Health and Safety
While Ferrum College does everything we can to ensure your safety by connecting with reliable, highly experienced partners, ultimately you are the person with the greatest control, and therefore the greatest responsibility, for your own well-being. While you can’t control everything, your decisions are important. You need to be aware of your surroundings, be familiar with emergency procedures, and make good health decisions.
Make sure you are informed about the places where you’re traveling. Do your research in advance so that you know the laws and current events, emergency numbers (911 is not the right number in other countries!).
Here are some resources to help you with that:
Make sure you stay active and eat well. Taste new foods, of course, but do everything in moderation. Be sure to get plenty of water, and check which water is safe to drink in your location. Use sunscreen and insect repellent as appropriate. Many students find that studying abroad involves more physical activity than they’re used to having at home, since you’ll probably be walking a lot and using public transportation. You’ll need to make sure that you have appropriate footware for this.
Some information on health from the World Health Organization can be helpful.
Traveling itself can make you ill. It helps to take certain precautions when you’re on an airplane or a train.
- Take healthy snacks and sanitizing hand wipes
- Drink plenty of water
- Bring gum in case the altitude changes bother your ear drums
- Try to stretch, or to clench and unclench your muscles, especially your legs (but don’t bother your fellow passengers!). Here’s a link to in-flight stretches.
- Sleep when you’re tired. Don’t be a hero and try to stay awake to adjust to a time zone. Just let your body take breaks whenever needed.
- Dress in layers. Airplanes can be very cold!
- Take eye drops with you. Airplanes are also very dry.
- For more travel tips, check familydoctor.org.
- If you’re on medication, make sure you take it with you.
- Get enough of your medicine to cover the time you’ll be abroad, and carry some with you in your carry-one bag.
- Keep all medications in their original containers with labels, and make sure all your prescriptions have the pharmacy’s label with your name on it.
- Before you travel, check if you need vaccines for the places you’re going, and make an appointment with your doctor to get those vaccinations before you go. Don’t assume your doctor knows what you need–research it yourself on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site.
- Make sure to inform our office and the study abroad partner’s office of any medical conditions or medical needs.
You need to take just as much care of your mental health as your physical health. Have all your medications with you (see above advice on medications) and inform those responsible for your program about any needs (our office and the provider’s office). Create an emergency treatment plan with the coordination of all responsible parties. Homesickness is normal, but that doesn’t make it easy. Read up on the stages of homesickness so that you’re prepared to deal with each stage as it comes.
Road rules are different in every country, so it’s important to be observant. In some countries, like the UK and some former colonies of the UK, people drive on left side of the road, so you have to be extra careful crossing the street. Also learn which taxi services are safe, which busses and metros you should use–this information should be provided in your orientation on site, but don’t be afraid to ask. The most important thing you can do to ensure your safety is pay attention to your surroundings.
Crime exists in every country, but it’s always important to take precautions, especially when in a new place where you’re going to be easily distracted.
- Keep your valuables secure and close to your body.
- Leave your passport in a secure location–don’t walk around with it.
- Keep a photocopy of your passport ID page with you in case you need it.
- Keep your credit card company’s contact information in case you lose it or it’s stolen.
- Pay attention to your surroundings.
- Don’t be out alone late at night.
- Don’t drink to excess.
- Stay in well-lit, populated areas.
- Avoid sticking out–try to dress similarly to local people.
- If you’re confronted by a thief, do not fight–just give them what they ask for and later report it to the police.
Laws about drinking and drugs vary from one country to another, and fees or punishment can vary from lenient to very severe. Be aware of the local laws regarding this. Also remember that you are representing Ferrum College and the United States. You are a citizen ambassador and as such you are expected to behave appropriately. You can read up on Ferrum College’s drug and alcohol policy in the Student Handbook.
You’re especially vulnerable while you’re abroad because you don’t know local customs and aren’t always aware of your resources. Beer and other drinks can have a higher level of alcohol than in the U.S., and things like altitude can make drinks have a greater effect. Always be aware of your surroundings, stay with friends you trust, don’t leave drinks unattended, always carry emergency numbers with you… basically use your common sense.
If you do encounter problems, reach out to your host family or your study abroad provider. It’s better to get in a little trouble now than to endanger yourself in trying to avoid getting in trouble later.