Pre-Departure Planning

As you prepare to travel, live, and work overseas you can enhance your safety by learning about the new environment where you will be. The internet and those who have recently traveled to the same destination are valuable sources of useful information and lessons learned. Read and carefully consider all materials issued by the sponsor that relate to safety, health, legal, environmental, political, cultural, and religious conditions in host countries. Here is some information that may prove useful.

General Health and Safety

  • Visit country-specific websites for information on political, social, economic, geographic, and other characteristics of your destination country such as Study Abroad Student Handbook or the U.S. Department of State.
  • Use the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Country Specific Travel Health Information provides guidance on health information for the countries where you will travel.
  • The Study Abroad Student Safety Handbook list important information students need to know about such as medical care and insurance, basic health and safety, risk factors and strategies to reduce risk, special issues, crisis management, and adjustments and culture shock.
  • You can also use the Study Abroad Student Handbooks to prepare your Emergency Information Card and Other Emergency Planning to assist you in being prepared before going and after arriving abroad.

Medicine and Vaccinations

According to Rosamond Dewart, Former Chief, Travelers’ Health Section of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “Arming yourself with the information tools necessary for your overseas experience is probably the most important aspect for ensuring a safe trip. This includes learning as much as you can about the health risks that may occur where you are going. Another important part of preparing for your trip is allowing sufficient time for your vaccinations to take effect before your travel. Gathering your health records together and consulting with a medical provider that is familiar with travel medicine issues is important especially when traveling to less developed countries. As a general rule, the longer duration of your time abroad, the more vaccines you may need and the longer the lead-time to get them completed before you travel. Some require several shots weeks to months apart. Assessing your risk of disease is what you and your healthcare provider should be doing as you provide the healthcare provider the information on your itinerary, your activity, your purpose, your lodging, etc., It is important to understand that many primary care providers do not see many travel patients and may choose to refer you to someone else who has more specialized experience. Setting up these appointments can take time so planning well in advance of your departure date is important.”

  • Because different destinations have different requirements, check with the Center for Disease Control about necessary vaccinations.
  • The CDC Survival Guide gives recommends such as see a doctor to learn about recommendations specific to the countries and your own health, pack a travel health kit, plan ahead for illness, and learn about health risks and concerns where you will be going.


The SAFETI Clearinghouse emphasizes the importance of insurance coverage for students participating in study abroad programs. “No college or education abroad program should allow a student to travel abroad without sufficient medical insurance coverage for all possible medical needs, including coverage for medical evacuation and repatriation of remains, accident and life insurance. Major medical insurance includes coverage for all types of medical care one might need while abroad. Different policies have different levels of coverage. Institutions should include information about the insurance coverage available for study abroad and whether such insurance is required or recommended. Students need to be aware of their limits of coverage (pre-existing conditions, deductions, payment by reimbursement, no dental, etc.). A campus risk manager or insurance coordinator can assist in developing policies and guidelines for insurance tailored to students studying abroad.” Learn more information about major medical, evacuation, repatriation, and liability insurance at

Ensure that insurance policies are up to date and arrange for payment of premiums. Types of insurance to consider purchasing include major medical (in the U.S. and abroad), 24-hour emergency assistance, repatriation of remains, travel insurance, and coverage for kidnapping and ransom. Be aware of their limits of coverage (pre-existing conditions, deductions, payment by reimbursement, no dental, etc.).


  • Start learning a few common phrases in the local language because in the event of an emergency, you need to be able to communicate and understand effectively. Use the Communication Sheets from the Study Abroad Student Handbook to learn about Words to Know, Phrases to Know, and Service Icons.
  • Consider getting a cell phone to help with communication while traveling abroad as well as a telephone calling card. The ISIC card also has a calling card option for emergency situations. Check the rates and plans for the calling card that best suits your needs.
  • Photocopy passport and visa, credit cards, other documents that need to be replaced quickly, if lost or stolen. Leave one set of copies with reliable person at home and carry extra copies in a place separate from originals.
  • Notify credit card companies of intent to travel. Confirm credit limit. Be sure to change your Pin number to only 4 digits at your bank before your program starts – overseas ATMs are known to “eat” cards with longer Pin numbers.