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Health and Safety 

Staying healthy will make your program much more enjoyable. You want to make your trip a pleasurable experience, not one hampered by illness or bad medical experiences. Fortunately, a little bit of preparation and common sense can help you avoid a number of pitfalls.

Begin planning for your travel well ahead of time so that you are not rushing at the last minute. There are many resources available to help you prepare. At least three to four months prior to your program, start finding out about travelers’ health requirements and alerts of your host country. Organizations such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) (www.cdc.gov/travel) and World Health Organization (WHO) (www.who.int/en/) post easy-to-use health information and advisories for international travel.

STEP and Other Services
The U.S. Department of State provides information for students planning to study abroad. DOS issues travel warnings in cases where, in their consideration, the conditions in the country make it dangerous for U.S. citizens to travel to it, or when the U.S. Government’s ability to assist Americans is limited by the closure of an embassy or consulate or reduction of its staff. UCF policy is to not develop or promote study abroad programs that take place in areas for which the DOS has issued a travel warning. Another DOS notice, the travel alert, is issued to disseminate information about short-term conditions that pose imminent risks to the security of U.S. citizens, as in the case of natural disasters, terrorist attacks, coups, anniversaries of terrorist events, election-related demonstrations or violence, and high profile events such as international conferences or regional sport events. UCF actions associated with travel alerts are specific to the situation detailed in the text of the alert.
In order to receive DOS travel alerts, all participants should register online with the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Registration also helps the local embassy or consulate locate you if they have a need to contact you, especially in a case of emergency. Please note that you must create an account and then register your trip with specific dates and locations. It is highly suggested that you use this whenever you travel abroad, not just when studying abroad. Registration is voluntary (but highly recommended) and it costs nothing.


UCF Travel Clinic
Health conditions and services vary dramatically throughout the world and you cannot prepare for all possibilities. To stay healthy while abroad you must learn about the health threats that are common or probable in your host country. Some of this information is available on the program webpage, but it is highly recommended that participants research potential health risks on their own. Students preparing to study or travel abroad are encouraged to visit the UCF Student Health Service's Travel Clinic 6-8 weeks before departing. You can find out more by visiting the Student Health Service’s website (http://www.shs.sdes.ucf.edu/).

The UCF Travel Clinic counselor will provide tips for a safe and healthy trip, required and recommend vaccinations, risks associated with local diseases for the country you will visit, the latest information from the Center of Disease Control for your host country, health precautions to reduce illnesses and what to include in a travel kit. You may also wish to discuss getting the appropriate immunizations through your physician or the local Health Department.

Discussing your travel plans with your personal physician may also be beneficial, although keep in mind that he or she may not be an expert on the types of diseases found at your destination. Take care of current illnesses and have information about any conditions for which you may need care while abroad.

Vaccinations
Make sure you have received all necessary vaccinations before leaving the U.S. If you are not sure which vaccinations to get, talk to a health care professional and check the web sites of the CDC, WHO, and International Society of Travel Medicine. The requirements are subject to change, so make certain that you keep current with any updates. Your general physician should be able to administer any necessary vaccinations but you can also work with the UCF Travel Clinic or the local Health Department.

Medical Conditions and Concerns

Take an active position when it comes to your healthcare as you prepare for your program and once you reach your destination. You can keep a list of the medications you are taking in your wallet, along with the generic name and dosage for a convenient reference. If you are prescribed medication in your host country, keep a list of medications that you receive overseas. If you are treated for an illness or injury while abroad, find out if you will need further treatment when you return to the U.S. You should also make sure that you have a medical and dental check-up several months before you leave so that any necessary work can be completed well in advance.

Prescriptions
If you are taking prescribed medications, you may wish to speak with your physician about purchasing enough medicine to last the duration of the program. However, this may not always be possible or advisable. For example, there are restrictions on the amount of narcotics that can be introduced legally into some countries.

In some countries, medications used to treat depression/anxiety/OCD or ADD/ADHD are severely restricted or even illegal. It is important that you check the regulations and plan ahead to ensure that you will be able to continue with your medication uninterrupted. If you must keep your medication under special conditions, they may not survive the trip. In situations pertaining to refrigerated storage, it is highly suggested that you contact your airline and inquire about in-flight refrigeration. To avoid problems with customs, you should have a detailed statement signed and dated by your healthcare provider listing the conditions for which the prescriptions were issued, the brand and generic name of the medication, the prescribed dosage and instructions. This would also provide vital information for health care providers in case of an emergency. Plan ahead for time changes and consider how this may affect your scheduled times for taking your prescription.

When traveling through customs, it is a good idea to get a letter on your doctor’s letterhead stating your medical history and the need for certain prescribed drugs. Since some medications have a black market value, keep your medication in a safe place to prevent theft.

Pack prescriptions in your carry-on luggage in the original, labeled container. Make sure that the name of the label and prescription matches your passport. If you will be purchasing medicines abroad, ask your physician about getting the right medication while abroad. You will need to see a physician in the host country for a new prescription and should know the generic name of your medication, as the exact same medication may not be available. Keep in mind that medicines or vitamins mailed overseas may be held up in customs. Also, you may want to check with your insurance provider about what is covered in terms of your prescriptions and office visits while abroad.

If you have other medical conditions, such as severe allergies or reactions, diabetes, heart conditions, or epilepsy, you may wish to carry a card or wear a tag or bracelet that identifies the condition.

Disabilities
Students with disabilities are encouraged to participate in study abroad programs, as long as they understand that attitudes, legal rights, standards for accessibility, and accommodations for persons with emotional, mental, learning, or physical disabilities vary dramatically throughout the world. When researching your options, become aware of the specific circumstances in the host countries and be realistic. If available, information regarding accessibility and accommodations has been included in the specific program information. Share your interests and concerns with OIS staff. We will work with our partners abroad to make sure that your accessibility and accommodation needs are supported. However, we cannot guarantee the quality of accommodations abroad. To ensure that you have the best advice possible, please let your Program Leader or specific RSE coordinator know if you have a specific disability. All information that you discuss with either the director or coordinator regarding this issue is confidential. More information about study abroad for persons with disabilities can be found at Mobility International U.S.A. (www.miusa.org/).

Other Hazards
Terrorism, civil unrest actions, and catastrophic hazards such as earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, tsunamis, have a high profile and receive the most attention from the media. This creates an unrealistic perception of danger from these hazards. It is more probable to be injured in a mundane situation, such as looking in the wrong direction when crossing a street or misreading a warning sign in another language.

One of the skills that you are expected to develop as part of your study abroad experience is the ability to react quickly to unexpected situations and assess risks to your physical safety. It is important to know that “common sense” is contextual and you may not have the same references to gauge a threat until you have been in the country for some time.

Personal safety encompasses awareness and prevention, as well as knowing how to deal with an incident in progress. The first step in securing your personal safety is to get informed. Become familiar with the country you are visiting. Your specific program webpage has links to country information, such as the U.S. Department of State Travel information, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and U.S. Embassies. You can search the UCF library, UCF Abroad materials, and your public library for information about your host country. Try reading newspapers, novels, nonfiction, travel guides; watch movies; search the Internet.

You may want to speak with past program participants and other members of your group, or UCF international students from your host country. UCF Abroad staff can assist in introducing you to international students. Informing yourself about your host country will help you get the most out of the time you will be abroad. Read travel advisories about crime and pay attention to warnings given at any in-country orientations by your Program Leader or exchange coordinator. For example, if they indicate that a certain location is dangerous and off limits, listen to them; they have likely learned from experience that a particular location is unsafe.


Health Tips

Food and Water
It is a good idea to get some information about the quality of food and water for the place you will be visiting. You should take the opportunity to try the local cuisine, but do not let your enthusiasm overcome sensible decision-making. Be wary of street vendors and open markets where food may not be stored safely. Many use modern storage and pasteurization techniques; however, be careful in rural areas and less-developed regions, where such standards may not be common. You may want to ask a server about unfamiliar menu items when dining out. Even when translated, some foreign words may not make the ingredients obvious. If you feel uncomfortable about a certain item, do not eat it.

Drinking un-boiled tap water may be more than just a bad idea. Find out beforehand whether the water and ice cubes are suitable for consumption. This consideration also applies to washing produce before you eat it. If you need to boil water before drinking, let it come to a rolling boil for at least one minute. If you are in a high altitude, allow the water to boil for three minutes. Also, stay alert to reports in the local news of any emergencies, such as floods or breaks in the municipal water lines, which advise boiling water. It is always a good idea to keep up with the local news through the internet, TV, and newspapers.

Dangerous Plants, Animals, and Insects
If you enjoy trekking through rural settings, be sure to find out if there are poisonous plants or venomous animals that you will need to avoid. Even a minor rash or sting can become a major irritation, and a severe allergic reaction can do more than ruin your day.
Check the internet to find out if disease-causing pests will be a problem in your host area.

Alcohol
Excessive drinking that causes disruption of a study abroad program or jeopardizes the health and safety of yourself and others is cause for immediate removal from the program with no refund or reversal of fees. Remember that you are on an academic program and should consider the same expectations of classroom behavior apply.

Consider that some cultures have preconceived notions about public drunkenness. Although consuming alcohol is part of an accepted social ritual in many countries, moderation is important. You should know that the alcohol content of beers and wines varies throughout the world, and may be significantly higher than in the United States. If you plan to drink, find out about your host country’s rules for alcohol consumption.

Health and First Aid Kits
Even if you do not need prescription medication, a small first aid kit can make a difference in your overall comfort. Remember to keep the kit in your checked luggage if it includes sharp items like scissors and eyeglass screwdrivers. Do not feel that you have to lug around super-size bottles of everything in your medicine cabinet. You can get by on compact, travel supplies of these health and first aid items:
  • Aspirin, Ibuprofen, or Tylenol
  • Anti-Diarrheal Agents
  • Antihistamine for Allergies
  • First Aid Antibiotic Ointment
  • Eye Drops
  • Insect Repellant with DEET
  • Hydrocortisone Cream
  • Motion Sickness Medication
  • Thermometer
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Adhesive Bandages
  • Antiseptic Wipes
  • Butterfly Band-aids
  • First Aid Tape
  • Sunscreen

Unexpected Difficulties
The Program Leader represents UCF during short-term programs. He or she is the first person to contact if you have any questions or concerns associated with the program. Upon your arrival in country, you should be given a telephone number and instructions on how to best contact the Program Leader. If you are not, ask your Program Leader and notify UCF Abroad.  Depending on the program, you may also receive other local contacts for issues such as housing or academics. Remember that these telephone numbers are not public and you do not have permission to share them with anyone outside of the program. In addition, at the pre-departure orientation you will receive a UCF phone number that you can contact in case of emergency. During office hours (M-F 8-5 Eastern Standard Time), you can also contact the Office of International Studies at (407) 882-2300. 

You are also encouraged to file an “Incident Report” for anything you feel needs documentation or follow-up by UCF Abroad.   

U.S. Embassy or Consulate
Consular officers can provide a number of services to US citizens or residents while abroad. 

Medical Services
You should make note of the location of the nearest hospital, emergency room, pharmacy, and a physician recommended by the host institution’s exchange coordinator. The U.S. Embassies and Consulates also maintain a list of physicians and medical facilities. It is further recommended that you become familiar with the telephone numbers to call during an emergency (such as ambulance, police, or single emergency number).

Emergency Plan
All UCF programs require that the student plan how to address an emergency while in-country. This plan will be part of your pre-departure orientation. The plan will include what to do if there is an emergency in the country, including where you might go and creating a list of relevant phone numbers.  It is expected that this plan will change as your experience progresses and new information is acquired.