Health & Safety Abroad

UCI prioritizes the health and safety of UCI students while participating in international activities abroad. Whether you are traveling abroad for the first time or a seasoned traveler, the most rewarding and transformative travel experiences abroad can also be the most challenging.

To ensure UCI students are informed and supported while engaging in scholarship, research, internships, or co-curricular activities abroad, UCI has assembled the following resources for you. You may also visit the UCI Study Abroad Video Library for video resources: https://studyabroad.uci.edu/study-abroad-video-resource-library/#Health-and-Safety

Updates 2022-23Daily Symptom Check Instructions | Current Students | Student Affairs | UCI

COVID-19: The Study Abroad Center is closely monitoring ongoing responses around the world to COVID-19 and its new variants. We are in direct and regular communications with the UC Office of the President, the UC Education Abroad Program (UCEAP) and colleagues throughout the UC system, as well as government and local contacts. Thank you for monitoring your email for further updates from UCI and your host institutions. For UCI updates, visit the UCI Study Abroad Center FAQ, Office of Global Engagement COVID-19 Updates, and UCI Forward pages.

Ukraine: UCI continues to actively monitor the evolving situation in Ukraine and eastern Europe. We remain in close communications with the UC Office of the President, UCEAP and colleagues throughout the UC system, as well as government and local contacts. At this time, no UCI programs have been canceled or suspended as a result of the Russian military invasion of Ukraine or worldwide responses to the ongoing military action in Ukraine. For UCI updates, visit the UCI Study Abroad Center FAQ, Office of Global Engagement COVID-19 Updates, and UCI Forward pages.

UC TRAVEL INSURANCE

Please Note: As of June 1, 2022, UC Travel Insurance is no longer affiliated with United Healthcare Global (UHCG); the new affiliated provider is AXA Global Travel Assistance. If you have a UC Travel Insurance Card with UHCG contact details, please discard that card and register your travel with UC Away to receive an updated card with “Chubb-AXA Global Travel Assistance” contact information listed below in the Emergency Contacts Abroad section.**

All UCI students traveling internationally have access to supplemental basic accident and sickness coverage, as well as emergency support provided by the UC Travel Insurance. Please maintain your existing domestic health insurance coverage while you are abroad, as this will be your primary coverage when you return to the United States. Additionally, the U.S. Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandates that individuals have “Minimum Essential Coverage” provided by qualified health insurance at all times.

UCI students traveling independently or with a UCI faculty-led program or bilateral exchange will have the opportunity to enroll in UC Travel Insurance which includes the following benefits. Details on how to register for the UC Travel Insurance will be provided in the post-acceptance section of your UCI Abroad portal application. You will be sent your insurance card via email. Print this card and carry it with you at all times when you travel. The policy number and contact numbers for services will be provided to you on your emergency contact card.

UCI students participanting in study abroad programs through UCEAP will be enrolled by UCEAP program in a travel insurance policy that differs slightly from the UC Travel Insurance Coverage for other off-campus programs. The policy number, contact information, benefits and exclusions, and claims process can be found in the Insurance section of the UCEAP Health and Safety page.

UCI students on Independent Programs will be prompted to register themselves for UC Travel Insurance following the successful completion of their risk assessment.

INTERNATIONAL RISK ASSESSMENT

One important way UCI promotes the health and safety of its students is to ensure they are informed about the risks inherent to their proposed activity abroad and some of the resources available to support them. To start that process, UCI students build their own risk assessment in the UC Abroad portal, where they are be asked to provide key information relevant to travel abroad including COVID-19 entry requirements and protocols. To ensure all UCI students have an opportunity to identify and discuss the variety of risks inherent to study, research, work, or volunteering abroad – from minor accidents and illness to identity-based violence and climatic disasters – UCI requires that UCI students complete a risk assessment as part of their pre-departure preparations.

UCEAP and Independent Program Participants complete the risk assessment that is embedded within the UCI Abroad portal in the post-approval section of the application. It will become foundational for pre-departure orientation programming hosted by the UCI Study Abroad Center.

UCI students engaged in independent international activities should begin the risk assessment and travel registration process here: https://studyabroad.uci.edu/about/independent-international-activities/

EMERGENCY CONTACTS ABROAD

In the event of an emergency abroad, please take the following steps:

  1. Contact local on-site emergency services where the student is.
  2. Contact the local, on-site program staff.
  3. If you do not have the local, on-site contact information:
    • For a UCEAP participant, call the UCEAP 24-hour emergency line: +1 (805) 893-4762
    • For any other UCI student abroad, contact UCI Police 24/7 Dispatch: +1 (949) 824-5223
    • If you need local assistance abroad, contact the UC Travel Insurance 24/7 emergency assistance provider, AXA, +1 (630) 694-9804 or email medassist-usa@axa-assistance.us

UCI EMERGENCY RESPONSE INFORMATION

Health & Safety Abroad Resources & Guidance

Your education abroad begins the moment you begin planning for it. Preparation should actually begin before your departure. Read as much as you can about your host country and if possible the city in which you will be living. Talk to students who have been to the city or country you are going to, and to students who are from there. Find out what challenges were posed to previous participants and how they dealt with those challenges. At your program’s orientation sessions, pay close attention to information regarding safety precautions. Upon arrival, learn which areas of the city are considered safe for your housing and living. Become familiar with the best means of transportation and well traveled routes as you go about your daily business.

The US Department of State has provided the following excellent information for traveling abroad:

International Travel (All links below are accessible through this link)

Living Abroad Tips
Tips for Travelling Abroad
A Safe Trip Abroad

The key to personal safety is being aware of your environment at all times and being “street smart”. You also need to be aware of misconceptions about foreign lands that may make you feel safer than you truly are. These include:

Crime doesn’t happen in a particular country and/or region
-Women are revered and therefore no one would harm a woman
-Americans are invulnerable because of the strength of our nation
-Activities considered unsafe at home (such as hitchhiking) are safe in other countries.

Remember, these are not true. To better take care of yourself and your belongings:

  • Always, we repeat, ALWAYS lock up every door and window in your lodgings. Guard your keys. Enough said.
  • Baggage insurance is always a good idea, but there are additional and inexpensive ways to protect your luggage. First and foremost, remember to label your bags on the outside and on the inside!!! Padlocks are also an inexpensive investment that may protect your belongings. If nothing else, they will keep your luggage closed. They will also ease the minds of protective security agents at the airport. Always lock your luggage before checking in. In addition, when leaving a hotel room or hostel for any reason, always keep your luggage locked and the room in reasonably neat order so that, if you are a victim of a burglary or other unauthorized entry, you will immediately be aware of it.
  • Ask questions about social etiquette.
  • Avoid questionable parts of the city, especially at night and when alone.
  • When using a public telephone, stand facing out so you can see your surroundings.
  • Don’t wear expensive clothing or jewelry. Don’t carry valuables if you can avoid it.
  • Don’t give personal information to strangers. Be extremely cautious about inviting casual acquaintances into your home or room.
  • If you feel uncomfortable in a given situation, listen to your gut instincts and remove yourself. If you feel unsafe, you probably are. It is better to make a social error than to be assaulted.
  • Be aware of your personal space. You have the right to reserve that space. Keep a strong body language. When you’re walking, keep your back straight, hold your head high and walk with a determined stride- even if you’re not sure where you are going. Keep glancing to your left and right so that you know who and what is nearby.
  • Keep your head up! Even though the sites might be breathtaking, remain aware of your immediate surroundings and possible dangers. Attackers are more likely to prey on people who appear preoccupied or confused, so the first rule is to stay alert and aware of your surroundings at all times.
  • If someone stops you and asks you for directions or the time, step away at least two and a half arm lengths, stand with your feet shoulder width apart, and speak with a neutral but authoritative toe. Never take your eye’s off the person’s face and hands. In the second it takes to look at your watch, a mugger can make his move. Just lift your watch to eye level.
  • Get someone’s attention, if you need it. If someone follows or threatens you, head for the nearest well lit, busy spot — perhaps an intersection or doorway. Another option may to step into the street so that passing vehicles can see you.

Many problems can be avoided in the initial stages by an assertive response. Let potential assailants know immediately that their intentions will not be tolerated. You can send an assertive message non verbally by using strong, confident body posture; maintaining eye contact and by establishing physical limits. Verbally, you can say “No!” or “Stop!” in English or the local language. Use a strong, loud tone of voice. You can also yell (not scream) to call attention to your situation.

If someone is trying to take advantage of you in a social situation, yelling may not be called for – but do express your limits clearly at the first sign of trouble and leave the situation if you’re feeling confused or endangered. If an assault occurs, the decision of whether to physically resist will depend on many variables, including your individual abilities and those of your assailant(s). Only you can decide at the time if resistance is the best choice. If you do decide to fight back, commit your 100% to this course of action. Consider your body (hands, feet, etc.) as your most reliable “weapons” and aim for vulnerable areas of the attacker’s body. REMEMBER: Survival is your most important goal. Submission is always a valid choice if that’s how your instincts tell you to respond.

One of your first priorities upon arrival in your host country is to identify and build a support system…In addition to keeping a list of people you can trust to be supportive in an emergency, it is useful to connect with those who can provide you local assistance, advice, or reflection during the challenging times of cultural adjustment. This list should include on-site program staff, their names, addresses and phone numbers. Keep this list with you at all times. Learn to correctly use the public telephones immediately upon your arrival. Learn to identify:

  • hospital and medical clinics
  • emergency numbers and helplines
  • crisis or hotlines where English is spoken
  • the English-speaking community around you, such as your school or study center, affinity groups, local places of worship, or other safe spaces.

As in the United States, you may face discrimination of various sorts while you leaving/entering the United States, traveling internationally, or living abroad. Racism, sexism, homophobia, gender-based discrimination, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, ableism, ageism, and other forms of identity-based violence may manifest themselves in more subtle or overt ways than in the U.S. When you experience this abroad, it may increase feelings of isolation or being misunderstood. Please know that your feelings are valid and that it is often useful to discuss this will trusted friends and support networks.

To make yourself aware of types of discrimination you may experience in your host country, talk to both locals and other UCI students who have lived there. We strongly encourage this research as being aware of your host country’s social norms may help you to cope with discrimination, especially that which may affect your personal safety.

The Studyabroad.com handbook addresses ethnic and racial concerns as well as being lesbian, gay or bisexual abroad. Another excellent resource is the NAFSA Rainbow SIG website, which has information for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered international and study abroad students.

The UCI Office of Equal Opportunity & Discrimination is available to assist you while abroad. Information on how to report an incident can found here: www.oeod.uci.edu/harassment_guide/report.php 

Harassment issues may be particularly difficult to identify abroad, where cultural norms are often different than those in the U.S. A fair rule of thumb is to assume that sexual harassment consists of any unwanted sexual advances and/or behavior of a verbal, visual, written, or physical nature in living arrangements and educational or work environment.

Sexual harassment may include:

  • derogatory remarks made about one’s clothing, body, or sexual activities based on gender
  • disparaging remarks, jokes and teasing based on gender
  • visual materials or pictures which unnecessarily sexualize the environment, or which students find offensive
  • subtle pressure for sexual activity and/or dates
  • unnecessary and unwanted touching, patting or pinching
  • demanding sexual favors accompanied by overt threats concerning such things as one’s job, grades, letters of recommendation, etc.
  • verbal harassment or abuse
  • e-mail and/or any electronic communications which include any of the above
  • physical assault

Students should trust their judgment and intuition. If a situation makes them uncomfortable, it needs to be addressed. Students should seek help from their program authorities for counseling and advice on how to remedy the situation.

Women may experience some particular difficulties while abroad. Despite the fact that the rate of violence towards women, including rape, is higher in the US than in many other countries, the mere fact of facing the unfamiliar can raise your anxiety level. This is compounded by language and cultural differences, and by the unfortunate fact that people in other countries often have acquired their knowledge of US women through distorted and stereotyped media images such as those used in TV, ,movies and advertising. American women have acquired a reputation for enjoying a type of lifestyle which contrasts with more traditional behavior in many countries. In addition, cultural differences can extend to body language. US students may encounter people who do not understand their friendliness with strangers as simply a gesture of friendship. A smile, a hairstyle, the way you carry yourself, eye contact, and the distance between people talking can have profoundly different interpretations from culture to culture. Even a smile to a stranger may be misunderstood.

There is much you can do to prepare yourself to face a range of possible situations, from sexual comments or harassment, to the rare extreme of a physically threatening situation. Before leaving, take the time and initiative to learn as much as possible about your host country’s language, religion, customs, and appropriate dress for women. Talk to women and men who have visited your host country and, if possible, talk with people from your host country. The more familiar you are with your new country’s customs, the more respect you will earn and the more you will break down stereotypes. Such knowledge will increase your confidence and independence , which are important to your personal safety. Continue this learning in your host country. Talk to local women. Follow examples of culturally appropriate dress and demeanor. Ask about women’s organizations. While you can’t change the culture around you, you can use your friends (American and host nationals) as a safe haven for developing coping skills and venting frustrations.

You should not use cultural differences as an excuse to endure or excuse verbal or physical abuse; depending on the situation, remove yourself as quickly as possible, confront the person, or ask for support from others. Trust your intuition and feelings. If you are offered a ride and you feel some anxiety, decline the offer. If you are in a setting that makes you nervous, leave immediately. Don’t be persuaded to do something your instincts warn you against. Precautions also apply to social situations. Most likely, you will find everyone you meet to be interesting and interested in you. However, you cannot make judgments about your safety based on another person’s looks, appearance or financial status. Some situations may require you to be assertive and say “no” in a convincing manner.

Only you can determine how best to handle a situation. However, if you prepare yourself before your departure, you will find that you will have more options for dealing with situations.

Don’t be a victim. Try to minimize your “foreignness” through your actions and appearance in order to avoid being targeted as a naïve tourist by pick-pocketers. Take with you only those credit cards and documents you need. Once abroad, decide at the beginning of each day which credit cards, documents and other valuable you really need to take with you. Put the rest in a safe place. While in your host town or city, lock your money, travelers checks, jewelry, passport, and other personal possessions in your room. When traveling, carry money, your passport, and other valuables in a money belt inside your clothing–don’t leave them in a hotel room or hostel. Don’t keep your wallet in a hip pocket and if you insist on carrying a purse, keep it tucked tightly under your arm or looped diagonally across your chest when on the street. For good measure, keep it on the side away from passing motorcyclists. Divide your money, credit cards and other valuables among several pockets. Don’t leave valuables in a car. It’s far more tempting for a thief to break a car window than to assault someone. If you are robbed but have one credit card left, you can usually get a cash advance from any bank issuing the card. Take precautions so that in the event that you are robbed, you are well-equipped to deal with the situation and move on.

PLEASE DON’T HITCHHIKE (which is defined as accepting rides from strangers, whether or not you use your thumb to get the ride). We’d prefer that you not hitchhike under any circumstances, no matter what anybody tells you, no matter if “it’s perfectly safe,” and especially not if “everybody does it!” It isn’t perfectly safe, and everybody does not do it.