Safety of Study Abroad Programs

Safety is a prime concern of all who are involved in study abroad programs: participants, their families, advisers, institutions that send students abroad, those that host them and the staff of all organizations that operate programs. There are risks that are unique to the overseas settings; when those rare incidents occur, the impact on participants and their families is often more profound because of the unfamiliarity of the context and the distance that separates participants from their primary sources of consolation and support. Keep in contact with your family - just to provide reassurance.

Northwood University generally:

  • Cannot eliminate all risks from the study abroad environment.

  • Cannot monitor or control all of the daily personal decisions, choices, and activities of individual participants.

  • Cannot prevent participants from engaging in illegal, dangerous, or unwise activities.

  • Cannot assure that U.S. standards of due process apply in overseas legal proceedings or provide or pay for legal representation for participants.

In study abroad, as in other settings, participants can have a major impact on their own health and safety abroad through the decisions they make before and during the program and by their day-to-day choices and behaviors.

Think Ahead

Whether traveling or living outside of the United States, there are ways you can prepare yourself for a potential crisis.

Be Informed

  • Learn about the country, including visa requirements, local laws, customs, and medical care in the countries where you will be. Check for any Travel Advisories for your destination.

  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive important safety and security messages and make it easier for us to locate and assist you in an emergency.

  • Keep the contact details for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate with you. We are available for emergencies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, overseas and in Washington, D.C. - (888) 407-4747 or (202) 501-4444.

  • See the Traveler’s Checklist for more information.

Be Prepared

  • Your emergency kit should include your passport, cash in the local currency, a card with local translations of basic terms, and an electrical adapter.

  • If you take medication, make sure to have at least five days’ worth at any given time – if you can, we encourage enough for two weeks beyond your scheduled trip and have a copy of your prescriptions handy.

  • If you use assistive or medical devices that require a power supply, be sure to find backup power or other ways that will sustain your device or equipment during a power outage.

  • Make sure you have health insurance whenever you are traveling abroad. For more information, see Insurance Providers for Overseas Coverage.

  • Make sure your passport is ready for use. Most countries require that it be valid for at least six months after the end of your trip and that it have two or more blank pages.

Be Connected

  • Keep a list of your emergency contacts handy and create a communication plan for reaching family and friends in the event of a crisis.

  • Phone lines are usually affected during a crisis. Think about other ways to communicate. For example, update your social media status often and send messages as regularly as possible to let friends and family know how you are doing.

  • Many of the U.S. embassies and consulates, along with the Bureau of Consular Affairs, use social media to provide information – connect with us!

  • For more information, see Ways to Contact Loved Ones in a Crisis Abroad.

Be Safe

  • Have an exit strategy! Know how you’ll get out of harm’s way without needing to rely on assistance – a crisis may prevent or delay emergency responders’ ability to get to you and there will be many people needing help.

  • Be sure you know more than one way to get towards safety – the crisis event may make some roads unpassable or unsafe.

  • Follow instructions from local authorities about security and evacuation. Doing so could save your life.

  • Monitor local radio, television, and other sources for updates. Situations can change quickly, limiting the time you have to get out.

  • If you are staying in a hotel, talk to the staff to be sure you know the hotel’s emergency plan for a variety of crisis events – fire, flood, electrical outage, storms, etc.

  • Keep in touch with your tour operators, hotel staff, airline, and local officials for evacuation instructions.

  • Contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if you need emergency help. Please keep in mind that this will not alert emergency responders – if you need emergency medical attention or police assistance, contact the local authorities directly if you can.

Non-emergency calls may be made to the International Programs office at (989) 837-4327 during normal working hours, 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (Eastern Time). For emergencies that occur after hours, the student should contact Northwood’s Campus Security at (989) 837-4373. This number is active 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. The security personal will then inform the appropriate personal. This number should only be used in cases of emergencies.