Health & Safety
The safety of our students who go abroad is a top priority for Georgia State University.
Medical facilities abroad: It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the medical facilities that will be available to you while you are abroad for both minor and major medical emergencies before you actually need them. It’s a good idea to learn how to ask for help in the local language, as well as the words such as ‘doctor’ and ‘hospital’. Be aware that, for reasons both economic and cultural, the medical assistance that you receive may be different from what you are used to here in the United States.
Infectious diseases: Be aware of any infectious diseases that are common in the area that you will be visiting and take all precautions against these. You’ll need to know if these are transmitted through bodily fluids, water, food, etc. Once you know what risks exist, you can use common sense to lower the risk of infection. Also, it is a good idea to make sure that you’ve received any inoculations that are required or suggested for persons traveling in the area that you will be in. Check out www.cdc.gov for more information on these.
Food and water: Trying new foods is always an interesting experience. Use common sense and try as much as possible to make sure that food you eat has been handled safely. Use your best judgment when eating food purchased from street vendors. If you have special dietary requirements, read up on what will be available where you are going. For example, some places are more hospitable to vegetarians than others. It might be necessary to bring some of your own dietary supplements, etc. Also, check before you go to make sure that you can drink from the local water supply. You might also want to bring your own sturdy water bottle with you. It’s a good idea to have water with you, no matter where you are, if you’re doing a lot of walking around, so that you can stay hydrated.
Alcohol and drugs: Attitudes towards alcohol are different in many cultures around the world. Alcohol is an important part of many cultures, but it is respected in a way that many American college students have not yet learned to appreciate. Penalties for drug possession in other countries are often much more severe than here in the United States. Even in places where authorities are known for turning a blind eye on locals, foreigners are often not given this same treatment. Be aware of local laws and cultural customs governing the use of drugs and alcohol. You are subject to these laws and customs while abroad, just as you are while you are here, and the most that the United States embassy can do for you is to make sure that your rights under local law are fully observed. They cannot intervene in a foreign country’s court system or obtain any special treatment for you. Do not get yourself into a situation where you are forced to learn this the hard way!
Personal safety: Exercise the same safety precautions that you would here in the United States. Different parts of different cities in different countries, including the U.S., will of course be more dangerous than others. Make sure to travel in groups and always let someone know where you are going. Never give the appearance that you don’t know where you are going. Be very cautious about giving out your name or information on where you are staying to anyone. Be careful with your personal belongings, as travelers are often at higher risk of petty theft. Make sure to have some form of identification with you at all times. Do not dress in a way that will call unwanted attention to yourself. It’s also a good idea to avoid political or other demonstrations. The same common sense that you use to stay safe on campus at Georgia State University and in Atlanta will serve you well as you travel abroad.
Managing your money: Make sure to familiarize yourself with the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the currency of your host country. You can do conversions at the following website: http://www.xe.com/ucc/full.shtml. There are many ways to access your money from abroad. Here is one possibility: purchase a small amount of local currency before you leave (either from a bank or at the airport), use a debit card to access small amounts of cash while you are abroad, and use a credit card as often as you can to make purchases. It’s never a good idea to carry large amounts of cash with you, but you will always want to have a little bit for use where credits cards are not accepted. Check with your bank and credit card company to make sure that your debit card and credit card can be used in the country that you will be visiting. Another option is travelers’ checks. These are a very safe option, although many consider the process of using them cumbersome. Your bank can provide more information on these. Try to set up a budget for yourself so that you don’t spend all of your money during the first part of your trip. Resist the urge at the beginning to buy all of the fun new things that you see. You will most likely be able to make these purchases later on and then you won’t have to carry them around, or you will inevitably find something that you like better anyway.
International phone calls: You will want to find out before you go abroad from your program director what kind of access you will have to telephones. They will be able to tell you what your best options are. One option is to purchase an international calling card before you depart (start by checking with your current phone company). It’s also very easy and economical in many parts of the world to purchase pre-paid phone cards for use from phone booths or private phones. Be aware that your cell phone will most likely not work from abroad. Depending on how long you will be abroad, you might wish to investigate the possibility of purchasing a cell phone once you arrive abroad. Ask your program director if this is recommended.
Packing: Pack light. Pack light. Pack light! This point cannot be overemphasized. Part of what you will learn by going abroad is how much you can live WITHOUT. Plus, part of the fun is purchasing local products. You might start out with travel-sized toiletries just to get you started and then purchase local products once you are there. Trust us, once you get there, you are going to want to try all of their stuff. This goes for toiletries, clothing, food, etc. You’ll also be surprised to find out just how much is available in other countries. Chances are, if they don’t have it, you probably don’t really need it. Also, the less stuff you have to haul around, the better, especially if you’ll be taking planes, trains, and automobiles to get to where you are going. Also, it’s a good idea to carry on the plane a bag that contains things that you will need for your first day, including all of your toiletries, a change of clothes, prescriptions and important documents, just in case your checked luggage doesn’t make it to your destination the same day that you do. Also, it’s a good idea to have copies of important documents in your checked luggage, as well as at home with someone that you trust. This includes your travel itinerary, credit card numbers, serial numbers of your travelers’ checks, and the information page of your passport. This is so that you will have back-up access to this information in case your originals are stolen. It’s also not a good idea to bring items of value with you as your travel.
Electrical appliances: There are three things to consider when bringing along electric appliances (hair-dryers, irons, etc.) First, the prongs on the plug are different in other parts of the world. Adapters are available, but you first need to determine what kind is used in the country that you will be visiting (two-prong, three-prong, round-prong, flat-prong, etc.) Second, the voltage used in the United States, as well as most of North and South America, the Caribbean, and Japan, is 110-volts. The voltage in most of the rest of the world is 220. If you will be traveling to a country that uses 220-voltage, you will need a converter. Many converters also have built-in prong adapters. Third, you will need to buy converters that are made for the appropriate wattage of your appliance. High-wattage appliances, such as hairdryers and irons, require converters that are made for 50-1600 watt appliances. Lower wattages, such as electric shavers, will require a converter that is made for 15-20 watt appliances. You can find most of this equipment anywhere that sells electronics and/or luggage.