Health and Safety
Physical & Emotional Health
Any conditions or health issues students have at home go abroad with them. Sometimes conditions are exacerbated by the additional stress of living in an unfamiliar place and culture. Please discuss health issues with your son or daughter.
Most study abroad sites students choose have excellent health systems, but keep in mind that health care is different in different cultures. For example, they might have the same medications we have, but they could come in different dosages. If your son or daughter has any health issues, please check on how to deal with them while your student is abroad.
It is likely your son or daughter will get sick during the time abroad. Exposure to unfamiliar germs can often cause illness. Changes in climate, water and diet also affect one's health.
Students also need to think about their mental and emotional health while abroad. The host institution's coordinator can help find solutions to problems and students should contact them if they need assistance. Also, the UWW Counseling Center will accept phone calls and emails.
Family health issues can also cause distress to students abroad. If a member of the family has a problem, it is not always best to hide it from your sons or daughters, just because they are away. Give them the same consideration you would if they were home.
Issues of sexuality can be complex in our own cultural environment, and even more so in one with which you are less familiar. While living in a culture that is not your own, it is more challenging to evaluate situations and to assess risks for emotional distress, disease, and assault as a result of intentional or non-intentional sexual contact.
Sexually transmitted diseases are prevalent everywhere in the world, and the HIV virus can lead to death. We strongly recommend that students educate themselves on safe sex practices, pack condoms from the U.S. and be cautious about their sexual activity while abroad. For further information regarding HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, please consult the Health Center at UW Whitewater.
Learning about your host country's culture with regard to acceptable and safe sexual behavior is essential. It is also very important that participants understand the local norms and cultural patterns of relationships. What are the local dating patterns? Is it the custom for females to have male friends (or vice versa) or is that considered unusual? If you accept a drink or some other "gift", are you tacitly consenting to sexual activity? If you invite someone into your living space, is it culturally and/or legally acceptable for him/her to expect intimate contact? Is the legal and/or cultural definition of "consent" different from the definition in the United States?
At a minimum, you must be aware that some behaviors at home that may be culturally and legally acceptable, and seemingly safe, may not be culturally or legally acceptable or safe in your host country - and vice versa. Certain behaviors will also communicate different messages in your host culture than they do in the United States.
Don't assume everything is the same as at home.
Sources of Health Information
UW-W's Health & Counseling Center
We recommend students go to the Health Center for a free appointment in the Foreign Travel Clinic. Doctors will interpret the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) travel information in light of each student's particular health conditions and concerns.
Students can also get some vaccinations at the Health Center (fees apply).
The Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization
The CDC and WHO provide information for travelers online.
All UW Whitewater students are required to have special study abroad insurance while overseas. Most health care plans do not provide for all the kinds of issues that can occur overseas, so additional coverage is necessary. Many study abroad programs include health insurance in the package and some countries, like Australia, require students to buy their insurance in order to obtain a visa.
STAYING SAFESafety While Abroad
You will have to learn some new "street smarts" that are suitable to your new location. We suggest that you spend the first couple of days on site engaged in your own orientation to the city. Learn which neighborhoods or districts should be avoided, and when you should avoid them. Learn the transport system. Learn how to ask for and understand directions. Learn how to blend in—how to dress, act, and walk, and how to handle looks or approaches by strangers. Watch, ask, and imitate the locals.
As an American (and even if you carry a non-U.S. passport you might be taken for an American), there will be times that for reasons of personal safety you do not want to be marked as an American or otherwise be identified as an easy target for theft or assault. Learn how the locals keep from getting ripped off. Here are some general tips:
- Act like you know where you are going and what you are doing
- Don't dangle purses or cameras from your wrist
- Backpacks and big purses can be targets
- Don't carry wallets in a back pocket
- Don't carry large amounts of cash.
- Don't carry your passport UNLESS you absolutely need it; a photocopy will do just fine for every day use
- Don't walk or ride the bus alone at night--spend the money on a taxi
- Don't stay in dives. The few dollars saved on a cheap hotel room won't cover the replacement costs of a rail ticket, passport, camera, etc.
- Don't hitchhike--This is policy!
- Don't stay out late at night. When students are assaulted or robbed on the street it most often occurs late at night. Thieves like the dark and they like drunks.
- Don't travel alone.
- Stay informed about what's going on in your host city and country. U.S. foreign policy does affect how people overseas will treat you. You are a representative of your country--whether you want to be or not. People will expect you to be knowledgeable and informed about US policies in their region.