Health & Safety
Health & Safety
You should take some time to understand the health conditions in your host country before you leave. Regardless of where you go, it will take some time for your body to adjust to changes in food, water, altitude, weather conditions, etc. You may find that you are more susceptible to colds as you adjust to your new environment. The availability of medications and health care in your host country may differ greatly from the U.S. You can minimize your risk of illness or injury by being aware of the health issues in the countries you will visit. Travelers need to be careful to avoid excessive exposure to heat or cold, drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Avoid alcoholic beverages, coffee, tea, or caffeinated sodas. Get plenty of sleep. You will most likely be walking considerably more than you normally would at home. Wear comfortable shoes that support your feet.
Register with the U.S. Embassy
If you have not already done so, register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the State Department's travel registration website https://step.state.gov/step/. Registration will make your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an emergency.
Nothing is more important than your safety! Use care and caution while you are abroad. The following suggestions are offered to help you have a safe trip. Protect your valuables from pickpockets and purse-snatchers by remaining alert and cautious. Conceal your valuables in a money belt or satchel under your clothing. Do not carry your wallet in back or coat pockets and avoid carrying a purse or shoulder bag. Avoid offers of "bargain" accommodations, rides or baggage handling. Official taxi stands are generally located outside airports and stations.
U.S. citizens abroad now are at a greater risk than in recent years. Please take the following steps, even if you will be in an area where no terrorist or anti-American activities seem likely to occur. Before you leave, inform yourself of any potential conflicts and trouble spots in the countries you plan to visit, be aware of current events while you are abroad, and heed special instructions provided by your program staff.
- Remain friendly but be cautious about discussing personal matters, your itinerary or program. Be careful about divulging information about yourself, your fellow students and your study program to strangers.
- Find a place to stay before dark.
- Leave no personal or business papers in your hotel room when traveling.
- Watch for people following you or "loiterers" observing your comings and goings.
- Let someone else know what your travel plans are. Keep them informed if you change your plans.
- Avoid predictable times and routes of travel and report any suspicious activity to local police, and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
- Select your own taxi cabs at random. Don't take a vehicle that is not clearly identified as a taxi. Compare the face of the driver with the one posted on his or her license.
- If possible, travel with others.
- Be sure of the identity of visitors before opening the door of your hotel room or residence. Refuse unexpected packages.
- It is important to realize that most cultures are very different from ours. Memorize the emergency numbers in the countries you visit and keep changes for the phone and cab money with you at all times. Keep a mental note of safe havens, such as police stations, hotels, hospitals.
- Be especially careful in helping to maintain security at your residence and other program buildings. Keep your residence area locked.
- Speak the local language whenever possible.
- Keep a low profile in demeanor and dress. College or fraternity shirts or sweaters, baseball caps and U.S. athletic shoes identify you readily as a U.S. citizen. In many locations, shorts or short dresses are not considered appropriate dress for adults. Dressing in a revealing or unusual manner may draw unwanted attention to you. Do not dress expensively, wear expensive looking jewelry, or carry expensive cameras or other electronic equipment. Do not attract attention to yourself through careless behavior.
- Be discreet and polite, heeding signs and regulations in public places. Do not take pictures of police or military institutions.
- Do not impair your judgment by consuming excessive amounts of alcohol or by using drugs.
- Do not agree to meet a person whom you do not know in a non-public place. Do not leave a public place with anyone you do not know.
- When traveling, do not leave your luggage unattended. Do not agree to carry on or check any luggage or other items for anyone. If you see unattended luggage or packages, report it to airport, train or bus station authorities immediately.
- Know local laws. Laws and systems of justice are not the same in each country. You are subject to the laws of the countries you visit. Do not assume that something legal in the U.S. will be legal while you are in another country.
- As is wise anywhere, do not walk alone at night or in remote and unfamiliar areas. Stay near busy and well-lit areas. Do not try to cross through parks, parking lots, or other deserted areas, especially after dark.
- Always be aware of the location of your closest exit.
- Be especially careful when crossing streets or waiting to cross. Pedestrians do not have the right of way in most parts of the world.
- Do not hitchhike.
- Do not travel alone.
- Leave word with the program director, host family and/or friends of your travel plans, detailing your companions, itinerary, mode of travel, and dates of departure and return.
- Be cautious when entering public restrooms or any isolated area.
- Don't get involved in controversial discussions/situations in public places. Avoid street gatherings or demonstrations, and public events characterized by crowd excitement. If a crowd is gathering or you feel uncomfortable, leave the area.
- Be wary of beggars. Many times the beggars, even the children, are expert pickpockets or thieves. Giving money is a personal decision. Use common sense and leave immediately if you feel uncomfortable.
- Do not put money in a wallet in your back pocket. Do not carry anything in a purse or "fanny pack" that you cannot afford to lose. Never count your money in public. Carry as little cash as possible.
- Always be alert for distractions that may be staged by pickpockets, luggage thieves, or purse-snatchers.
- Keep briefcases and purses in view or in hand when using telephones, if you are using a credit card, block the view of the keypad when entering the number.
- Use discretion and common sense when using ATM machines. Many ATMs are located outdoors or in isolated areas. Use ATM machines during daylight hours and when there are other people around as much as possible. Guard your pin number and do not let anyone distract you while you are using an ATM machine.
- Consider traveling with an extra credit card to use for emergencies only. Keep this credit card or other access to money separate from your other finances.
- If you must verbally give your credit card or calling card numbers, do so quietly. Use your cards discreetly and guard your account numbers and pin numbers.
- Avoid traveling in large groups. Groups of two or three draw less attention.
- Have a rendezvous point. If someone gets separated from the group, decide in advance where to go to meet.
- Take special care around tourist sites and possible terrorist targets, such as police stations, churches, synagogues, and airports. Unless it is an emergency, avoid identifiable U.S. institutions, such as embassies and other places where U.S. citizens and tourists typically gather.
- Inspect any gifts received in a foreign country before packing.
- Read the entire section on “Personal Safety” located in this Handbook. Consult program directors for information on concerns specific to your program location.
For the most current information on international travel, call the State Department: (202) 647-5225 or visit their web site at: http://travel.state.gov/travel/travel_1744.html. More information on international travel can be found on the UNLV International Programs website.
When traveling, check in with your airline as soon as possible and immediately progress through security clearance. Respond immediately to all questions asked by security personnel honestly and seriously. Do not joke about terrorism or hijacking, you may find yourself the object of much unwanted attention. NEVER carry packages, luggage, or any items for anyone. Do not leave your luggage unattended, even for a moment. If you see any unattended luggage, leave the area and notify security personnel. Do not carry anything that could be considered a weapon including pocket knives. When traveling, whether on an airplane, train or bus, check under your seat and in overhead baggage compartments. Report anything suspicious to authorities.
How to Handle Money Safely
To avoid carrying large amounts of cash, change your travelers' checks only as you need currency. Countersign travelers' checks only in front of the person who will cash them. Do not flash large amounts of money when paying a bill. Make sure your credit card is returned to you after each transaction. Deal only with authorized agents when you exchange money, buy airline tickets or purchase souvenirs. Do not change money on the black market.
If your possessions are lost or stolen, report the loss immediately to the local police. Keep a copy of the police report for insurance claims and as an explanation of your plight. After reporting missing items to the police, report the loss or theft of: travelers' checks to the nearest agent of the issuing company, credit cards to the issuing company, airline tickets to the airline or travel agent, passport to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
Sanitation, Water & Disease
If you will be living in a rural area or visiting a country where sanitation systems are less developed there are precautions you can take to minimize your chances of becoming ill. The Atlanta Center for Disease Control (CDC) Traveler's Health website: http://www.cdc.gov/travel/ has current information on health issues. Of particular interest to travelers is the "Geographic Health Recommendations" and "Food & Water Precautions: Traveler's Diarrhea." Information can also be obtained by calling the CDC: (404) 332-4565.
Personal Health Conditions
You should take care of all foreseeable medical, dental, gynecological, or optical needs before you go abroad. If you have allergies, reactions to certain medicines, or other unique medical problems, you may consider wearing a medical alert bracelet or carrying a similar warning. It is also in your best interest to notify the on-site director at your program site and your travel companions so that they can be prepared in case of emergency. If you have a medical condition that could be aggravated by conditions in your host country, consider carefully how you will deal with the problem overseas and discuss it with your doctor.
Physicians and Hospitals Abroad
Several private organizations provide listings of physicians abroad to international travelers. Membership in these organizations is generally free, although a donation may be requested. Membership entitles you to a number of traveler’s medical aids, including a directory of physicians with their overseas locations, telephone numbers and doctors' fee schedules. The physicians are generally English-speaking and provide medical assistance 24 hours a day. The addresses of these medical organizations are in travel magazines or may be available from your travel agent.
U.S. embassies and consulates abroad usually keep lists of physicians and hospitals in their area. Major credit card companies also can provide the names of local doctors and hospitals abroad.
For detailed information about physicians abroad, the authoritative reference is the Directory of Medical Specialists, published for the American Board of Medical Specialists and its 22 certifying member boards. The publication should be available in your local library.
More medical information may be found with the Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs
For many students, participation in study abroad will be the first time they have been out of the United States. In general, it is encouraged that students attempt to make friends with other foreign students and locals at your program site. Many students report that these types of friendships are one of the most rewarding parts of studying abroad and that the friendships endure for many years after studying abroad. As a word of caution, it is important to remember that not everyone you meet will have your best interests in mind. Be wary of anyone wanting to make your acquaintance very quickly. Meet with people during the day, preferably with a friend or two of yours. Be wary of traveling or staying with people you have just met. Do not give out your address, phone number or program information to strangers. Do not ignore your instincts. If a situation or a person makes you feel uncomfortable, excuse yourself and leave.
Entering into intimate relationships should be approached with the same caution that you would use at home, and possibly more caution. The idea of a foreign romance may be very tempting but you should realize that cultural values and rules regarding dating and relationships may be very different that those you are accustomed to at home. Proceed with caution and realize that you will only be in your host country for a short amount of time. It is highly recommended that you take your time in getting familiar with your host country and anyone you consider dating before you consider entering into an intimate relationship. If you consider entering into this type of relationship, please read the sections below on Safe Sex & Condom Use, and HIV, AIDS & STDs or consult the CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/travel/. It is important to remember that being in a foreign country will not protect you from the consequences of irresponsible behavior.
Safe Sex & Condom Use
Although UNLV is not advocating or condoning pre-marital intercourse, we realize that some students may be sexually active. If you choose to be sexually active, ALWAYS use a LATEX condom. Except for abstinence, proper use of a latex condom with spermicide is believed to be the most effective prevention of the transmission of STDs. If you use condoms, you should follow the package directions carefully. If you have any questions about proper condom storage or use, please consult your health care provider. Students planning on using condoms should take an adequate supply with them. The condition, manufacturing and storage of condoms in some countries may be questionable.
HIV, AIDS & STDs
AIDS is transmitted in foreign countries the same way it is transmitted in the U.S. In general, it is recommended that you avoid injections, blood transfusions, and unprotected sex. Diabetics are encouraged to bring a sufficient supply of needles and syringes with a prescription or doctor's authorization. Avoid acupuncture, dental work, ear piercing, body piercing, and tattooing if you are uncertain of sanitary conditions. If you choose to be sexually active, use good quality latex condoms. HIV is becoming extremely common in both heterosexual and homosexual populations in almost every part of the world. According to the World Health Organization, well over 90% of adults newly infected with the HIV virus acquired the virus through heterosexual sex. Women represent 50% of all new HIV infections. For more information on AIDS, the CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/travel/ has a page on HIV/AIDS Prevention for travelers. Information can also be obtained by calling the CDC: (404) 332-4565. Other sexually transmitted diseases such as hepatitis, gonorrhea, Chlamydia, syphilis, herpes, and genital warts are much more easily transmitted than HIV. While condoms can reduce the chances of contracting an STD, you cannot be sexually active and totally eliminate the risk. It is in your best interest to use common sense and protect yourself from possible exposure to sexually transmitted diseases. If you think you may have been exposed to an STD, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.
Knowing your HIV Status
Living overseas in certain areas may present greater risks to those who have tested positive for the HIV virus. Some locations have limited medical facilities that may be unable to monitor the progress of infections. Knowing your HIV status will help you in planning your trip. If you decide to be tested, do so at a center that offers pre- and post-test counseling. The UNLV Student Health Center and the Clark County Health District offer HIV screening. You need to allow yourself two weeks to obtain your test results. Some countries require travelers to have had an HIV test in order to obtain certain types of visas. You will need to check to determine if the country you will be visiting requires an HIV test.
Mental Health Issues
The majority of students find study abroad to be a very positive experience. Very few experience serious adjustment problems beyond the typical culture shock and homesickness. Students who experience serious adjustment problems generally have brought ongoing emotional or mental health issues with them. If you are currently accessing professional help to deal with emotional or mental health problems, you should consult your doctor or counselor before making the final decision to participate in education abroad. The combination of a new environment along with the loss of familiar support systems can be overwhelming. In leaving the country, you will not leave your problems behind. Above all, if you think you might need assistance, consult your counselor before departure. Contact your on-site director and the UNLV Office of International Programs if you wish to arrange counseling or need assistance while you are abroad.
Drug and Alcohol Use
Students participating in UNLV programs abroad are subject to the rules and policies of UNLV. Drinking alcohol while socializing is common in many parts of the world. The attitude in some countries toward alcohol may be much different than in the United States. Drinking in some countries is part of the social experience, but not the focus of it. Excessive drinking or drunken behavior is not acceptable. Public drunkenness is illegal in most areas. If you are of legal age and you choose to drink, you should be responsible and DRINK IN MODERATION. Keep in mind that various factors can influence your level of intoxication such as altitude, dehydration, stress from being in an unfamiliar environment, and the actual alcohol content of the beverage. Be wary of homemade liquors. If not prepared correctly, homemade liquors can be toxic and, in some cases, fatal. The legal drinking age varies in different countries. Drinking excessively or illegally is grounds for immediate dismissal from any UNLV sponsored study abroad program. Any student who exhibits offensive, at risk, or inappropriate behavior while under the influence of alcohol or any other drug may be subject to disciplinary action and immediate dismissal from the study abroad program.
Never drink and drive. In addition to the dangers normally associated with drunk driving, penalties vary greatly and can include years in prison with hefty fines or sentences that include hard labor. Alcohol mixed with different driving laws and styles, and unfamiliar streets can be a deadly combination. UNLV does not recommend driving abroad. If you choose to drive while you are abroad, do not drink. If you are with friends and will be drinking, be sure to select a designated driver. Be aware that the legal definition of “drunk” may vary by location.
DO NOT TAKE ANY ILLEGAL DRUGS, DO NOT TRAVEL WITH ILLEGAL DRUGS, AND DO NOT HAVE ILLEGAL DRUGS IN YOUR POSSESSION AT ANY TIME. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas can assume NO responsibility for any student violating laws and student conduct codes. Laws concerning drugs may be much more severe in other countries. Penalties for drug possession, use or sale can range from the death penalty to physical punishment to long jail terms. You are subject to the laws of the country are visiting. If you are arrested on a drug charge, the U.S. Consular Officer cannot demand your release, get you out of jail or out of the country, cannot represent you at trial or give you legal counsel, and cannot pay your legal fees or fines.
If you must take any types of drugs that are legal in the U.S. with you keep them in the original containers and carry a note from your doctor describing the drug and its use. See the section for “Documentation for Medications.”
Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act Amendments, 1989 (Students)
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) is committed to the prevention of alcohol and other drug abuse on campus. Within the context of the University's educational tradition, the focus will be toward informed choices and the exercise of personal responsibility as applied to the use/misuse of alcohol and other drugs. UNLV accepts the responsibility to guarantee that adequate information and positive support are accessible to all members of the university community.
- To create an environment that will be free from drug/alcohol abuse;
- To encourage a change in attitude in relation to the inappropriate use of alcohol and illicit drugs;
- To encourage alcohol/drug free activities within the campus community and offer support to those students who choose not to use alcohol and illicit drugs.
Standards of Conduct
Unlawful possession, use or distribution of any illicit drug or alcohol is clearly prohibited. A Student Events policy regulating the use of alcohol within the campus community is available through the Office of Student Activities Director.
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) fully complies with and supports all legal sanctions as stipulated in federal, state, county and city regulations. A complete listing of all regulations is available for review at the Office of Public Safety.
All members of this community need to be aware of the health risks associated with the excessive use/abuse of alcohol or any illicit mood altering drugs. Some of the most common risks encountered are:
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Liver and Pancreas Disease
- Maladaptive Sexual Functioning
- Possible exposure to AIDS
- Respiratory Infections
- Hormonal Imbalances
- Possible Psychosis
- Possible Permanent Brain Damage
All students are eligible and are encouraged to participate in the Drug/Alcohol Awareness Program here at UNLV. Assessments and interventions are conducted in a private, confidential manner. Access to information and education specific to drug/alcohol use/abuse is available. Counseling is available to all students as well as appropriate treatment referral. Self Help groups such as: AA, NA, and ACOA are available here on campus. Please feel free to call should you need further information. While abroad please speak to your on-site program director or contact UNLV International Programs for referrals and assistance.
In the event of any violation of stated laws, regulations applicable to the unlawful possession, use or distribution of illicit drugs or alcohol, disciplinary sanctions will be initiated. These actions may range from: warnings (verbal, written), loss of certain privileges, probation, suspension or final termination. In addition, any violation of federal, state, county or city regulations may result in arrest, fines, or possible incarceration.
For further information or assistance as regards to this policy, please feel free to call the Campus Drug and Alcohol Awareness Program at 895-3627. The program is located in the Student Services Building, Room 201.
"It is the policy of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to maintain the university community as a place of work and study for staff, faculty, and students, free of sexual harassment and all forms of sexual intimidation and exploitation. This stance is consistent with the university's efforts to maintain equal employment opportunity, equal educational opportunity, nondiscrimination in programs, services, and use of facilities, and the Affirmative Action program."
As in the United States, sexual harassment can arise anywhere. Attitudes toward sexual behavior vary widely and may be very different from what might be considered normal at home. The determination of what behaviors constitute sexual harassment varies with the particular circumstances. For example, comments, which would be considered offensive in the U.S., may be acceptable in other cultures, while many types of dress or behavior of the U.S. students that are completely innocent in the U.S. may send clear messages of sexual availability in other cultures. In general, sexual harassment is defined as unwanted sexual behavior, such as physical contact, verbal comments or suggestions, or other acts that adversely affect the learning environment. Be sure to contact the resident director of your study abroad program, and the UNLV Office of International Programs if you are experiencing difficulties.
Hazing is defined as any method of initiation into or affiliation with the University community, a student organization, a sports team, an academic association, or other group engaged in by an individual that intentionally or recklessly endangers another individual or that destroys or removes public or private property. Hazing is strictly prohibited by UNLV and is grounds from immediate dismissal from the study abroad program. Please immediately report any hazing or attempted hazing to your on-site director and the UNLV Office of International Programs.
Harassment/Discrimination/Causing Physical Harm
The UNLV Student Contact Code states “As members of the University community, students can reasonably expect all the guarantees and protections afforded students of public institutions by the United States and Nevada Constitutions, including: The right to freedom of discrimination on the basis of race, gender, age, religion, creed, national origin, disability, or sexual orientation.”
Any student engaging in behavior that could constitute discrimination, harassment, including sexual harassment and hazing, or that could result in physical harm to another person may be subject to immediate withdrawal from the study abroad program. Any type of physical violence, fighting or harassment is strictly prohibited.
Racial & Ethnic Concerns
Students of every ethnic or racial background may encounter many different attitudes depending on where they travel. In general, students from the U.S. are easily recognizable. As a population of travelers, we tend to dress differently than the locals of most countries where we travel. We may speak loudly in groups. We carry backpacks, wear tennis shoes, and have that "American" accent. U.S. students from some racial and ethnic backgrounds, depending on the countries they visit, may be more or less visible than their fellow students. In general, all travelers should be prepared to deal with reduced anonymity and realize that in areas where there is not much of an ethnic mix or that does not see much tourism; you may be the object of attention that ranges from harmless curiosity to harassment. If you have any problems or concerns, please consult with your on-site program director. UNLV International Programs and USAC maintain lists of previous program participants who have given their permission to have other students contact them regarding their study abroad experience. If you would like a list of students who have attended the program you have selected, please contact us.
Being Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgendered Abroad
Laws, as well as general attitudes, toward homosexuality, bisexuality and "alternative" lifestyles vary in other countries. Places you visit may be more or less liberal than what you have become accustomed to at home. For example, in some of the Arabic countries it is considered a capitol crime to be gay, whereas in the Netherlands, gay marriage is now legal. It is highly recommended that you fully research your destination prior to departure. Information on these types of issues and resources for gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered travelers can be found in many bookstores and libraries.
Advice to Women Travelers
Women traveling may encounter more difficulties than men. Never travel alone, and try to understand the role of the sexes in the culture in which you are traveling. Observe how the host country's women dress and act. What may be appropriate and friendly behavior in the U.S. may bring you unwanted attention in another culture. Remember to speak clearly and emphatically if you want to be left alone. Do not wear expensive clothing or jewelry. In many countries it is advisable to avoid wearing clothing that could be considered provocative. In some parts of the world, mere eye contact from a woman is considered flirtation. When you check into a hotel, notice who gets into the elevator with you. If you are uncomfortable, get off the elevator. Have your room key in hand so you won’t have to fumble for it in a dark hallway. ALWAYS lock your door.