times their UCEAP Insurance Card, which contains important contact information. 
  • Prepare for the unexpected: Have a valid and updated passport ready with correct entry visas in case it becomes necessary for you to travel on a short notice to your student’s program location. Read about Emergency Reunion benefits in the UCEAP Travel Insurance Brochure.
  • Read the UCEAP travel insurance policy details and terms of coverage that are included in the UCEAP Travel Insurance Brochure.
  • Ask your student for the UCEAP emergency contact abroad. Keep a copy of all contact information.
  • Before your student departs, discuss how you will handle any family emergencies that may arise. A plan should include all family telephone numbers; contact information for relatives; and email addresses.
Your student should:

  • Know who to call in an emergency.
  • Print and carry at all times the UCEAP Travel Insurance Card.
  • Read about local fire safety protocols, and design possible escape plans in case of fire. Identify two exits from every location.
  • Understand UCEAP insurance coverage (medical and non-medical).
  • Know where local emergency shelters are located.
  • Register online with the US Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to receive important emergency information from the local US Embassy. 
  • Have emergency contact information for the UCEAP program and local emergency services within reach.

Health

Before going abroad, make sure your student gets a complete physical, dental, and eye check-up 6 weeks before leaving. Inform yourself of all health risks, endemic diseases, food/water precautions and US CDC-recommended travel immunizations. Know where the best hospitals and clinics are located in the country in which your student will be visiting and studying in. Have a copy of all local program contact information. Make sure you have a valid passport and a visa for the country where your student will be studying.

UCEAP Travel Insurance

UCEAP students are automatically covered by the UCEAP travel insurance policy. It is separate coverage from the student’s UC campus health insurance plan (SHIP), or private insurance. There is no need to take action to activate coverage. 
  
More information about insurance, including a link to the insurance card, claim forms, benefit details, policy brochure, extension of insurance, the affordable care act (ACA), gap in coverage before or after the program, can be accessed through the UCEAP website, Participants country portal -insurance tab and within the Insurance ​section of this website.

Managing Existing Medical Conditions Abroad

Physical health is essential to student well-being and success abroad. Students begin to receive information about health matters during pre-departure orientation and are required to obtain a health clearance before they can participate in UCEAP. For some locations, students obtain additional country-specific details through an online travel course which includes special location-specific health information, instructions, and advice in order to prepare for healthy and safe participation in their program. 
 
Parents are encouraged to communicate with their student who will need to anticipate any health issues that could arise while abroad. With advanced planning, students with pre-existing medical conditions can identify whether adequate health care resources are available in their chosen destination before they depart. Information about local medical care will also be provided by the host university staff during the on-site orientation.
 
While living abroad can present special health challenges; forward planning, country awareness, appropriate preventive measures, and careful precautions can substantially reduce the risks of adverse health consequences abroad. Please refer to the Health ​chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad and the country-specific pre-departure checklist for more details.
 
In the event of an illness or minor injury, your student should contact the UCEAP or partner institution local staff for referrals to local medical care. In the event of a medical emergency only, your student should proceed to the emergency room of a local hospital, contact the UCEAP or partner institution local staff and United Healthcare Global Assistance at +1-410-453-6330 international collect.

Mental Health

As a parent or family member, you may be the first person your student will reach out to when in distress or struggling. We encourage you to help your student recognize symptoms, reach out for help from local staff, and learn strategies to manage mental health issues. Being aware of what options are available while abroad is central to identifying the most effective support available for a healthy and rewarding time abroad. Talk to your student before departure and make sure you and your student understand local resources. This is particularly important if your student is traveling with medication. Encourage your student to reach out to the local UCEAP or partner institution staff in case of any mental health concern. UCEAP will work with your student to find necessary support services where available. 
 
It is not unusual for students to face some form of stress over the course of their academic experience, including while they are studying abroad. The stresses of travel and life in an unfamiliar setting can exacerbate existing mild psychological disorders or initiate the onset of new conditions. Most students are generally able to cope, but for some, these experiences can become overwhelming and unmanageable. 
 
When living in a new country, students can experience culture shock. Without their friends and family support, students may encounter an initial feeling of isolation that will fade within three weeks. Sometimes culture shock feelings do not subside.
 
Students with a past history of mental health should share this during their health clearance appointment so the clinician can work with UCEAP Systemwide to identify sources of continued treatment while on UCEAP. 
 

Disabilities and Chronic Conditions

Please refer to important information in the UCEAP website, Disabilities page. 
 

Culture Shock

Culture shock and homesick feelings are normal. It is easy to become worn down from physical and mental stress due to the vastly different environment. Most students expect to quickly adapt to the new culture—and they need to adjust rapidly if they are to effectively meet the academic demands placed upon them. Culture shock is a normal developmental phase of adjustment to a new cultural environment. It is not a psychological disorder, but can result in an unexpected emotional response. Most students who experience culture shock function reasonably well and are able to keep up with the responsibilities of school and everyday life. Strong emotional reactions are normal responses to abnormal situations and are to be expected under the circumstances. They are usually transitory—lasting a couple of weeks—and do not imply mental illness or an inability to cope. 
 

Confidentiality

UC, Federal, and State privacy laws protect and ensure the confidentiality of medical information. UCEAP cannot require students to disclose a health diagnosis for which they have been, or are being treated before their departure, even if continued care is recommended. If your student begins to experience physical or mental health issues after arrival at the program location, they should contact the local staff immediately. 
 
If you believe that your student is experiencing serious distress, contact the UCEAP Systemwide Office immediately. Refer to the Health ​chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad for more information.

Accidents, Illnesses, and Injuries

While accidents are by definition unplanned, students can still plan to stay safe, especially in a foreign country. Accidents and injuries do occur, and cannot always be avoided. Fortunately, prior knowledge, common sense, and situational awareness can help keep your student safe while abroad. Being proactive and prepared by learning about your student’s destination can help prevent common accidents and injuries.
 
The biggest cause of illness abroad is related to minor health issues, and accidents, including traffic injuries and those from recreational activities. Often these incidents could have been prevented with proper planning and information about health and safety risks in the destination country or activity. 
 
Second to routine or unexpected health problems abroad, road accidents are commonly reported. Lack of familiarity with local roads, driving on the opposite side of the road, lack of safety precautions, even safety as a pedestrian can increase risks. Unsafe roads and vehicles with inadequate transportation infrastructure contribute to the traffic injury problem in some countries. In many of these countries, motor vehicles often share the road with vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcycle users. The mix of traffic involving cars, buses, taxis, rickshaws, large trucks, and even animals (on one road or in a single travel lane) increases the risk for crashes and injuries.
 
  • Consult with a travel medicine specialist to learn about potential risks, required vaccines and even what kind of insect repellent to pack. 
  • Know what to avoid and how to get help if needed.  
  • Carry a card that identifies, in the local language, blood type, any chronic illnesses, any current medications, and any allergies.
  • Pack copies of personal medical records so local doctors can provide the best treatment possible.
  • Be prepared to pay out of pocket at the time any medical services are obtained while traveling.
  • Do not drive a motorized vehicle: Traffic patterns and rules of the road are different. Insurance coverage and liability insurance requirements differ.
  • Do not engage in activities that require concentration until you have adjusted to the new time zone.
  • Know the public transportation quality of your travel destination.
  • Be cautious while using public transportation.
  • Know where to find competent medical care abroad (contact your local UCEAP or partner institution staff and/or US embassy).
  • Be prepared for language and monetary differences which can be confusing.
  • Wear a medical ID bracelet to indicate any serious medical conditions or allergies. Know whom to call and where to go in case of an emergency.
Parents and students are encouraged to research safety resources before the program to assess and reduce personal risk and prevent accidents. There are many useful safety information resources for international travelers, including road safety checklists and country-specific driving risks:
 
For information about local road conditions and public transportation, visit:

Traveling with Medications

Students are responsible for making arrangements with their physician to have enough medicine while abroad. 
 
In some countries, drugs that are legal and readily available in the US are considered illegal, require a prescription, or may arouse suspicions among local officials and customs and immigration authorities. 
 
Students are advised to check any regulations that may apply to transporting medicine out of the US, and into their host country. Different countries have different rules and regulations about the types of medicine they allow to be taken into the country and the maximum quantity permitted. Some medicines available over the counter in the US may be controlled in other countries and vice versa.
 
Do not plan to mail medications to your child abroad. Mailing prescription and over-the-counter medication is not recommended as it may be illegal in some countries. Customs officials may stop the shipment or charge prohibitive fines. 
 
Some prescription medications are illegal or unavailable in other countries. Your student has been instructed to check their UCEAP Program Guide and the International Narcotics Control Board​ for required documentation and country restrictions. Also, contact the Embassy of the country or countries your student is planning to visit to confirm whether required medications are not considered illegal. Find a list of foreign embassies and consulates that have a presence in the US here.
 
If your student's prescribing doctor advises against taking a large supply of medication, he/she should provide a note with the diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen so that an overseas physician can consider filling the prescription locally, provided the medication is licensed and legal in the country. In some cases, the local physician may conduct an examination to confirm the diagnosis before filling the prescription provided by the US doctor. Some local doctors may be hesitant to prescribe the same dosage.
For more information, refer to the Health chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad

Allergies

Selecting safe foods in the US may be easy, but a foreign menu can have many unexpected ingredients and the label will be in the local language. Encourage your student to follow these recommendations:
  • Consult with a travel medicine specialist before departure.
  • Plan ahead, have an emergency care plan, and a letter from your doctor that confirms your food allergies and medications. Carry the documents with you at all times.
  • Research all your travel destinations.
  • Always be prepared for a worst-case scenario.
  • Careful preparation will make your trip safe and enjoyable. Make sure you have all the medicines you need for the duration of the trip and a few extra days in case of unexpected travel delays.
  • Consider wearing medical alert identification indicating your allergies.
  • If you have to take any medications for your condition, make sure to carry it at all times. This means antihistamines and epinephrine if you have a serious food allergy. Do not pack this medication in checked baggage.
  • Find out how to talk about allergies in the local language.
  • In a restaurant, do not assume that just because the wait staff has informed you they know how to deal with food allergies that your food will be safe.
Read more in the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Health ​chapter.