Health and Safety Abroad
Your safety abroad starts with your own honest assessment of your health and safety needs, and careful consideration of the political situation and living conditions in your prospective host country.
- If you have a chronic or recurring health condition (including a learning disability or other condition for which you receive accommodations here), you should discuss your needs in advance with your health care providers, your family, the staff in the McCulloch Center, and potential host programs/universities. Not all locations will be able to accommodate all needs, and you should take local conditions into account before deciding where to travel.
- Because students have varying levels of previous experience and comfort with difference, the College believes that it is your responsibility to research the areas in which you are interested and to determine where you would feel comfortable and safe. We have identified some resources to help you locate country- or region-specific information; individual program sponsors can provide site-specific information and advice. The staff in the McCulloch Center can also help you gather and evaluate information, but the final decision about whether and where to travel is, of course, your own.
- For detailed information and resources about health and safety, including the topics below and more, see the Student Handbook for Education Abroad.
Every student applying to or through Mount Holyoke for a program of study, research, internship, or other activity abroad will be required to sign a waiver of liability form as part of the application process. You must submit the completed form before we can process or consider your application. The purpose of the waiver is to verify to the College that you are aware of and understand the potential risks of study or other travel abroad, and that you acknowledge all responsibility for decisions about where and when to travel. Of course, you should consult with your parents/guardians about your plans before you sign the form (and note that some programs will require their own waivers, with parent signatures, as well). If you apply for more than one type of activity (for example, a semester of study abroad, and a summer internship), you will need to submit a signed waiver to the appropriate office for each activity.
You are responsible for researching health and safety conditions, required vaccinations, and other preventive measures for travelers abroad. The following websites include country- and region-specific information about health and safety. We encourage you to talk with faculty and other advisors who are familiar with the places to which you expect to travel, and to read local newspapers and other media sources as well.
- U.S. State Department, Bureau of Consular Affairs
On this site, you will find health and safety information and travel advice about every country with which the U.S. has diplomatic relations, as well as general tips for students and other travelers. (Students who are not U.S. citizens should also check the analogous websites of their home governments, as travel advice may vary according to the nationality or residence of the traveler.) Note these resources in particular:
- Country Specific Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts
- Background Notes, a summary report of each country with which the U.S. has diplomatic relations
- U.S. Embassies and Diplomatic Missions for links to the Web sites of U.S. Consulates and Embassies abroad
- Tips for Traveling Abroad, for general advice and information about staying safe while traveling
- International Travel Safety Information for Students
- Centers for Disease Control
Publishes travel warnings related to health risks, as well as information about immunization requirements and other health considerations and advice for travelers.
- World Health Organization
Publishes information about health issues and advice for travelers around the world.
- The Center for Global Education SAFETI (Safety Abroad First Educational Travel Information) Clearinghouse
Has links to many travel resources, including an adaptation of Peace Corps materials.
- Mobility International
Has resources for students with disabilities of all kinds
- ASIRT (Association for Safe International Road Travel)
Promotes awareness of road safety issues abroad and offers country-specific information and advice.
You must have adequate medical insurance coverage while you are abroad. It is especially important for you to maintain health insurance coverage with no gap in dates if you have a chronic or recurring medical condition.
Students on academic leave of absence for study abroad (or study in the U.S.) will be enrolled in the Mount Holyoke student health insurance plan just as if they were here. For details about coverage outside the U.S., please refer to MHC Student Insurance. Coverage runs from August 15 of one year to August 14 of the following year. Students who have other insurance and do not wish to have coverage under this plan will need to waive the plan before August 14 each year. You will need to demonstrate that you have other appropriate medical insurance. See Student Health Insurance for additional details. Before choosing to waive this plan, it is critical that you confirm that your other insurance will cover you while you are abroad, and that you understand how to access benefits while you are abroad. (International students may not waive this coverage even if they are studying abroad for the year. If you are an international student who has been awarded a Laurel Fellowship for study away, your aid package will cover the cost of the plan.)
Through Five Colleges Inc., Mount Holyoke is enrolled in AIG/Travel Guard to provide access to travel advice and information and emergency medical and security services to all Mount Holyoke students, faculty, and staff traveling abroad on college-sponsored programs or business. (This coverage takes the place of support and services previously provided by International SOS.)
A student is eligible to access these resources if she is participating in a program for which she expects to receive credit for work done abroad or upon her return to Mount Holyoke, if she is receiving funding from Mount Holyoke for a program, internship, research, or other activity abroad, or if she is participating in any travel that has been arranged by Mount Holyoke. All students who have been approved for study abroad or selected and/or funded for an internship or summer research project are included.
Please note that while access to information and referrals are free of charge, other services that require an expenditure of funds to another party are offered on a cost basis. In addition, the contract provides assistance for medical and other emergencies only; it is not health insurance and does not cover the cost of medical care. For example, if you are ill and need a referral to an English-language medical center, you can call AIG/Travel Guard collect, and they will refer you to the nearest appropriate facility, at no charge to you. However, AIG/Travel Guard will not cover the cost of the medical care provided to you; you would have to rely on your health insurance or your own resources to cover that cost.
We strongly recommend that students register with AIG/Travel Guard and sign up for e-mail updates and alerts for their destination. Registration is easy and free. Go to the AIG Benefits Solution portal, and click "register here." You will need to enter your name, e-mail address, organization name (Mount Holyoke College) and policy number (9125324). You will receive an e-mail confirmation with a password. When you log in with the password provided, you will be asked to reset the password. Students must register in order to access the on-line resources. Registration is not required to access resources and assistance by telephone, but it may help AIG/Travel Guard assist you more promptly.
24-Hour Access to AIG/Travel Guard Information and Emergency Assistance
Students may access AIG/Travel Guard information on-line, or call 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world if they need advice or assistance in accessing medical care or other emergency services. AIG/Travel Guard maintains a worldwide network of more than 400,000 qualified medical providers around the globe. Services include referrals to physicians and hospitals, medical case management, emergency prescription replacement, and medical evacuation and repatriation. Access to information on the AIG/Travel Guard website and telephone consultation with AIG/Travel Guard specialists is available at no charge to you; other services are provided on a cost basis.
We strongly encourage all students to use AIG/Travel Guard's extensive website in planning their travel abroad. Resources include:
- Country- and city-specific information, such as:
- Health risks and precautions (required immunizations, food and water safety, etc.)
- Security advice (US State Department postings, country risk ratings, etc.)
- Practical and cultural information (public transportation, money, banking, maps, electricity, weather, public holidays, etc.)
- Local emergency contacts (police, fire, foreign embassies and consulates)
- Daily news and travel alerts
- General tips and advice for safe travel
- Medical translations and drug equivalency information
Medical Evacuation and Repatriation
The Five College plan with AIG/Travel Guard provides coverage for the cost of medical evacuation and repatriation. Medical evacuation generally means emergency transportation to the nearest appropriate care facility in the event that you become injured or seriously ill while traveling abroad, and care is not available in your location. Repatriation generally means medically assisted travel to a medical facility in your home country, or repatriation of remains. Arrangements must be coordinated through AIG/Travel Guard and the Five College Risk Management Office for this coverage to apply. Students are eligible for this coverage at no cost to them even if they have not registered on the AIG/Travel Guard website, but we strongly recommend that all travelers register.
Students who are traveling for personal reasons (e.g., summer vacation or spring break) may use the AIG/Travel Guard travel assist services, but are not covered for emergency medical evacuation or repatriation. Be sure to arrange for this coverage before you depart; it may already be provided by your health insurer (it is included in the MHC Student Health Insurance, for example), and is often available inexpensively through trip insurance packages.
Five College Risk Management
The Five College Risk Management Office coordinates the plan with AIG/Travel Guard. See their website for additional information and resources on travel abroad for students, faculty, and staff, including a brochure that you can print with an ID card and AIG/Travel Guard contact information. You should carry the ID card with you at all times. (Note that if you have already been approved or selected for an activity abroad, you have already completed the Travel Waiver described on the website, and you do not need to complete it again.)
Students may also want to consider obtaining insurance coverage for loss or damage of personal property, trip cancellation, general liability, etc. For a summary of insurance resources, see the Insurance for Going Abroad page of the Five College Compliance and Risk Management website.