Health and Safety Abroad
Your health and safety are important to us. With all the excitement involved in preparing for a study abroad experience, it can be easy to forget about personal health needs, safety precautions and security issues in your host country. We are here to help you and your families proactively prepare for this important aspect of study abroad, as well as to assist in the event of an emergency while on an IFSA program.
IFSA’s Health and Safety team, based in the Indianapolis headquarters, works with you, providing individual advising unique to your personal health, safety and security needs. If something goes wrong abroad, the Health and Safety team works with the resident staff in your host country to ensure you obtain the proper support and care. Additionally, the team is constantly monitoring international news and governmental reports in order to assess worldwide security conditions, respond appropriately quickly in the event of an emergency and communicate with you, your families and study abroad advisors at home.
Know Before You Go
We encourage you to research the health, safety, and security concerns in your study abroad destinations before boarding the plane. We understand how busy you are; therefore, we have prepared country-specific publications along with this website to help you locate the information you need. If have questions or concerns, contact your Program Advisor or the IFSA Student Life and Wellness team at any time.
Commitment to Best Practices
IFSA adheres to the health, safety, security and risk management guidelines and best practices in the field of international education as established by NAFSA and the Forum on Education Abroad. We also consult regularly with governmental agencies and private sector resources, as well as other safety and security professionals in the field of international education. This broad network allows us to remain well-informed and up to date on best practices.
Health and Wellness
Staying healthy abroad begins before you travel. It’s important to be honest about any medical needs, medications, dietary concerns, disabilities or exercise plans you currently have and research how you will manage them in your host country. Your Program Advisor and Health & Safety team can work with you, our Resident Staff, and our student health insurance provider to help meet your individual needs. We strongly encourage you to share any information with us early in the process so we can best help you plan for this aspect of your study abroad experience.
If you receive accommodations at your university, we will work with you to find the IFSA program that best suits you and your individual needs. Accommodations vary greatly by country, city and host institution, so it is important to share any requests for dietary concerns, religious practices, physical disabilities, service animals and learning disabilities early in the process.
Many students experience the ups and downs of culture shock at some point while studying abroad. Our resident staff is available to talk with you if you feel you are having a hard time adjusting to your new country and culture. However, if you feel that your “ups and downs” are more intense or lasting longer than normal, we can help connect with you professional support and services.
If you currently suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD, an eating disorder, or other mental health concerns, please know that support is available to you abroad. We strongly encourage you to first speak with your doctor or mental health provider to discuss your plans and available treatment options in your program location. With the assistance of our insurance and assistance company, we can help connect you with mental health professionals abroad.
We recommend that you schedule an appointment with your treating physician or a travel doctor at least three months before studying abroad. Certain study abroad locations may require vaccinations, and it can take a few months to get all of them. Also, it is a good idea to have a physical and dental exam, especially if you have any pre-existing conditions you will need to manage or medications to take while abroad. The Centers for Disease Control’s website is a good starting point for health guidelines and advice for the country where you plan to study or visit.
Study abroad is not the time to stop taking medication for any conditions that you may have. We strongly encourage you to follow the treatment plan prescribed for you by your treating physician. Keep in mind that requirements vary by country concerning prescription and over-the-counter medications. Therefore, if you plan to take medications with you or purchase them abroad, we recommend that you let us know what you will be taking and how you plan to obtain necessary refills. We can help you research if your medication is available (or permitted) in your host country and refer you to professionals who can help you obtain your medications.
All IFSA programs include generous accident and illness insurance coverage through Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI). This coverage may help cover you abroad if you need to see a doctor, therapist, or visit the local emergency room. Additionally, the insurance includes coverage for some pre-existing conditions (including counseling) and offers worldwide emergency assistance from anywhere outside of the United States. Coverage is mandatory for every IFSA student, and we do not waive it if you already have additional insurance for your time abroad. If you have questions about insurance coverage for your specific health needs, we advise you to contact CISI directly.
IFSA pays for mandatory university insurance coverage for students studying in Australia (OSHC) and New Zealand (StudentSafe). Students studying in the United Kingdom for six months or longer are covered under the U.K.’s National Health Service.
Safety and Security
We understand that it can be a little scary studying abroad in a foreign country, especially after watching an evening news broadcast or seeing breaking news on social media. We take your safety and security very seriously. As a recognized leader in the study abroad field for emergency response and crisis management, IFSA has a comprehensive plan in place, in addition to experienced and dedicated staff around the world, to help you have a safe study abroad experience.
Research Your Destination
Before you embark on your journey, we strongly encourage you to research your study abroad location and inform yourself about current events and safety information. The more you know upon arrival will only help you make better decisions once abroad. Talk with friends who have studied abroad in your location, faculty members who specialize in the region as well as the IFSA Health and Safety team. Purchase a good travel guide and review the local on-line media resources, as well as the some of the following online resources:
Once you arrive to your study abroad location, our resident staff will conduct an in-depth orientation that includes extensive information about health, safety and how to respond in an emergency. Many sessions are led by experts and practitioners in the field, such as local police, U.S. embassy officials, doctors, and mental health professionals. You will be given an emergency number to contact IFSA resident staff 24/7 in a true emergency. This is a great time to ask questions so you feel most comfortable in your new home.
Cell phone requirement
We require all students to bring with them, or intend to purchase upon arrival abroad, a cell phone that can exchange calls and texts with our resident office. This will help our staff worldwide to account for students in the event of an emergency. Our staff will collect your cell phone number at orientation. We may be able to assist with the purchase of a cell phone in the event of financial difficulty. Please contact us as we consider these requests on an individual basis.
We are proud to employ talented and experienced resident staff in each country where we operate programs. Our full-time resident directors and support staff have a deep understanding of the host culture and its nuances, which helps you navigate the medical system, emergency services, insurance and support resources. Resident staff are trained in emergency response and student affairs. They are available to meet with you to talk through problems and concerns, refer you to support services, or assist you in an emergency.
Emergency response and crisis management
IFSA has been navigating personal and program-wide emergencies abroad for almost three decades. Our Indianapolis-based Crisis Management Team works closely with our resident staff, emergency assistance provider and local emergency services in times of crisis, using our Critical Incident Response Plan as a guide. A member of our staff is on-call 24/7, both in the U.S. and in program countries, should a true emergency occur that requires immediate attention. You, along with your family and home campus study abroad office, will be kept up-to-date until an emergency situation has been resolved.
On only three occasions has IFSA evacuated students out of a country or program location—the 2011 Egyptian political crisis, the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the 2017 Hurricane Irma in Cuba). In situations like these, the Crisis Management Team works closely with the on-site program staff, U.S. State Department, emergency assistance provider and security intelligence provider in order to analyze the critical event and create an appropriate response. If determined necessary, IFSA may arrange for students to be moved to the nearest safe location or back to the U.S.
Sexual misconduct, relationship violence and stalking
IFSA aims to create a safe and supportive environment for all of its students. As such, we strictly prohibit all forms of sexual misconduct, relationship violence and stalking against students participating in our programs, perpetrated by an employee or agent of IFSA (including host families), by another IFSA student and by third parties who come in contact with IFSA students. IFSA also strictly prohibits retaliation for making any complaints related to sexual misconduct, relationship violence and stalking.
Read more about this on our complete IFSA-Butler Policy and Procedures Addressing Sexual Misconduct, Relationship Violence and Stalking.
Report an Emergency
If you are experiencing an emergency or need to report an emergency, contact:
- Local emergency services
- Your local resident staff
- Team Assist
- Your Embassy or Consulate
Families and study abroad advisors
During normal business hours (8am-5pm Monday-Friday EST):
Please call our Indianapolis office and ask for a Health and Safety team member:
After hours, please call the Butler University Police Department:
The BUPD will alert the appropriate IFSA staff member on call for assistance.