Student Safety First
The University of Texas at El Paso considers the safety of its students to be of top priority. Regardless of whether a student is traveling to a small town or a large metropolitan city, the fact remains that s/he is not a local citizen and will most likely be recognized as a foreigner. As in any "tourist culture", it is important that students remain aware of their surroundings, use good judgment and take the following simple precautions.
Note - When reading the insurance section, be aware that,
Additional program and/or host country insurance is sometimes required. It is not unusual for a student to be covered through multiple insurance plans while studying abroad. Each country has their own health insurance requirements for visitors or students. Talk to your in-country program managers to find out if this applies to your program.
If a student decides to travel after their program ends, they are no longer covered by the program/UTEP insurance plans and need to make their own arrangements.
Considerations for Specific Demographics
Check out the “Is Study Abroad for Me?” page (link) to find more information and advice for students who identify as:
- First-Generation College Students
- Students with Disabilities
- Veterans/Military Affiliated
- Native American
Emergency Points of Contact (many of these are also found in your AlertTraveler app students are given access to prior to leaving)
- UTEP University Police: +1 915 747 5611, Available 24/7
- International SOS: +1 215 942 8059, Available 24/7
- Membership Number: 11BSGC000037
- ACE/Chubb Insurance Policy Number: GLM N04969340
- ISOS and Insurance Information: UT Student International Travel Accident & Sickness Policy
- Office of International Programs & Study Abroad: +1 915 747 5664, Mon-Fri, 8am-5pm, Mountain Time
- Message through the AlertTraveler app 24 hours a day to reach staff during an emergency. (link to how-to guide)
- Local numbers for police, ambulance, and firefighting services
- Numbers for your host program both during office hours and in case of an emergency
- Information provided by program leaders (Miners Abroad link)
- US Department of State “Country Information” https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages.html
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Travelers’ Health https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list/
- World Health Organization Country Profiles https://www.who.int/countries/en/
The University of Texas System requires that all students be enrolled in the international health insurance and emergency service when they study abroad. This is not optional nor are there exceptions; students are automatically enrolled. At UTEP, the cost of this is covered by the university.
The insurance provided by UTEP is not trip insurance and will not cover expenses related to things like stolen items or lost luggage.
Coverage does not begin until two days before the start of your program and will not cover you until you depart the US. For incidents that happen on your way to the airport or while traveling before/after your program’s official dates, you need to have your own health insurance.
Proof of Insurance and Policy Brochure: UT Student International Travel Accident & Sickness Policy
International SOS (ISOS) is the medical and security support provider of the UT System. Prior to your departure, you can ask ISOS about specific prescription drug benefits abroad, questions about anticipated medical expenses or other questions you may have. During your time abroad, ISOS can arrange for treatment, connect you with resources if you are the victim of a crime, assist you if you lose your travel documents (ex: passport), and help you arrange for leaving your program in case of an emergency.
ISOS Contact Info:
- +1 215 942 8059
- internationalsos.com (Log in with UT Membership Number 11BSGC000037)
- Prior to going abroad, you should log in and update your profile, emergency information, and keep your “My Trips” up-to-date so you receive the most accurate information and support in case of an emergency.
- Chat via the Assistance App https://www.internationalsos.com/assistance-app
ACE American Insurance Company/Chubb is the international insurance plan. While this is a very comprehensive plan, there are limitations and exclusions. Students may need to pay for services and file a claim for reimbursement in some cases. For this reason, it is very important that all travelers have access to emergency funds. For the best coordination of benefits, students should first contact ISOS. Not only can they make medical arrangements for travelers, but when contacted, they often can facilitate the insurance payment on your behalf.
- +1 800 336 0627
- Policy Number: GLM N04969340
- Claims Forms: https://www.utsystem.edu/offices/risk-management/student-international-travel-accident-sickness-policy
Like traveling to any major US city, you need to be aware of your surroundings in a new place. Knowing what’s going on keeps both you and your belongings safer.
- Headphones can distract you, particularly in unfamiliar traffic patterns
- Flashy items or “touristy” attire or behaviors may make you a target for pickpockets
- You may know the tell-tale signs of a dangerous area in your home state, but many of these are culture-specific and do not translate to other countries
You may decide to do some travel on your own outside the excursions arranged through the program. Here are some do’s and don’ts for personal travel:
- Travel alone – always go with at least one other person.
- Check a map the moment you get off a train/bus if in an unfamiliar neighborhood or do other things that may draw attention to your tourist status
- Plan ahead and inform a program manager of your plans
- Bring your passport with visa and/or other necessary documents if traveling overnight or across borders
- Know how to secure any bags/luggage overnight on trains or in hostels
Keep your passport in a safe place. If you are staying in one location for an extended period of time, you may choose not to carry it every day and instead store it somewhere secure in your room. It is not uncommon when traveling, particularly at night, that the transportation staff on a train/bus crossing international borders hold your passport so border control can check all passenger documents at once. See how your fellow passengers are responding and ask any questions to the employees onboard.
It is each traveler’s responsibility to be aware of local laws in the host country. Some of this information is listed in the “Country Information” from the US Department of State under the “Local Laws & Special Circumstances” section https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages.html. Additional information can be found in the country guides of International SOS or in the Alert Traveler app (activated during pre-departure orientation).
Not every country follows an “innocent until proven guilty” philosophy nor has rules against holding someone without charges. When students are arrested abroad, there is very little their home university and home government can do. Efforts are often limited to political negotiations, requesting the host country release the student and deport them to their home. This can take a long time and is not always possible, depending on the relationship between the countries and the nature of the crime.
If you encounter legal difficulties abroad, you may need the assistance of a local attorney. The U.S. Department of State (for citizens/permanent residents) may assist you in finding an attorney, but it can neither pay attorney costs nor damages. If you are an international student, you should contact your home country’s embassy for support.
This is the rock ‘n roll section. You may not think you need to read/hear about them again, but there are extra factors when it comes to traveling abroad.
Relationships have different benchmarks in other cultures. Additionally, behaviors seen as harmless or flirtatious in the US may be taken more seriously in your host country. Americans have a reputation for being promiscuous and dismissive in part because we are ill-prepared for walking the different cultural lines between friendship, dating, and a serious relationship.
It can be exciting meeting new people while traveling; enticing accents, different behavioral norms, and the rush of being/feeling totally free from everything at home can open you to meeting lots of people. Similarly, you may be viewed as the student on “holiday” or the “exotic” minority.
Studies show that if you are sexually active now, you will continue to be so when overseas. Even if you don’t plan on having sex while abroad, it is a good idea to be informed and prepared.
Not only are there varying norms within relationships in different cultures, there are also different attitudes towards and access to contraceptives. Health systems abroad may provide greater or less access/treatment than you’re used to in the US. Education on the use of contraceptives to prevent the spread of STDs/STIs and pregnancy may not be widely available, particularly in less developed or more religious countries.
As a last note, custody laws and citizenry laws are different in each country. International cases or disputes can be extremely complicated and difficult.
There are illegal drugs in all countries. Using them may not only jeopardize your health, but also your participation in the program, ability to stay in your host country, and your freedom from legal punishment, including imprisonment. At the risk of sounding like a 90’s after school special, just say ‘no’ to drugs.
Alcohol is different both culturally and physically outside of the US.
Culturally, you may find alcohol more or less common in the everyday. For example in France having wine with dinner is a regular and often expected occurrence. In some countries the legal drinking age is below 21 and the observed drinking age may be even lower. If you do not drink and are in one of these countries, you may find yourself frequently explaining your choice as a part of your cultural exchange. If you do drink, keep in mind that drinking to extreme is not the goal every time you choose to have a beer, and doing so can be seen as distasteful.
Being drunk can be more dangerous in an unfamiliar area. You don’t know your way around the town, what areas to avoid, or how to best communicate if you need directions home or need help.
On the opposite side of the culture coin, there are countries where laws and norms are more restrictive and conservative in relation to alcohol. If you travel to a predominately Muslim country you may not be able to purchase alcohol, only be able to do so as a non-Muslim tourist, or find it entirely acceptable… until you’ve drank too much. There can be a complex relationship between locals, businesses and laws. Differences lie between countries and cities within those countries. Check with a country guide for acceptable habits and regulations around alcohol.
When you do drink, the alcohol overseas may not fit the guidelines you’ve learned. You may think a few beers won’t affect you much, but when the bottles and pours are larger and alcohol percentages higher, even one beer can leave its mark. Knowing your limits isn’t enough; you have to drink extra responsibly.
Traveling can be stressful. Even if you are excited about your new experience, your brain is in hyperdrive trying to process all of the new things around you and that can be overwhelming at times. It is important to take care of your mental and emotional health at all times, but perhaps especially important when in a new environment.
As a reminder, if you receive treatment currently with a health professional (counselor, therapist, psychiatrist, etc.), you should discuss with them your intent to go abroad and make plans for how you can continue your care while overseas. If you will require in-country assistance, please reach out to the offices at UTEP or your program provider as soon as possible so we can work with you to make the necessary arrangements.
Sometimes new emotional challenges are faced while living in a culture/environment different than your home. If, at any point during the program you are experiencing difficulty in any way, please let someone know. Anxiety, homesickness, or general stress are all examples of things students face abroad. Program managers or other staff and professionals can help you find the resources you need.
- Cultural Adjustment: From before you step on a plane to after you’re back in your own bed.
- Meaningful Travel Tips and Tales: Mental Health and Self-Care https://www.goabroad.com/articles/free-ebook-meaningful-travel-tips-tales-mental-health-self-care
Talk to the medical professionals familiar with your history about your plans to go abroad. You need to make a treatment plan, and maybe even a back-up treatment plan in case you run into challenges. Understand that some medications or treatments for chronic health issues may not be covered in the same way under your international health insurance. In particular, you will want to read the sections which pertain to your specific treatment (mental/emotional health, prescription medications, and insurance). The insurance section will tell you how to reach out to the UTEP support organization, ISOS, before you go abroad to answer questions about the ability to get treatment and medication in your host country.
- Meaningful Travel Tips and Tales: Health & Chronic Illness Abroad https://www.goabroad.com/articles/free-ebook-meaningful-travel-tips-tales-health-chronic-illness-abroad
Access to medications/drugs and the laws regulating them vary from country to country. What is available in a convenience store in the US may require a trip to the pharmacy in your host country, or vice versa.
If you take medications/supplements in the US, you should continue to do so while overseas. At any point on the program, if you lose/run out of medication, inform International SOS or a program manager immediately. Staff can assist you in finding replacement medication.
No matter what you plan on taking with you, make sure to pack it in its original container; customs officials will not look kindly on unmarked pills. You should also pack any medications in your carry-on luggage in case of lost/delayed baggage and so you have access to/oversight of your medications at all times. Medications/medical items are typically not subject to the same carry-on regulations.
If you will travel with a lot of medications or uncommon medications, feel free to use the Family/Special Needs security lines at the airport for travel.
Your host country may have drug importation laws and regulations that affect how much of a medicine (prescription, over-the-counter, and dietary supplements) you can bring into the country. For substances which are less controlled, the limit is often a 90-day supply, but this can vary by country and substance classification. For the best information, check the customs department website for the country (or countries) you plan on entering.
Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medications – While many countries will have a simple painkiller, allergy treatment, or upset stomach medication, they may not contain the same key ingredient or have the same brand or dose that you are used to. You may consider bringing basic medications with you.
Prescription Drugs – If possible, take enough medication to last your entire time abroad. Talk to your pharmacist and prescription coverage provider about getting scripts filled under “vacation” policies. Drugs which are highly controlled in the US may not be able to be obtained in advance. Drugs which are highly controlled in your host country may have limits on how much you can bring in with you. You may not be able to receive prescriptions from home via mail due to customs and shipping regulatiosn. These may seem like issues that do not apply to you, but even in the US several drugs prescribed for ADD are controlled to the point that it is difficult to obtain a larger amount in advance. Talk to your doctor! If you are not allowed to take enough of a prescription to last your entire program, start a conversation with your prescribing doctor, and your US and international insurance providers (including International SOS). With your doctor’s guidance, alternative plans are often possible so you can have a successful time while on your selected program.
Sometimes, even with careful planning, accidents happen. You spill your pill bottle down the sink; your glasses break; your inhaler runs out earlier than you planned. When it comes to your health and well-being while traveling, you should aim for “over prepared.” In addition to your medications in their original containers, you should pack:
- Copies of your prescription from your doctor with the brand and generic drug names and dosage information
- A letter from your doctor with any information on why a particular drug/device was prescribed
These items will help if you need to get medicines replaced while abroad and a local medical professional needs to know exactly what has worked for you.
Plan ahead! Some vaccinations or medications are required to be started weeks or months prior to your departure.
The US Department of State “Country Information” will show which vaccinations are required in order to enter a country. In some cases, you need to show proof of a vaccine before you can apply for your visa. Information will be listed under the country’s “Quick Facts” and the “Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements.” https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages.html
Going to a travel clinic is highly recommended as they may be able to provide you with more information on the health risks and/or challenges that you may face in your particular host country. For example, if you have respiratory issues how will you manage in the increased air pollution of Beijing? You can find local travel clinics and yellow fever vaccination clinics on the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/find-clinic/
The CDC’s page for each country will have information on recommended vaccinations and medications for that destination. Unless you are a health professional, do not attempt to determine which recommendations apply to your travel on your own. For example, in some countries where malaria is present, whether you need antimalarials or what kind to take depends on which part(s) of the country you will be visiting and your own health history. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list/