Safety and Health Abroad

The study abroad program at the University of North Florida sends over 600 students abroad to several different countries including France, Japan, Peru and Egypt to name a few. With recent terrorist attacks and development of the Zika virus, some students may find study abroad to be unsafe, but UNF has taken active steps to keep students safe and healthy. Ruth Lopez talks about what steps students must take before studying abroad, and also talks about things to avoid when in a different country.

Students are required to attend a safety session that goes over health and crime alerts. It gives students tips to stay safe while abroad like practicing the buddy system or staying away from large crowds or political events.

When abroad, students need to know how to be able to reach their emergency contact. Telephone systems are different around the world, so you want to make sure you can be able to call someone in case of an emergency. This includes making sure you can stay in touch with the U.S. Embassy.

The Embassy is who you want to contact during an emergency abroad, but students should also know how to contact local police. Note that 911 is not a universal number to contact police. Several countries have different numbers. For example, in South Korea, France and many other countries you want to dial 112, but in Brazil you want to dial 192.

The safety session also lists a couple of things students should do prior to their trip. For example, students are encouraged to give family members a schedule of what they are planning to do while they are abroad.

Students will also receive a country information packet from the State Department that goes over specific tips on how to stay safe in a particular country. This packet also includes very helpful information about the country’s demographics and political information.

Students are encouraged to enroll their trip with the Department of State through their Smart Traveller Enrollment Program or STEP for short. By enrolling in the STEP program, it will help facilitate communication in case of emergency either in the United States or the country the student is visiting.

Kaitlyn Powell is a freshman from Gainsville studying Criminal Justice at the University of North Florida. She hopes to study abroad next semester in England, and is currently in the process of finding a program.

“My mom is worried because of the terrorism, but she just wants me to be safe. I honestly don’t care. I’ve been wanting to go, and I will go no matter what.” Kaitlyn said.

She also mentions that since she is in the beginning process of picking a program she hasn’t really talked about health or safety regulations, but she is aware of the information on the website.

Ruth Lopez, who is the director of the International Center at the University of Florida, speaks about how the university chooses to continue or discontinue a program abroad. 

The UNF Travel Clinic also helps identify what kind of diseases students will be exposed to at the country they are traveling abroad to. Once they identify these diseases, the clinic will help provide immunizations like pills or vaccines to help prevent students from catching these diseases.Students are recommended to meet with the Travel Clinic six weeks before leaving the country.

The country-specific information packet also provides valuable information diseases found in that country. Some of the information includes how one can get the disease and steps students should take to prevent getting sick.

“Your body adapts to where you are at. Once you are there for a while, your body learns.” said Shane Biery, a public relations student at UNF.

For more information about health and safety while participating in a study abroad program, visit the International Center’s website through the following link: https://www.unf.edu/intlctr/Health_and_Safety.aspx.

On this site, you can find several of the country specific packets with valuable safety and health information. It also provides several links to several sites giving students more information on how to stay safe.

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