Health and Safety
International Student ID card
Travel & Safety
The safety of our students is most important. Please review the U.S. State Department list of travel warnings, alerts and country-specific information before choosing a destination. View the current list of warnings.
Students should be aware of the following safety tips, including the drug and alcohol policies, while studying abroad in a foreign country.
Be aware of local laws abroad
You should be familiar with both the customs and local laws of the country in which you study and travel. Remember that you are subject to the laws of your host country, and you are not protected by U.S. laws while abroad.
Keep a low profile
Do not act or dress in a manner that would immediately identify you as an American. You will quickly notice and learn the appropriate way to conduct yourself in your host country.
Leave irreplaceable items at home
If you have expensive jewelry or items you consider irreplaceable, leave them at home.
Safeguard luggage and belongings
Be sure to lock luggage and label each piece with your name and address — on both the inside and outside. Make sure to receive a claim check for each item you check when traveling. Never leave luggage or any bags unattended or leave them under the watch of a stranger. If you see a bag or piece of luggage that appears unattended, notify appropriate personnel or the police. Never agree to carry packages or letters for anyone you do not know.
Make two photocopies of your passport ID page, airline tickets and credit cards. Leave one copy at home and bring the second copy with you in case something is stolen. It is also a good idea to have extra passport-size photos of yourself in case these are needed for student IDs abroad, or in case your passport is lost or stolen.
Beware of pickpockets and con artists. They exist everywhere, especially in crowds and areas where tourists gather. The most common sites for purse and camera snatching are central train stations or crowded shopping areas. Thieves often strike when people are distracted, such as making a phone call or while a bag is casually at one’s feet. If you carry a handbag, it should have a secure zipper closing and you should carry it on the side away from the street. Walking on the inside of a sidewalk is also a precaution against handbag theft.
If anything is lost or stolen, report it to the local police. Keep a copy of the police report for insurance purposes or in case you need to replace your passport or student visa. You should report the loss or theft of your passport to both the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate and apply for a new one.
Use common sense
Avoid dangerous areas — don’t use short cuts, narrow alleys or poorly lit streets. Try not to be on the street alone at night. Make a note of emergency phone numbers you might need, including the police, fire department and U.S. consulate. Every U.S. consulate or embassy has a duty officer on call around the clock to assist with emergencies.
These suggestions are not meant to alarm you or your family. Most students never experience these kinds of problems. But we encourage you to be well prepared, use common sense and be aware of potential risks when you travel.
Drug and alcohol policies
It is widely known that the U.S. is generally much more stringent in terms of alcohol laws than other countries. This does not mean you should take advantage of less restrictive practices in a host country. Drunkenness is not culturally acceptable and is disrespectful to these hosts. Keep in mind that your actions reflect on you and the institution you represent.
While you are abroad you are subject to the laws of the country you are visiting, as well as any consequences that result from breaking them. Unlike alcohol laws, drug laws are frequently stricter in other countries than in the U.S. Should you choose to participate in illegal activities and are detained as a result, there is very little that can be done to assist you. Contact your program coordinator or host institution immediately and ask them to contact the local consulate or embassy.
Health & Safety Resources
- U.S. State Department: Information on obtaining a passport, travel warnings, consular information sheets and more
- LGBTQI+ Resources: List of web resources our office has compiled to assist you before, during and after study abroad
- LGBT Travel Information from the US State Department – General travel safety tips, including an index of country-specific information
- International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association – Includes an interactive map with data about specific countries, and an annual report on state-sponsored homophobia
- Columbia University’s Page for LGBTQ Students Abroad – List of important things to consider before and during your time abroad
- US State Department Information for Gender Reassignment Passport Applicants
- TSA Screening for Transgender Travelers
- VCU Counseling Services: Mental health resource for students before, during and after the international experience
- Study Abroad student handbook: General and country-specific information on health and safety abroad
- Students Abroad: Website maintained by the State Department specifically for U.S. students studying abroad. The site allows you to register your presence abroad with the nearest U.S. Embassy, access information about travel warnings, and offers student travel tips, and more.
- FBI Safety and Security Brochure: Information from the Federal Bureau of Investigation on the safety and security of U.S. students traveling abroad.
- University Student Health Services: Immunization clinic at VCU
- Center for Disease Control: Information on recommended and required immunizations for travel
- Mobility International: International education resource for individuals with disabilities
- USAStudyAbroad: Resources and information provided by the U.S. Department of State for students, educators and institutions involved with study abroad opportunities.
VCU sites of interest
- VCU School of World Studies Internships
- VCU Intercultural Festival
- French Film Festival
- VCU students' blogs abroad
- VCU Libraries: Country profiles
- Preparing for Study Abroad: Non-verbal communication
- Health and Safety Abroad: Alcohol
- Health and Safety Abroad: Prescription drugs
- Health and Safety Abroad: Illegal drugs
- Health and Safety Abroad: Mental illness
- Health and Safety Abroad: Chronic illness
- Health and Safety Abroad: Sexually Transmitted Diseases
- Health and Safety Abroad: Traveler’s diarrhea
- Health and Safety Abroad: Malaria
- Health and Safety Abroad: Water hazards
- Health and Safety Abroad: Personal safety