There are inherent risks to traveling and studying in other countries. You will always be more at risk because you are unfamiliar with your surroundings and the customs of your host culture, but there are actions you can take to reduce your risk. The safety information and suggestions provided by the Learning Abroad Office will help you mitigate those risks. It is your responsibility to read these materials carefully and follow the instructions and policies herein.
The health and safety of students abroad is the top priority of the Learning Abroad Office. The University of Utah diligently works to mitigate known risks and cancel programs where risks are unacceptable. We take many precautionary steps to increase safety during our programs, including:
- Provide a 24-hour 7 days a week emergency phone line or onsite director
- Provide comprehensive international medical and security evacuation insurance
- Provide comprehensive pre-departure orientations for outgoing students
- Make available a variety of safety and health related materials and workshops
- Conduct safety, security, and health assessments of programs
However, students must recognize that many risks—such as natural disasters, political unrest, crime, transportation accidents, poor personal decision making, etc.—are not predictable in advance. The Learning Abroad Office urges students that, as always, deliberation and caution are the best policy when operating in foreign environments.
When considering the safety conditions in host countries, the Learning Abroad Office maintains vigilance with respect to State Department Travel alerts and warnings. While we do not make decisions regarding the safety of particular locations based solely on these advisories and warnings, we do consider them very carefully among a variety of other factors.
To ensure that all appropriate factors are considered with respect to State Department travel warnings and advisories, students traveling to locations with warnings or alerts in effect are subject to approval by the Learning Abroad Office and are expected to abide by instructions given by this office and program directors with respect to these warnings. Details about travel warnings and alerts can be found in Country Information, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts section of our website.
Before you go abroad, read the U.S. State Department's Country Specific Information for the country that you plan to visit. The State Department works hard to develop materials that are especially relevant to travelers from the United States. You can also consult the State Department’s student travel website. This site is specifically designed for student travelers and provides a number of valuable checklists and resources to help you prepare for your program.
The U.S. Department of State is responsible for establishing travel alerts and warnings for citizens traveling abroad. Wherever you travel in the world (including domestic travel), you should maintain a high level of vigilance and increase your security awareness. These practices are re-enforced through the U.S. Department of State Worldwide Caution.
All travelers should maintain a low profile. For example, you should leave the obviously U.S. American t-shirts and clothing at home. Meet the clothing standards of your host country, and respect sites of cultural, religious or national significance by dressing appropriately. Avoid large crowds, especially where demonstrations or political activities are involved. If you participate on a U of U learning abroad program, you are expected and obliged to conform to the regulations of the host institution and the laws of the countries that you visit. Misconduct can jeopardize your welfare, the welfare of other students, and the learning abroad program, and could result in your being sent home from the program.
We encourage all students to review any Travel Warnings or Travel Alerts for their destinations when selecting a program. The Learning Abroad Office maintains vigilance with respect to State Department Travel alerts and warnings. Although we do not make decisions regarding the safety of particular locations based solely on these alerts and warnings, we do consider them very carefully among a variety of other factors. The establishment of a travel warning does not necessary indicate that all travel to a particular destination is unsafe. For instance, some warnings may not clearly specify a recommendation that U.S. citizens should avoid unnecessary travel to a given country; others may be limited to specific locations within a particular country. In the latter case, students are expected to avoid areas specifically mentioned in such warnings and avoid unnecessary risk at all cost.
There are U.S. embassies in more than 160 capital cities throughout the world. Each embassy has a consular section which helps U.S. citizens abroad. Larger countries may also have U.S. consulates in other major cities. A complete list of U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide is available online. Students should know where the nearest embassy or consulate is located.
Embassies and consulates provide a number of services to American citizens abroad. For information about services specifically for students, visit the Students Abroad website hosted by the U.S. Department of State.
Effective September 15, 2015, all US citizens participating in approved Learning Abroad Programs will automatically be enrolled in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Once your registration is completed, you may begin receiving notifications from the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your Umail account. The benefits of enrolling in STEP include up-to-date advisories for your destination, help in the event of an emergency, and assistance replacing lost or stolen passports. Non-US citizens should contact the embassy of their home country in the host country to inquire about embassy registration.
- Educate yourself. Inform yourself about the places where you will be traveling. Inform yourself of cultural differences.
- Read the OSAC report for your destination. All students should read the OSAC report for the host country and adhere to all recommendations therein.
- Learn the emergency phone numbers for the host country. 9-1-1 is not a universal emergency phone number!
- Register with the STEP Program. Embassy registration is extremely helpful during an emergency or if you need to replace your passport.
- Be street smart. Make sure you are aware of your surroundings at all times. If you feel threatened, remove yourself from the situation. Choices in dress, living arrangements, entertainment, and companionship may impact on how you are viewed, and thus treated, by the locals.
- Travel in small groups and never walk alone at night. Be sure to use the buddy system in the host country.
- Don’t travel at night. Instances of crime, injury, and accidents to travelers increase after dark. Serious incidents have occurred when students disregard this advisory. Only travel during the day even if that means modifying your plans or spending more money to travel safely.
- Divide and hide your valuables. Keeping all of your valuables in one place makes you vulnerable to theft!
- Know the rules of the road. Do not hitchhike or drive. These can be VERY dangerous activities! Use caution when crossing the street. Use reliable transportation. Only travel in official, licensed vehicles.
- Prepare for cultural differences. Cultural differences can impact the way that you are perceived and treated while traveling. Harassment is common in some parts of the world. Do not travel alone, be aware of your surroundings, and dress conservatively during your travels. Be sure that your behavior is respectful within the context of your host country culture. Specific information for women and diverse travelers is available in the Learning Abroad Handbook.
- Travel in packs. Go out in small groups and never walk alone at night.
- Avoid public demonstrations. Public protests and demonstrations are common abroad, but they can be VERY dangerous. Even a peaceful protest or demonstration can become violent without warning. Students should NEVER participate in a public demonstration or protest. If these events occur during your program, avoid the area.
- Secure your passport. Store your passport in a safe place. Make two copies. One copy should go with you to the host country and be kept in a separate place from your passport. The other copy should be left at home with a trusted friend or relative. Don’t carry your passport unless it is necessary.
- Do not divulge personal information to strangers. Do not divulge the name or address of your homestay, hotel or room number to strangers.This could result in harassment or theft.
- Drink responsibly. Alcohol is one of the leading causes of injury to travelers. If you choose to drink, do so responsibly.
- Know your insurance information. Carry your health insurance information and emergency numbers with you.
- Leave a trail. Always let someone know where you are.
- Know what’s going on around you! Be street smart. Make sure you are aware of your surroundings. Students should be vigilant as street crime (theft and pickpocketing) is common. To prevent these events, students should not wear or carry valuables.
- Keep your emergency card handy. In online orientation, students are provided with an emergency card that includes phone numbers and steps for responding to an emergency. Keep this with you at all times.
While traveling you should be especially careful with personal documents. Do not bring any unnecessary credit cards, IDs, keys and other items with you. Make two photocopies of important documents such as insurance cards, credit cards, ATM cards, birth certificates, visas, passports, prescriptions, and airline tickets. Leave one copy at home with a trusted family member or friend. Take the second copy with you. Store the copies in a safe place, but SEPARATELY from the original documents.
NEVER pack your passport or any other important documents in your checked-in luggage. Important items such as passports and credit cards should be carried in a pouch or money belt as close to your body as possible. Keeping these items in exterior pockets or loose in purses and bags makes them vulnerable to theft. If your passport is lost or stolen abroad, contact your Program Director or the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.
9-1-1 is not necessarily the emergency number in other countries. Upon arriving abroad, ask your faculty director what the emergency phone number is in your host country! You can also visit the State Department website for a list of emergency phone numbers abroad.
Learning Abroad wants to help you stay healthy and safe while abroad, but we need your help to do so. It is important that you are familiar with the policies and procedures set by your program director. You should carry emergency contact numbers for the program director and assistants at all times.
In the event of an emergency, we suggest you follow some basic steps. The acronym below—DANGER—will help you remember these steps. Remember: Use your head! You will need to adjust these steps and your actions based on the situation you are in.
D. on’t panic
A. ssess the situation
N. otify your program director or Learning Abroad (801-585-2677)
G. o to a safe place
E. ducate yourself with news and updates
R. each out to family and friends
Learning Abroad has established a 24/7 emergency hotline for students participating in our programs. A student’s first point of contact in the event of an emergency should be the faculty director, program assistant, or other onsite personnel, but we are available to help if these individuals are not accessible. The 24/7 emergency hotline for Learning Abroad is 801-585-2677. When you call this number, you will be connected with the University Police. University Police will connect you with the on-call staff member in Learning Abroad.