Planning for your student life abroad can be quite exciting. You already have your visa, plane tickets, accommodations, funding, and you’ve listed the stuff you should pack. But just like any trip, there are risks when studying overseas. Handling emergencies won’t be as easy as it is at home, so you have to prepare appropriately.
Confirm your program provider’s response plan
There are many factors to consider when choosing your study abroad program, such as affordability, subject matter, destination, and whether the credits will be transferred directly to your home university. Aside from these, you have to inquire specifically about the measures that the program provider takes to ensure the security and safety of the participants.
Ask your program provider is they have a specific emergency response plan for the destination country, and the details of that plan (e.g. whether their staff are trained in CPR and wilderness first aid). Make sure that the program includes insurance for students studying abroad, and ask what it covers. Ask them about the safety concerns in the area. If your program suddenly ends due to an emergency, the provider has to be able to give you a refund, as well.
Get your embassy location and contact information
In the event of an emergency, your best allies are the representatives and diplomats from your home country at the local embassy. Review the maps, the embassy’s contact details, and the national emergency procedures and protocols before leaving your home country.
Upon arriving in the destination country, familiarize yourself with the location of your national embassy. Research government websites, and communicate with the embassy. Regularly check their websites and social media pages for any updates.
Sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
To ensure the safety of their citizens who are traveling abroad, many countries offer a government travel program that tracks and locates travelers while outside of their home country. In the U.S., this is called the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program or STEP.
STEP is a free service for American citizens and nationals who are traveling and living abroad. You can enroll your trip through the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Aside from tracking your whereabouts, you’ll receive information about safety conditions in your destination country directly from the Embassy. It allows the Embassy to contact you in a natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency, and let your loved ones at home get in touch with you in an emergency.
Make physical and digital copies of documents and identification forms
It may be an old travel tip, but bring multiple copies of your ID, passport, and travel documents. Leave physical and digital copies with your family at home, give multiple versions to your study at home provider, and keep even more copies for yourself. Save your files in your school and personal email accounts, keep copies in your wallet, and stash extra copies in your notebooks, bags, and suitcase. It seems excessive, but it will save you undue stress in case of an emergency.
There are plenty of risks that come with traveling abroad. What makes the experience worth it is not only the education from your destination school but also the priceless learning that is only possible by immersing in a culture far from your own.