Health and Safety Tips for Study Abroad Trips

​​​​​General Health and Safety

  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times, even in areas generally considered safe. Don’t become overconfident after a few days or weeks and assume you no longer need to be cautious.
  • Alcohol compromises one’s ability to fully be aware of their surroundings and lowers inhibitions. Use caution and avoid overindulging. Establish a plan for your return home before going out.
  • Read the U.S. Consular Information Sheet regarding countries of travel and be aware of the warnings entailed.
  • Be careful with valuables, baggage, cameras, purses etc., especially in known tourist locations, airports and near ATMs.
  • Use a “buddy system” and travel in groups of two or more, especially at night.
  • Be aware of your own mental and physical health. Recognize when you need rest, when you might be getting sick, and know your own limits.
  • Pay close attention to the advice and information provided by local campus staff.
  • If you have health or safety questions or concerns, please share them staff immediately. Don’t be afraid, embarrassed, or shy when safety issues are concerned.
  • Culture shock, homesickness and frustration are a normal part of people’s study abroad experience and should be expected. Be prepared for this and recognize when they are negatively affecting your perspective and reactions.
  • Keep records of all credit card numbers and a copy of your passport page with someone at home and keep a spare copy with you during travel in case of loss or theft. Cloud based storage of this information can be helpful as well.
  • Carry key phone numbers for emergency contacts with you at all times in case you are separated from the group.
  • Develop a plan with trip leads of where to meet in the case of emergency. In the case of catastrophic emergency, be aware of locations of U.S. Consulates, Red Cross, police or hospitals in the area where you could seek help.

Medical Health and Safety

  • Health Insurance is required for all Dallas College study abroad and international travel. In addition to coverage for general illness or hospitalization, coverage must also include emergency evacuation and repatriation of remains in the event of death.
  • Although it is voluntary on your part, we strongly urge you to complete the entire Travel Emergency Information Worksheet (Form 3) to declare any known illnesses, disabilities or mental health information. This information will be used only on a need-to-know basis with project leads and campus​ staff, and it is very important that you provide the information needed for staff to help you stay healthy and safe during travel.
  • Jet lag and sleep disruption stress the body’s immune system and affect emotional and mental health. Be aware of the effects of sleep deprivation (especially during the first days of travel). Avoid alcohol and pace activities appropriately.
  • Immunizations—Consult with your physician regarding travel immunizations and medications. In addition to specific precautions related to the areas of travel, it is important to make sure that you are up to date on booster shots for common illnesses.
  • Illnesses and International Travel—Airports, airplanes and crowded tourist locations are places where contagious disease can spread quickly. Wash your hands frequently and always before eating. Be aware of those coughing or sneezing around you. If you develop signs of illness during travel or immediately afterwards, seek medical attention promptly and share with the doctors your travel itinerary.
  • Be sure to bring a sufficient supply of any medications you may need during travel. Be aware that some countries have restrictions on what medications can be legally brought into their country (check consulate website for details).
  • If you wear eyeglasses or contact lenses, you may wish to bring an extra pair in case of loss.
  • Food and water-borne bacteria are the most common causes of sickness during travel. Take precautions to protect yourself by avoiding unwashed fruit or vegetables, un-bottled water or uncooked foods.


  • Statistically, the single greatest risk for a person on a study away project is not airline crashes, terrorism, crime or illness, but is rather self-created problems from drinking alcohol.
  • In a credit course you are expected to participate in all class activities and project field trips. Don’t let alcohol consumption interfere with your participation. Alcohol consumption during project activities is prohibited.
  • Be aware of cultural norms for alcohol consumption. Americans tend to drink more and drink faster than most other cultures and have a higher threshold for tolerance of public drunkenness.
  • If at any time your behavior during the project can be seen as placing yourself or others in danger, you may be sent home at your expense and/or face other disciplinary action.
  • If you have concerns about others on your group and their behavior related to alcohol or any other issue, inform one of the faculty leads immediately.

Drug Use

  • 2,500 Americans are arrested overseas each year, one third of which are for drug-related charges. There is very little that anyone can do to help you if you are caught with or purchasing illegal drugs. It is your responsibility to know what the drug laws are in a foreign country before you go. "I didn’t know it was illegal" or “Other people were doing it,” will not get you out of jail.
  • Once you leave the United States, you are not covered by U.S. laws, nor are you protected by the Constitutional rights you enjoy here. The burden of proof in many countries is on the accused to prove his/her innocence.
  • Some countries—Thailand for instance—have extremely harsh punishments for possession or attempted purchase of illegal drugs and can include mandatory prison and in some cases, the death penalty. A good rule of thumb is if it’s illegal in the US, (or you think it might be) then it’s something you shouldn’t do in another country.
  • Never carry a package or luggage through customs for another individual.

Cultural Learning

  • Have an open learning mindset.
  • Approach each new experience from a broad cross-cultural perspective. Be prepared to adapt culturally.
  • Understand the limits of your own culture and worldview. Be aware that you will be in an international environment and will encounter many different beliefs and practices. You don’t have to adopt them ​​but avoid criticizing them as well.
  • It is a natural reaction to think something is “bad” or “stupid” when it does not conform to your experiences and expectations. Remember that encountering new and foreign perspectives and situations is why you went in the first place.
  • Develop curiosity, question and analyze your assumptions.


  • Journaling is a good way to record your memories and to track your learning and personal development. Each day during breaks or the evening, take time to keep track of new experiences, challenges and observations. Use this writing as a way to remember what it was like in the moment and what it means to be there.
  • Use writing as a way to structure your thoughts and experiences during your project. Use the journal to note lessons learned about how things are done differently in your field of learning. Make notes of names, contacts and connections that you can use to continue your connections away once you return home and anything else that seems noteworthy.

Being American Overseas

  • As an American abroad, think of yourself in the role of cultural ambassador representing USA to the world, because you are. You may be the first U.S.​ citizen the people you come into contact with have ever met and most of them will have a view of Americans based solely on television and movies.
  • Avoid falling into the trap of interacting with only with other Americans and be aware that U.S. foreign policy has generated a great deal of anti-American sentiment in some countries in the world. Try not to reinforce these perceptions.
  • Thoughtful dialogue and polite discussion on controversial issues can be an important learning experience but engaging in arguments is not. Be aware of the context in which you engage in discussion on topics that may be emotionally loaded such as war, terrorism, religion, racism, etc. and avoid confrontation, rather, listen respectfully and politely.
  • Be aware of how you present yourself through body language, clothing choice, loudness of voice, etc. Learn to recognize the habits and traits that make you stick out as an American.

See the World Citizens Guide for advice on intercultural learning and travel.