Staying Healthy & Safe Abroad

Health and Safety Abroad

Our highest priority at the Office of Global Education is the safety of our students. We take every possible precaution to make sure that our students stay healthy and safe while abroad. The University of Colorado system is a member of International SOS (ISOS), an organization that provides medical, security, and travel advice and assistance to its members. We ask that all CU Denver students going abroad register with the MyTrips service offered by ISOS so that we may be better able to assist students in times of crisis (for more information, visit Register Your Travel.) In addition, students are not permitted to travel without adequate international health insurance, which includes emergency assistance and evacuation services. For CU Denver programs, students are insured through International SOS Insurance. Students on third party programs will obtain insurance through the study abroad provider. Furthermore, students traveling to countries that have a current U.S. Department of State Travel Warnings must follow the Travel Suspension Appeal, which requires the student to perform in-depth investigation of security and health issues that may arise during their travels, and how to mitigate them.

It is recommended that all students planning international travel visit with a health care professional prior to departure:

  • If you have a specific medical condition or concern, or you take prescription medication, schedule an appointment with your physician to discuss how you will manage your condition/concern abroad. Ask them if you are up to date on your routine vaccinations, and get adult booster injections as recommended.
  • Consider visiting a travel health clinic to learn about and obtain region-specific recommended vaccinations and medications. Be sure to indicate the countries you will be visiting. Keep in mind that some vaccinations and medications require special handling, may require multiple injections over a period of time and may need to be ordered in advance; give yourself plenty of time by scheduling this travel clinic appointment several months before your trip. Below are some travel clinics in the Denver area:

Other things to do, prior to departure:

  • Review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) websites for all of the country(ies) you will visit.
    • In addition to COVID-19 Vaccines and booster shot(s), are any vaccinations required to visit your host country? What vaccinations are recommended?
    • Learn about water and sanitation in your host country. Is the tap water potable? Should you avoid certain foods?
  • Check with your U.S. medical insurance provider regarding what pre-travel related procedures/office visits they will cover:
    • Will they cover travel-specific preventative medications and vaccinations?
    • Do you need to visit a specific physician and/or travel clinic in order to receive the insurance benefit?
  • Acquaint yourself with the policies of the company providing insurance during your time abroad
    • Students on CU Denver Global Study and semester programs are provided with comprehensive international health insurance. The plan covers medical expenses in-country as well as evacuation costs due to medical, natural disaster, or political emergencies. This insurance does not cover pre-existing conditions or any medical visits needed in the U.S. prior to or post-travel. It is highly recommended that students maintain coverage with their U.S. health insurance policy.
    • Third-party providers typically include international health insurance in their program costs. For more information, check the website for the program your student has chosen, or contact the provider directly. If the provider does not offer international health insurance coverage, have your student contact the Office of Global Education for enrollment instructions in our recommended plan.
    • Students are not automatically covered by their international health insurance plan if they choose to extend travel before or after the actual program dates. It is highly recommended that students contact the provided health insurance plan and pay to extend coverage as needed.

The measures you will need to take in order to stay safe abroad will vary depending on where you study. However, there are a number of safety tips to keep in mind both before and during your study abroad program:

  • Be aware of your belongings at all times.
  • Whenever possible, do not travel with valuables.
  • Research how locals dress and try to blend in as best you can.
  • Research your host country’s laws – they may differ from laws in the U.S.
  • Wear a money-belt; wear your backpack on your front; wear purses with straps that cross your body.
  • Travel with others, especially at night.
  • Avoid walking in dimly lit areas and alleyways, and stick to familiar routes, especially at night.
  • Remember that alcohol can make you more vulnerable to theft, sexual assault, and other crimes. If you are going to drink, drink in moderation, and never drink alone. Keep your drink with you at all times, and do not accept drinks from strangers.
  • If possible, have a local call you a taxi if needed. If you are hailing a taxi on the street, be sure that the taxi belongs to a reputable company.
  • Do not hitchhike.
  • Be aware of the political situation of the country in which you study abroad.
  • Avoid protests and street demonstrations. Know that there are people you can contact 24/7 in case of an emergency.
    • Check out our Emergency Contacts page of our website and be sure to carry with you the phone numbers for your faculty leader(s) or on-site staff, as well as other emergency contacts and the phone numbers of the local police department.
  • Register your travel plans with the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP enrolls a traveler’s itinerary with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate, sends travelers health and security updates for the countries they are traveling to, as well as helps friends and family to contact travelers in case of an emergency.
Traveling can be stressful and the resources around us can be unfamiliar. Students are encouraged to reflect on their personal needs, concerns, support systems, and even their medications.  Be proactive and discuss plans to travel with medical personnel, faculty, OGE staff, and if registered for accommodations, with the Disability Resources and Services Office. Here are a few other tips for planning a successful study abroad experience. Most importantly, start early in your planning journey to study abroad.


Considering what program to pursue: 

  • How are the physical environments in the host country?
  • Is learning mainly from lecture, readings, independent research, etc?
  • How are the assignments different?
  • What housing options exist?
  • What are the student's responsibilities, such as cooking, laundry, etc.?
  • Is transportation available and accessible?
  • Are counselors available in English or through online appointments?
  • Can you call on therapists and other resources back home?
  • Can your meds be taken into the country of interest?
  • How is your resilience for stressful differences, new cultures,  and potential disruptions?
  • Before you go, find out as much as you can about your host culture and how they view disability by reading, talking to other students, and attending pre-departure orientation sessions. The more you know, the better prepared you will be for the interaction between your disability and the new environment.
  • Think about how you will answer questions about your disability in the language of your host country—look up key vocabulary words ahead of time.
  • Speak up if you think you need additional support to plan a successful trip.


How Accommodations Can Differ

Because the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is an US law which does not have jurisdiction in other countries, students may find that disabilities accommodations are the same, better or worse in their study abroad destination.  

  • Disability Resource Services, as a student support service, may not be provided at your host institution.
  • Attitudes around accommodations may be different in your host country.
  • Tutoring may not be a free service at the host university.
  • To obtain a visa, some countries require health information, which can delay the process.
  • Electricity for equipment or recharging batteries often requires adapters and/or converters.
  • Learning disabilities may not be recognized in some countries.
  • Sign language interpreters may not be certified or available at all times, and interpreting will generally be in the sign language of the country rather than ASL.
  • Some countries quarantine guide dogs before they are allowed into the country.
  • Bring mobility aids to use in restrooms without bars or on long train platforms.
  • Carry extra spare parts or differing types of casters for a wheelchair.


Medical/Prescription Needs

  • If you take prescriptions, check with ISOS if they are allowed in the destination country and how to gain entry approval.
  • Make sure you have enough to last throughout the entire stay.
  • All medications should be stored in their original containers with their label attached and visible.
  • Carry a letter from a physician that describes the medication.
  • Always carry medication in your carry-on in the event your checked bag is delayed or lost.
  • It is illegal to have medication sent abroad to you via postal mail.
  • Confirm your health insurance covers any disability-related medical needs while overseas.
  • Ensure your medication is legal in your host country by contacting the consulate or embassy. 


Coping Strategies

  • Work early on arranging accommodations at your overseas site.
  • Learn to explain your disability in the host language.
  • Ask ISOS to help you identify resources like counseling or clinics.
  • Your disability may intersect with your host culture in unexpected ways. It is important to research your host culture before you go, discuss customs with your hosts, and be open to creative solutions. 
  • Once abroad, on-site staff can help connect you with a student who has a similar disability.
  • If your home institution does not offer a list of mentors, contact Mobility International USA


Finally, consider what to expect during travel abroad, there are a number of resources online. Here is video from the University of Minnesota, for example.  Orientation for Students with Disabilities Studying Abroad - YouTube


Office of Global Education

CU Denver

Tivoli Student Union Annex

900 Auraria Parkway

Suite 339

Denver, CO 80204

CU Anschutz

Fitzsimons Building

13001 East 17th Place

Suite C8000A

Aurora, CO 80045

(303) 315-2001

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