Health & Safety While Abroad
The UCLA International Education Office holds the health and safety of its students as its highest priority.
In order to better prepare students travelling abroad on our international programs, the UCLA International Education Office has compiled a list of important resources for students to review before their departure. These resources are meant to be a supplement to the students’ own health & safety research, as well as the advice of their individual physical and mental health providers and physicians.
*Note: some of the resources mentioned on this page are not UC- sponsored, and we cannot assure the accuracy of the information.
Getting Ready to go Abroad
Students are much more likely to have a safe and healthy experience studying abroad if they take the time before leaving the U.S. to learn more about potential health or safety challenges in the location they will study in, to research ways to manage their current health conditions while in a foreign country, and to make informed and responsible decisions while abroad. Here are a few excellent websites all students should visit, to help them learn more about their program locations and to prepare for their time abroad:
1.) The U.S. Department of State Traveler’s Checklist, with step by step advice for how to prepare for the abroad experience. All students should also register below in the STEP program before they depart, to receive important safety information about their program location, and to help the State Department contact them in the event of an emergency:
2.) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Studying Abroad website provides pre-departure tips for study abroad students:
3.) StudentsAbroad.com Health & Safety Student Handbook. This website provides a wealth of resources and advice regarding health and safety, including questions students should ask themselves to make sure they are prepared:
Also take the time to research the countries you will be visiting. Buy an up-to-date travel guide and use the Web. A few Web sites worth visiting are:
Physical & Mental Health Resources
Maintaining good health is imperative when traveling and studying overseas. It is important that students actively maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to maximize their experience abroad. Below are some tips on how to remain physically and mentally healthy while traveling.
Mental Health-Related Issues While Abroad
Traveling and studying in another country are demanding activities that often compound or exacerbate both physical and emotional issues. In particular, if students are concerned about their use of alcohol and other controlled drugs or if they have an emotional or physical health concern, they should address it honestly before making plans to travel and study abroad.
- Before you go: It is important that you take steps to recognize and understand your own mental health needs and concerns before you depart for your program, to better prepare yourself for your journey and to make sure you don’t struggle while studying abroad. The UCLA Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) office is an excellent resource for UCLA students, and other college campuses usually have similar counseling centers.
- You should setup an appointment with UCLA CAPS or your own campus counseling center before you leave for your program, to talk to a counselor about your concerns, and to discuss whether or not you are ready for study abroad, and if so, how to create a mental health plan for your time abroad.
- Students on international programs may also pre-arrange some psychological counseling sessions in English through your traveler’s health insurance, HTH Worldwide, depending on your location and availability.
- When studying abroad, away from your home environment and immersed in a foreign culture, it is easy to become stressed and to struggle. The CDC provides some tips about how to form a mental health plan for your trip abroad: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/mental-health
- While you’re abroad: Please be aware that even though you will be miles away from home, that you can still get help. If you feel that you or a student on your program are having a mental health emergency, please contact your Program Director, Teaching Assistant, go immediately to a local hospital, or call UCLA CAPS 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at +1-310-825-0768. To call CAPS from abroad you would dial 001-310-825-0768. Depending on your situation, CAPS may also be able to provide psychological counseling sessions by phone while you are abroad. CAPS is a service available for free to UCLA students, and while they are also a resource for non-UCLA students, some fees may apply for counseling services.
- Your coverage with HTH Worldwide (international programs only) also gives you access to MoodCalmer, a free interactive online program which helps you to understand and manage low mood and anxiety, and to overcome these feelings by following the guidelines in the program.
- Mobility International provides several excellent resources and tipsheets on how to better prepare yourself so that you can successfully study abroad with a mental health condition.
- Before you depart for your program, students should schedule an appointment with the UCLA Ashe Student Health & Wellness Center Travel Clinic or your home campus health center, to make sure you have all of the correct medications and immunizations you need to travel abroad.
- Please also review the Ashe Center Travel Clinic Information for Travelers tipsheet, particularly if you are travelling to a country with known health risks.
- Another excellent resource for traveler’s abroad is the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Traveler’s Health website. They even have packing checklists specific to each country!
- Information about local health services will also be provided after arrival at your study site. Please keep the Director of your program aware of any and all medical issues that arise during your Travel Study program.
- HTH Worldwide, the insurance provider for students on our international programs, has a video series introducing a wide variety of health and safety concerns when studying abroad, and how best to prepare yourself and avoid issues while in another country.
Prescriptions, Vitamins, and Other Medicines
- Students who regularly take any medication should take an adequate supply of it to last for the entire period abroad.
- If medications are perishable, please contact your Travel Study Program Coordinator at the IEO before departure to see if preparations can be made at the accommodations where you’ll be staying.
- Students should label all medications and keep them in their original containers that clearly show the prescription and your name.
- Consult the embassy or consulate of the country or countries where you will be studying, as well as the International Narcotics Control Board if you have any doubt about the legality of carrying a certain drug into that country.
- Some common medications in the US, such as Adderall, Concerta & Ritalin, can be illegal in other countries. If you learn your medication is illegal in country you’ll be studying in, please discuss a plan with your physician/psychiatrist.
- Bring a letter from your doctor listing your medications and explaining why you need them.
- Please review this helpful medication tipsheet from Mobility International for more information about travelling with medications.
Students with Special Needs
- If students have any disability or other chronic systemic condition for which they will be seeking accommodation abroad, they must advise the International Education Office immediately so staff can advise students whether necessary resources are reasonably available on their program.
- UCLA students should also register their condition/s with the UCLA Office for Students with Disabilities.
- Another important resource is Mobility International, which helps students prepare for their travel abroad and provides a wealth of information and support for students with disabilities and physical & mental health concerns.
Student Participation Agreement
As part of the Travel Study registration process, you agreed to stipulations in a comprehensive participation agreement and waiver of liability. Please take some time to re-read this document.
A traveler's health insurance policy is provided by HTH Worldwide for international programs. Coverage is for the dates of the program only, and HTH will email you an insurance card shortly before the start of the program. Please keep this card with you at all times, and create an account with HTH on their website.
HTH Worldwide may have pre-approved facilities and physicians in your location. You can contact HTH Worldwide to schedule an appointment 24 hours or more in advance at these facilities to have medical care pre-paid upon arrival. The HTH Worldwide phone number when outside the U.S. is: +1-610-254-8771 (collect).
If you do not use HTH Worldwide pre-approved facilities, you will be responsible for paying up front all fees incurred as a result of any accident or medical emergency which may occur while on the program. Be sure to keep all receipts for medical treatment in order to file a claim with HTH upon your return to the U.S. You can access your account information on your insurance card or on the HTH website in order to contact HTH and file a claim upon your return.
If you are traveling before or after the UCLA program, we recommend that you arrange for independent health insurance coverage as a precaution.
A traveler's health insurance policy is provided by ACE for domestic programs. Coverage is for the dates of the program only. If you need assistance while traveling, contact:
UHC Global Assistance
1-410-453-6330 (From outside the U.S.)
1-800-527-0218 (From U.S. and Canada)
Please reference your policy number (ADD N04223822) and UHCG ID number (363391) when making a call.
You are responsible for all fees incurred as a result of any accident or medical emergency which may occur while participating in a UCLA Study Abroad program. Be sure to keep all receipts for medical treatment in order to file a claim upon your return to the U.S. Click here to access more information about the claim process, under "Student resources and claims:"
If you are traveling before or after the UCLA program, we recommend that you arrange for independent health insurance coverage as a precaution.
Safety Resources & Advice
Please remember that no place on earth is perfectly safe. Any travel carries with it certain inherent risks. In most instances, many of the trials and tribulations of travel abroad can be avoided by taking certain precautions. Please read the following safety tips before you depart for your Travel Study program. We hope you will have a safe and healthy stay abroad.
An excellent resource for tips on how to stay safe while abroad is the UT Austin Study Abroad International Office’s “Culture of Safety” video. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-jVVX7bOZQ
Stay in Contact
Make arrangements to contact your family periodically. Check in when you arrive to let your family know you have arrived safely. If you leave town to sightsee during free time and weekends, please let the Program Director or Teaching Assistant (TA) know where you are going. If you go out with people who are not part of the program, please let the Program Director or TA know the names of those people.
Sexual Violence & Harassment
Any student who has been the victim of a sexual assault or harassment while abroad can avail themselves of UCLA campus resources for support and counseling. Sexual violence may also be reported to the Travel Study Program Director (if the student is comfortable doing so) or directly to campus authorities for legal and/or disciplinary investigation and action. Please note that when reporting sexual harassment or violence, UCLA will do everything possible to maintain privacy and will only share information to those on a need to know basis. However, confidentiality cannot be guaranteed.
Where to go for help
CARE: Advocacy Office for Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and Misconduct is part of the Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center, and can be reached at (310) 206-2465; CAREadvocate@caps.ucla.edu . A confidential advocate is available.
- Confidential support, guidance and advocacy for students are available from Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). Support is available by calling the 24-hour hotline at CAPS, 310-825-0768.
- The office of Student Legal Services also provides confidential assistance to students; you can find more information on their website or by calling call 310-825-9894.
Options for reporting
- UCLA police are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For non-emergency assistance and to report a crime, call 310-825-1491.
- The Dean of Students Office takes reports and can initiate disciplinary proceedings.
- The Sexual Harassment Prevention/Title IX office is also available to take reports, conduct investigations, and provide information.
- For students accused of sexual assault or misconduct: The Office of the Dean of Students provides respondent support services, which include providing appropriate referrals, assisting in navigating campus and external processes, and other relevant services as needed.
Safety on the Street
Use the same common sense traveling overseas that you would at home. Be especially cautious in crowded subways, train stations, elevators, tourist sites, marketplaces, festivals, and avoid peripheral areas of cities.
- Always remain aware of your surroundings;
- Don’t use shortcuts, narrow alleys, or poorly-lit streets;
- Avoid traveling alone;
- Avoid public demonstrations and other civil disturbances;
- Keep a low profile and avoid loud conversations or arguments. Do not discuss travel plans or other personal matters with strangers;
- Avoid scam artists. Beware of strangers who approach you offering bargains or offering to be your guide;
- Beware of pickpockets. They often have an accomplice who will:
- jostle you;
- ask you for directions or the time;
- point to something spilled on your clothing;
- or distract you by creating a disturbance;
- Wear the shoulder strap of your bag across your chest and walk with the bag away from the curb to avoid drive-by purse snatchers;
- Try to seem purposeful when you move about. Even if you are lost, act as if you know where you are going. When possible, ask directions only from individuals in authority;
- Know how to use a pay telephone and have the proper change or token on hand;
- Learn a few phrases in the local language so you can signal your need for help, the police, or a doctor. Make a note of emergency telephone numbers you may need: police, fire, your hotel, and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate;
- If you are confronted, don’t fight back. Give up your valuables.
Safety on Public Transportation
Taxis: Only take taxis clearly identified with official markings. Beware of unmarked cabs. Make sure the meter is running.
Buses/Trains: Be vigilant when taking public transit.
- If you see your way being blocked by a stranger and another person is very close to you from behind, move away. This can happen in the corridor of the train or on the platform or station.
- Do not accept food or drinks from strangers.
- When taking overnight trains, lock your compartment. If it cannot be locked securely, or if you are sharing a compartment with other travelers, tie down your luggage, strap your valuables to you, and sleep on top of them as much as possible.
- Do not be afraid to alert authorities if you feel threatened in any way.