Health & Safety

The safety and security of our study abroad students is of unparalleled concern for Towson University officials. While we cannot guarantee the safety of our students either at home or overseas, we take specific measures to minimize the risks associated with study abroad.

For information regarding risk management and travel warnings please consult our Policies page.

The best method for coping with an emergency overseas is preparation.  We have compiled the following information to give you the basics on protecting your well being.

Health and Safety Basics

Although we hope that all TU students will have a safe and healthy overseas experience, it is important to recognize that there are a number of factors related to study abroad that should be taken into consideration. The Study Abroad Office staff is always available to assist with student concerns. However, students must remember that they hold the ultimate responsibility for ensuring their safety abroad.

NAFSA: Association of International Educators has assembled a list of responsibilities that each student should think about before studying outside the U.S. The full report 'Responsible Study Abroad: Good Practices for Health and Safety' also includes a list of recommendations for parents of students studying abroad.

Study abroad participants should:

  • Attend all pre-departure orientation sessions.
  • Read and consider all printed materials related to health and safety concerns in the destination country.
  • Research the political, economic, and cultural context of the destination country before departure.
  • Reflect on individual health concerns (physical or mental) and consult all necessary medical experts to determine appropriate care while overseas.
  • Purchase international health insurance if going on a non-TU program (or check with your provider). Students going on TU study abroad programs will automatically be enrolled in the TU Study Abroad Health Insurance plan for the duration of their program.
  • Provide family members, program staff, and the TU Study Abroad Office with accurate emergency contact information.
  • Comply with all codes of conduct and emergency procedures of the study abroad program or host institution.
  • Obey all host-country laws.
  • Behave respectfully and encourage others to behave in a similar manner.
  • Avoid all illegal drugs and exercise moderation when consuming alcohol.
  • Consistently inform program staff of individual whereabouts.
  • Become familiar with the medical and legal services available in country.
  • Accept responsibility for individual decisions and actions.

Safety Tips

A successful study abroad experience is a safe study abroad experience. We strongly encourage you to consider the following safety tips:

Before You Go

  • Make two copies of your passport. Keep one copy in a safe place and leave one copy at home. Once you arrive in country, leave your passport in a secure location except when traveling. Do not carry it around at all times.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) prior to departure.
  • Review the country information page of your host country and stay current on world events on the U.S. Department of State website
  • If your destination country is under an active travel warning be aware of the specific risks. You will be required to complete a Travel Warning Waiver when you submit your application in Horizons.
  • Check out DiversityAbroad.com for information on diversity and inclusion in your host country (ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, religion, gender, etc.)

Be a Smart Traveler

  • When traveling, research the safest modes of transport. Review the country information page of your host country on the U.S. Department of State website before you go.
  • Keep all valuables on your person while traveling. If possible, carry minimal cash and separate your cash from your credit or debit cards.
  • Keep an eye on your belongings at all times, and never accept packages from strangers. Pick-pocketing is a widespread problem, and Americans are often a prime target. Stay constantly aware of your surroundings.
  • Don't bring extremely valuable possessions with you. If you have an irreplaceable item, it is best to leave it at home.

Think About Your Actions

  • While studying abroad, students are representatives of Towson University. You are bound to the TU Student Code of Conduct while you are overseas. If we are informed of any breaches to the code of conduct, there may be ramifications when you return to campus.
  • Every year, students hurt themselves in alcohol-related incidents. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so responsibly! Stay with other people at all times, and exercise good judgment.
  • Do not become involved with illegal drugs. The punishment for drug use in some countries is extremely severe.
  • Road accidents are the number one cause of injury to U.S. citizens abroad. Become familiar with safe modes of public transportation and avoid driving in unfamiliar areas.
  • Avoid potentially volatile situations, such as protests, rallies and well-known American hot-spots.
  • Be sure that your faculty or program director consistently knows of your whereabouts, and establish a way to stay in contact with your family and friends.

Emergencies

  • Have a plan, for both home and abroad.
  • Make sure you know where the local U.S. embassy is located.
  • Be aware of travel alerts and any civil unrest in the country.
  • If something does happen, stay calm and find your way to a safe location as soon as possible.
  • Contact the international office at your host institution or your program representative on site.
  • Follow instructions provided by the local authorities.
  • Touch base with your emergency contacts and our office to let us know you are safe.
  • TU Study Abroad Office Emergency Contact info is as follows:
    During office hours (Monday - Friday from 9 am to 5 pm):
    410-704-2451
    After office hours please contact the Towson University Police:
    410-704-4444

Health Concerns

Most students who study abroad do not consider the potential effects that an overseas experience can have on physical or mental health. The Study Abroad Office recommends that all students consider the following tips when planning for study abroad:

Before Departure

  • Schedule any medical checkups before you leave as you may not have access to regular appointments overseas and it is wise to make sure you have a clean bill of health before departure.
  • Make copies of any important health records before departure, and make a note of how to contact your physician or therapist from overseas.
  • Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website to determine whether immunizations are recommended for travelers to your destination country. If you do need any immunizations contact your doctor or a travel medical clinic such as Passport Health.
  • If you do have a pre-existing mental or physical health condition, check in with your physician or mental health professional to discuss the possible stresses that could be caused by study abroad. If you require medication, discuss the best way to ensure that you will have a sufficient quantity for your stay.
  • All TU students are required to have adequate overseas health insurance prior to going abroad. Please review the TU Study Abroad Health Insurance Requirements on our Policies page for details.
  • If you take prescription medicine, you should research whether it is available in your host country and bring a copy of the prescription for the generic name of the drug. If you have any favorite over-the-counter remedies that you use, you may want to take an initial or full year’s supply.
    IMPORTANT:Some prescription and over-the counter medicines that are readily available in the United States may not be permitted overseas. If you plan on taking any medications with you abroad, check with the host country’s embassy to make sure they are legal to take through customs and use in-country.

While Overseas

  • Once you arrive in country, acquaint yourself with your host country’s health care system. Determine how you would find a doctor in the event of an emergency.
  • Remember that health care differs dramatically between countries. You cannot expect all health services to resemble the services found in the United States!
  • You may find that your diet changes significantly while you are abroad. If you have specific nutritional needs or preferences, you should be aware that it may be difficult to carefully monitor your diet.
  • Be aware of sanitation in health preparation. For example, if you are studying in a less developed country you should avoid street food and raw vegetables whenever possible.
  • Ask if it is safe to drink the water in your destination country. If it is not, avoid all exposure to the water by using bottled water for tasks such as brushing your teeth, ask for drinks without ice, and avoid salads in restaurants as raw vegetables are often rinsed in tap water.
  • Stay abreast of all health alerts in your destination country. If you feel that you are getting sick, inform your on site representative so that they can determine whether or not you need additional care.
  • Sexually-transmitted diseases are prevalent around the world. Exercise extreme caution if engaging in any sexual activity.
  • Studying abroad will drastically change your daily routine. As a result, your physical or mental health can be affected. You may experience jet lag, culture shock, emotional reactions to changes in diet or lack of exercise, homesickness or loneliness. Prepare yourself for the potential of these emotions and determine how best to handle them if they do arise.