Know Before You Go
Your health and safety during an education abroad program is a primary concern. Knowing the answers to the key questions below will be critical to your pre-departure planning as well as the base to having a pleasant and productive time abroad.
- What does the U.S. State Department recommend regarding travel to this country?
- What shots or immunizations do you need in order to gain entry into the host country?
- What is the number one health risk in country?
- What is the most common safety risk in country?
- Does your program include a special insurance policy that will cover you while abroad?
- Who are you going to contact in an emergency?
You are ultimately responsible for the choices you make regarding your safety. Many education abroad programs occur in very safe locations, but your lack of familiarity with the culture, language and people could put you at risk for danger.
Consider the following principles to help you prepare:
Principles of Personal Risk Preparedness While Studying Abroad
You should be aware of local news and political events. Read local newspapers and magazines, also keep up with international newspapers and publications.
Learn from local residents which areas of town are safe or dangerous and when to avoid certain locations. For example, normally safe areas may become more risky late at night, during soccer games, or political rallies.
Determine which means of transportation are safe and secure, and at what time of day. Which is safer late at night: public transportation (buses, subways, etc.) or taxis? This varies from country to country. When traveling from a familiar city to an unfamiliar area, ask for advice and research safe areas before departing.
Uncertainty causes a great deal of anxiety. You should check in regularly with your family and friends by phone or e-mail. For many parents, simply knowing that they can reach you at any time, day or night, reduces anxiety considerably.
Cell phones are quite inexpensive in many countries, and many plans do not charge to receive calls. You should inquire with your program provider which cell phone plans are best.
The UHCL Office of International Admissions and Programs also asks that you check in with us regularly by e-mail or phone. Notify us if you have a concern about your safety, or just to say that things are fine. We appreciate hearing from students.
Gaining cross-cultural understanding is one of the most important and profound aspects of the Study Abroad experience, and we encourage you to apply your newfound knowledge to preserving your safety. Every culture is different, even if they appear similar. While all cultures value safety and stability, the ways they achieve it may vary considerably.
You can enhance your experience and personal safety by learning the answers to the following questions:
- What do people in this culture value most?
- How are reputations made or ruined?
- What behaviors, manners or clothing blend in and which demand attention?
- How do people respond to uncertainty or difference? Are they open or do they feel threatened?
- What are the cultural norms for alcohol in the host country?
- What reputation do American students have?
- Do my actions, behavior and dress reinforce the negative or the positive?
Many people are concerned about your safety and security during your Study Abroad experience – including parents and friends, UHCL, the hosting institution and people responsible for your accommodations. However, no one will be as involved or concerned as you, the student. Ensuring your personal safety and security begins with the decisions you make on a daily basis, including the transportation methods you choose, whom you associate with, when and where you go out, etc.
By being aware, employing cultural common sense and making intelligent choices, you can greatly narrow the risks to your own safety. By far, the greatest threat to student safety involves alcohol. Although drinking across cultures is not necessarily as dangerous as drinking and driving, overindulgence in an unfamiliar country can result in negative consequences.
Passport and Visa Information
Obtaining a Passport
If you do not already have a valid passport, you will need to apply for one. OIAP is not an authorized location where you can apply for a passport. To apply for a U.S. Passport, you need the following documentation:
- A completed application (form DS-11) for first-time and renewal applicants.
- Original proof of citizenship (not a photocopy).
- Birth certificate (must be issued by the state, not by a hospital)
- Naturalization certificate
Valid state ID (driver's license or ID card)
Two passport photos
- Appropriate fees. The application fee has to be paid with a check or money order payable to the U.S. Department of State.
More details, including what to do about a lost or stolen passport, can be found on the U.S. Department of State website.
Applying for a Visa
A visa is permission from a foreign government to enter their country. A number of foreign governments require that students who study in their country apply for a study visa. When a visa is required, students may obtain application information from the website of the embassy or consulate of that country. The consulate has visa officers on staff to answer questions. Many study abroad agencies will also process student visas as part of the cost of a package.
Additional Travel Information
UHCL students traveling to foreign countries are eligible and encouraged to purchase an International Student Identity Card (ISIC). These internationally-recognized picture ID cards can be purchased from the Travel Office for $25 and include travel insurance.
When students arrive at the study abroad site, they are required to notify parents and the study abroad adviser immediately. Students are encouraged to remain in contact with the study abroad adviser during the term abroad.
Risk Assessment and Emergency Response
If a situation poses a genuine or immediate risk to the safety and well‐being of study abroad participants, as well as to the execution of the program as planned, it will be treated as an emergency. A situation may involve single participant, or all program participants.
Minor Emergency Situations
- Minor accident/ injury (small cuts, pulled a muscle, sprained ankle):
Contact local health services organization or agency, if required.
- Pick‐pocketing, petty theft: Contact the local emergency response agencies – police. The applicable phone numbers should be on your cell phone before you leave. The third party vendors should also provide those important phone numbers.
- Lost passport or wallet: Contact the local police first, request an official theft/loss report, then contact the nearest U.S. Consular office to process an expedient issuance of a temporary travel document. Contact for the local police and the U.S. Consular Office/Embassy should be provided by the third party vendors.
- Missed flight or train: Contact the airline carrier for immediate assistance. If the tickets were booked through a travel agent/third party vendor, contact them next for assistance, especially if the entire group may need to re-book.
- Discipline issue(s) such as peer or sexual or other harassment, repeated student or faculty alcohol/ drug abuse/tardiness, etc.: If a student needs to be sent back to the U.S. – contact the study abroad adviser immediately for further steps.
- Temporarily lost participant: Each student/participant must be carefully advised during pre-departure instructions on how and who to contact should they find themselves lost and on their own.
Major Emergency Situations
- Death of one or more program participants
- Life‐threatening injury or other medical emergency
- Physical/sexual assault
- Natural or human disasters
- Political/civil unrest
- Terrorist threat/attack
- Arrest, criminal charges
- Entire group delayed/stranded outside of the program location for one or more days (includes arrival/return days).
Serious Illness (Medical or Psychological), Injury or Death
- On-site personnel (faculty, student, program provider) contact the appropriate local authorities (police, embassy, medical personnel) to begin the local action necessary to address the situation.
- Necessary action will be taken, such as provision for medical care in the country, medical evacuation, etc.
Victim of a Crime/Assault
- On-site personnel/individual should contact the local authorities (police, U.S. Embassy, medical personnel) to begin the local action needed.
Accused of a Crime
- On-site personnel should contact the local authorities (police, U.S. Embassy, medical personnel) to begin the local action needed.
Contact for on-site personnel illnesses, injury, death, crime/assault or crime accusation:
- UHCL Police (281-283-2222)
- Dean of Students (281-283-2616)
- Office of International Admissions and Programs (281-283-2740)
|Dean of Students||281-283-2616|
|Office of International Admissions and Programs||281-283-2740|
Travel alerts and warnings: up-to-date alerts and warnings for U.S. travelers who are or will be traveling abroad.
On the U.S. Department of State Emergency Resources page you can find useful information about:
- Lost and stolen passports
- Medical emergencies
- Victims of crime
- Arrest and detention
- Missing persons and contacting loved ones
- Parental child abductions
- Death abroad
- Natural disasters
- The State Department's role in a crisis
Overseas U.S. Citizen Services / Report a Lost or Stolen Passport
From the U.S. & Canada