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Health & Safety Abroad

Health and safety of students is a top concern of the Office of International Education (OIE). Students planning to study abroad are required to attend a pre-departure meeting to prepare them for cultural differences, as well as health and safety abroad.  In addition to the pre-departure session, students receive a pre-departure guide with information that prepares them for their experience.  Students should use these resources to protect their health and safety abroad.

Preparing to Go

Students should learn about their host country prior to travel so that there are fewer surprises on arrival.  The U.S. government provides travelers with information on preparedness and cultural and health information that will help students.  Students should utilize the websites listed below for up-to-date information on culture, health, and safety abroad:

  • Centers for Disease Control (CDC): The CDC gives travelers information on health notices and required vaccinations for various countries.  Students should read about any required vaccinations and make arrangements to be vaccinated prior to travel.  Please note that some vaccinations are only offered by travel clinics and may not be covered by insurance.
  • U.S. State Department Country Information: The U.S. State Department gives students access to many resources, including basic information on the countries that they are traveling to, including information on visas, crime, health, local laws, etc.  Students are highly encouraged to utilize this website prior to travel.
  • U.S. State Department Traveler's Checklist: Make sure that you are completely prepared to travel with this smart checklist.Students Abroad on a Boat

Medication and Prescriptions

If you take a prescription regularly, make sure that you have enough medication for your trip or make plans to receive more of the prescription while abroad.  Sometimes, prescriptions sent by mail are held up in customs so it is not always easy or timely to have prescriptions sent to you while abroad.  Don't assume that you can get the same prescriptions in your host country as some medications can be illegal to import in certain countries-- including some behavioral health medications, stimulants, amphetamines, etc.  If you have questions on what prescriptions are not allowed in your host country, visit the UHC Student portal (more information below).

Be sure to keep prescriptions in original packaging when you go abroad along with a statement of your diagnosis from your doctor.  If possible, bring copies of your prescriptions with you as well (including glasses or contacts).

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service provided by the U.S. government to citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country.  STEP allows you to enter information about your trip abroad so the Department of State can better assist you in an emergency.  After enrollment, STEP provides you with information on the closest U.S. embassy or consulate and can also send travel updates in the event of natural disaster or civil unrest, and can even help your family get in touch with you in case of an emergency at home.  Students are highly encouraged to enroll all travel with STEP.

United Healthcare Health & Accident Insurance

Students studying abroad on Fredonia programs are automatically enrolled in UHC insurance which provides health and medical evacuation/repatriation insurance.  UHC insurance is included in the cost of Fredonia study abroad program fees and students will be automatically enrolled prior to their time abroad.  Students are able to use this insurance for doctor visits, counseling sessions (including telecounseling), tests, and prescription medications abroad-- in some cases, students will need to pay out of pocket but can file a claim with UHC if they keep receipts from any medical treatment.  UHC provides an online portal system and an app to all enrolled participants, which allows students to easily search for doctors or specialists within the insurance network and to file claims online.

Students are highly encouraged to register with UHC prior to their program start date and can do so by going to the UHC Students website.  Following enrollment by the Office of International Education, students will receive an email with login instructions and an electronic version of their insurance card (including their certificate number).  The Office of International Education also retains copies of student insurance cards in the event of an emergency.

For more information on benefits, please see the UHC outbound student guide.

  • Please note: Neither the State of New York, through its agents, nor the State University of New York through its agents and employees, is responsible in any manner whatsoever for the payment of any claim for health-related services provided to individuals covered under this insurance policy. The State of New York and State University of New York are not responsible for obligations incurred by individuals who are not covered by this insurance policy. All individuals participating in the University’s health insurance programs described herein are responsible for reviewing all descriptions of the scope and level of coverage offered by this policy. Such participants will be solely responsible for obtaining additional coverage not provided under this program if such is deemed necessary by the participant.

While Abroad

Students abroad should follow these basic health and safety tips while abroad, and can utilize other resources listed below for various cases:

  • Do not carry your passport with you unless you are traveling.  You can carry a copy of your passport with you as a form of identification, but be aware of where it is at all times.
  • Know which direction traffic moves (AKA, which way you need to look to cross the street).
  • Dress conservatively to avoid unwanted attention.  Try to blend in with locals.
  • Distance yourself from people who make you feel uncomfortable.   If you ever feel in danger from someone, notify your friends or others in a public place.
  • NEVER walk alone at night or in questionable neighborhoods. 
  • Visit the ATM with a group of friends and put extra money in a safe place.  ATMs are an obvious choice for pickpockets.
  • Read the newspaper or listen to the radio for news reports. If situations arise that are dangerous, you may need to rethink your travel plans or in a worst case scenario, plan your return to the U.S.
  • Notify friends and family of where and when you are traveling so that they can keep track of you.
  • Avoid protests and political movements.  If you feel strongly about an issue, take a stand when you’re at home. 

Culture Shock

Up to now, you have probably been pretty excited, but the long trip and getting settled in your new home can make you feel tired and a bit lonesome for home, family and friends.   Homesickness affects people differently.  For some it happens on the first night, for others, it may happen weeks later. The most important thing to remember is that this happens to everyone and that it will get better. The worst thing you could do when you are feeling homesick and lonely is to be alone. Get out of your room and hang around with your new friends. If you don’t feel better in a couple days- seek help from your program advisor.

Students that experience anxiety, culture shock, depression, or homesickness abroad are encouraged to work with the program advisor or leader to find resources that can be helpful.  In some cases, your host institution may have counseling services available to students as well.  UHC is sometimes able to match students with a local counselor, though that is not always possible depending on where the student studies. 

If your situation does not improve while abroad, contact Fredonia’s Office of International Education or Counseling Center.

Following SUNY/Local Laws

SUNY students traveling abroad are still bound by the Rights and Responsibilities Code of Conduct published in the State University of New York at Fredonia College Catalog. Students that do not adhere to the Fredonia Code of Conduct, host institution Code of Conduct, and/or local laws can be removed from the program.  Fredonia has zero tolerance for breaking the Code of Conduct or laws abroad.  The best way to behave while abroad is as a guest in a new place.  Be courteous, polite, and quiet. 

Students are also expected to adhere to local laws while abroad.  Travelers can often get in trouble for local laws on alcohol, drugs, or prostitution.  The US Embassy or Consulate may not have the power to help US citizens that are arrested abroad.

Protecting Your Health and Safety

It is important that you do what you can to keep yourself safety and healthy when abroad: avoid risky situations, maintain good hygiene, and pay attention to U.S. government recommendations.  If you are studying in a developing country, it is important that you drink only bottled water and avoid uncooked fruits, vegetables, and meats.  Tropical countries often have more insects that can spread disease: wear insect repellant, wear long pants and sleeves, use mosquito netting, and take anti-Malaria medication if recommended.  

Avoiding risky behavior can keep you from falling ill or into dangerous situations: never go anywhere alone with someone you just met, monitor alcohol use abroad, practice safe sex to avoid the spread of STDs, and avoid getting tattoos or body piercings.  Additionally, it is important that you notify someone of any travel you intend to do, whether it be to the market or to another country.  If you ever feel unsafe, try to go somewhere public where you can easily attract attention if needed.

Alcohol and Drug Use Abroad

Drinking customs and culture can be very different from what students experience in the U.S.  While some countries allow some drugs to be used legally, students should still consider (cultural and legal) consequences of drug use abroad. It is important that students know and understand laws and cultural norms before using alcohol and drugs (if legal) abroad.  Both alcohol and drugs can impair judgment and safety, and it is especially important to be mindful of intake.  Additionally, students should remember that they are representing themselves, their institution, and the U.S. when abroad-- students should behave as cultural ambassadors and guests in the country they are visiting.  Study abroad is ultimately an academic pursuit and students should not jeopardize their experience with bad judgment.

No matter what their nationality, students are subject to local laws regarding alcohol and drugs, and sometimes these laws can be more severe than the United States.  The U.S. embassy and Fredonia can do nothing when it comes to being arrested or prosecuted for breaking local laws.  

Sexual Violence Abroad

Just as there is zero tolerance for sexual violence at Fredonia, sexual violence will not be tolerated by Fredonia students abroad.  Sexual assault is any unwanted, coerced, or forced sexual contact or intercourse with someone who does not or is unable to give consent.  If Fredonia students are found guilty of sexual assault abroad, they can be removed from their program, and also face the possibility of suspension or dismissal from the university.

If you are a victim of sexual violence while abroad, Fredonia can still work to help you.  Students will work with the Office of International Education, the Counseling Center, and the Title IX Coordinator to make accommodations as well as provide advocacy.  While laws and views of sexual assault vary by country, Fredonia student victims will be treated as if they are on campus in the event of sexual assault. For more information on Fredonia’s policy on sexual assault, as well as resources for victims, please visit

Emergencies Abroad

After you arrive in your host country, make sure that you have information on local emergency protocols and services that affect health and safety.  Where are health centers located and how do you contact emergency services?  What services does the campus offer to help?  Keep important contact information with you at all times.

Make sure to always communicate with local program staff first, as they can respond more quickly to issues abroad and refer you to the appropriate place.  In the event of illness, coordinate with UHC to find an appropriate facility if possible.  

In a true emergency involving your health or safety, please contact the Office of International Education and we will do what we can to assist you.  Please note that our scope of power and knowledge is limited, as we are still in the United States.  In the event that you do need to contact OIE, please call University Police at +1 716-673-3333.  In cases of natural disaster or civil unrest, OIE may be in touch with you to ensure your safety.  It is important that you respond (if possible).

For up to date information on emergencies, students should register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) through the U.S. Department of State.  Those enrolled will get notifications of travel updates and warnings.  Parents are also able to sign up for these updates, even if they are not traveling outside of the U.S.

SUNY students are expected to adhere to local laws while abroad.  Travelers can often get in trouble for local laws on alcohol, drugs, or prostitution.  The US Embassy or Consulate may not have the power to help US citizens that are arrested abroad.

Additional Resources

Women Abroad

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