Check the immunization requirements for your destination and make sure you are up to date before departure.
Bring an adequate supply of medication to last the entire duration of your program, and be sure to bring a copy of any prescriptions or other documentation proving a doctor prescribed you the medication.
If your medication needs to be refrigerated, you should contact your airline to ensure it has the ability to refrigerate your medication during your flight.
Some medicines may not be available in your host country or are very difficult to secure. However, you should not ship your medications from home after arrival in your host country. They could be held in customs for months.
Research comparable over-the-counter medications in your host country prior to departure. Something like Tylenol/acetaminophen may go by a different name, come in different doses, have different ingredients, or not be available at all.
Be sure to speak with your doctor prior to departure to discuss the best plan regarding the transport and use of your medications while abroad.
Keep in mind that the typical diet may vary in your host country and that it may take time for your stomach to adjust. Be careful when consuming tap water (including ice), and consuming raw foods until you know the food standard. Avoid eating street food in developing countries to limit the risk of food-borne illness. If you are concerned about a specific dietary requirement or preference, please share it with your study abroad advisor.
Mosquitos carry diseases such as Chikungunya, Dengue Fever, Malaria, and Zika. There are no cures for any of these diseases, and although the symptoms are usually not life-threatening for otherwise healthy individuals, they can be extremely uncomfortable and could have lasting effects. The best way to reduce your risk of exposure is to prevent mosquito bites. Prior to departure, you should review the precautions to prevent mosquito bites prepared by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Studying abroad can be both an exciting and challenging experience. There are stresses associated with leaving your comfort zone and entering a foreign environment. For those with a current mental health issue, it is beneficial to have conversations with your mental health care provider before departure to ensure resources are in place to address any issues that may arise while you are abroad. Additionally, it is normal for many travelers, whether they have previously experienced a mental health issue or not, to experience new challenges and emotions that may impact their mental well-being. Here are a few guidelines and resources to better address mental health needs:
Meet with your mental health provider prior to departure to discuss any anxieties, depression, or other mental health issues that may impact your experience. Such conversations can help in identifying resources in a study abroad destination.
Feeling bouts of homesickness and loneliness can be common while studying abroad. Maintaining a strong support system at home and abroad can help cope with those feelings.
Culture shock can be difficult for many students. Keep in mind that part of studying abroad is learning about and experiencing new cultures, and that you will soon adapt to your new surroundings.
If you feel like you or a friend would benefit from additional resources prior to studying abroad, contact the USC Counseling Center at any time. Additionally, if you or a friend experience mental health issues while abroad, please reach out to the main Office of International Programs at 803-641-3671 or to any of the staff in our office.
Remember that sexual health may be addressed differently in the country to which you are traveling. If you choose to be sexually active, it is important that you take control of your sexual health. Here are a few guidelines to address sexual health needs:
Contraceptives such as condoms may not be regulated or be readily available in other countries. If you use these in the U.S., it is best to bring a supply from home to be better prepared.
If you take birth control, speak with your doctor before departure to secure an adequate supply for the duration of your program. If you are unable to do so, research equivalents in your host country and the best manner to secure it. (See the medications section above for more information regarding prescriptions.)
Just as in the United States, STI/STDs and HIV/AIDS are present abroad. Maintain safe sex practices abroad to reduce your risk. The only guaranteed form of protection from disease and pregnancy is abstinence.
General Safety Tips
Here are a few tips to keep in mind while abroad to keep you as safe as possible:
- Be alert. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings at all times, but even more so when in crowded areas such as on public transportation, in busy tourist destinations, and in other high-traffic areas. Pick-pocketers can be a child or adult and can blend easily into large crowds.
- Guard your possessions. Do not leave a phone or wallet on a table unattached to yourself. Do not leave luggage unattended, especially in airports. Make multiple copies of important documents such as your passport and visa.
- Use the buddy system. There is safety in numbers, especially when traveling in a foreign area. Avoid traveling alone when possible, and never travel with strangers. Always inform somebody you know (a friend, director, host) of your travel plans and basic itinerary.
- Lower your profile. In certain countries, foreigners or Americans are assumed to be wealthy, which heightens the risk of being targeted for theft. Do not wear expensive jewelry when traveling and do not make expensive possessions (e.g. cameras, cell phones, etc.) easily accessible to someone walking by, as thieves can easily take something like a phone out of travelers’ hands.
- Know key phrases. It’s a good idea to know a few basic phrases in the native language of each country you visit including the following:
- Avoid protests. While demonstrations and protests can be interesting, they can deteriorate into violence with little warning. Furthermore, it is illegal to hold demonstrations in some countries and illegal for foreigners to participate in demonstrations in other countries. Even as a bystander you stand the risk of fines or incarceration depending on the country’s laws, or you can be an easy target if the demonstration deteriorates into violence. The best way to stay safe is to avoid the area entirely.
Alcohol & Drugs Abroad
It is important to remember that laws and customs regarding drugs and alcohol vary abroad and ignorance to the local laws does not excuse you from its jurisdiction. Here are some tips to protect yourself:
- Pay attention to the drinking culture and laws. While the drinking age may be lower in some countries, it may be frowned upon to consume alcohol quickly or in large quantities. Conversely, alcohol consumption is illegal for people of all ages in some countries.
- Even if it is legal for you to consume alcohol in your host country, do not consume excessive quantities as intoxication puts your safety at risk. Intoxicated travelers are more likely to be victims of crime or injure themselves due to alcohol-related incidents.
- Stay in a group. Don’t leave an intoxicated friend alone.
- Abstain from all types of drug possession or use while abroad, even if it may be legal in the country. Drug laws in some countries can be very strict, with some leading to mandatory imprisonment or even the death penalty.
- Never accept a package from a stranger or offer to deliver an unknown item. You may unknowingly be involved in a drug smuggling operation.
If you are arrested abroad neither the Office of International Programs nor the U.S. government, can get you out of jail. You will be subject to the laws of arrest in that country and may have limited or no access to a U.S. representative, lawyer, phone call, etc.
Attitudes Toward Gender & Sexual Orientation
Culturally normative behavior for specific genders varies across the globe, as does the perception on interaction between genders. Make sure to research the cultural norms of the country to which you are traveling.
Research common dress and culturally normative behavior between men and women before you depart to enhance your knowledge of the culture you'll be visiting. Research the political and social opinions, as well as laws, regarding members of the LGBTQIA+ community in your host country.
Catcalling is a cultural norm in many parts of the world. This may be extremely uncomfortable but does not always represent a threat to your immediate safety. However, contact authorities if you ever feel that your immediate safety is threatened.
Some foreigners may associate a friendly smile as romantic interest. It’s okay to not acknowledge others when passing by on the street.
When meeting an unfamiliar person, do so in a public place such as a café or major landmark. Above all, trust your instincts. If a situation feels unsafe, remove yourself from it, even if that makes you feel rude.
Large Scale Emergencies & Terrorism
Traveling in an area that draws large crowds but lacks a robust security apparatus can carry heightened risk. Additionally, terrorism can occur anywhere in the world. In order to promote your own health and safety, the following tips are recommended:
- Do not participate or loiter in the vicinity of protests and demonstrations.
- Maintain higher vigilance when in crowded areas or using public transportation.
- Keep your mobile phone charged and with you and be responsive to messages from your program/USC.
- Memorize on-site emergency contact information.
- Check in with your program staff if you are planning to travel away from your program location and follow any guidelines or regulations they have.
- Monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into your travel plans and activities.
- Follow the instructions of local authorities, especially in an emergency.
- Avoid traveling late at night.
- Use official transportation when available. Never hitchhike or use unregistered taxis.
- Pay attention to the flow of traffic and speed regulations, and do not listen to headphones while walking in public.
If you are ever a victim of sexual assault while abroad, you can contact your on-site program staff, the Office of International Programs, or USC Aiken Police. Please be aware that any staff member employed by the university in a division other than Student Health Services is a mandatory reporter and required to report a sexual assault involving a student to the Title IX coordinators to help ensure the student is safe and connected with all available resources. We can keep a student’s disclosure private but not strictly confidential. For confidential reporting, please contact the Counseling Center.
Student Athletes can and do participate in study abroad programs to gain global experiences. Study abroad provides student-athletes the opportunity to make the world their classroom and expand their horizons beyond the playing field.
Things to consider:
- Have you spoken to your coaches and teammates about your interest in study abroad?
- Have you thought about the best time to study abroad based on your training and playing schedule? Do you have any obligations in the pre-season or additional tournaments in the post-season? Are there team commitments and training scheduled in the off-season?
- Have you thought about how you can maintain your training to stay in good physical condition for the duration of your study abroad experience? Speak with your program director about what training and athletic facilities you have access to in the host community.
- Have you considered nutrition based on the culture of your host country? Depending on your host country and region, your eating pattern may not be the same as in the U.S.
- To make sure that you stay in good standing with NCAA, check in with your coaches and ASPSA about rules regarding monetary compensation, accepting “gifts,” coaching, competing in events not sanctioned by the NCAA, etc.
We have curated some additional resources that include networks, articles, blogs, etc. As you explore the impact that your identity will have on your study abroad experience feel free to check out the information below.