Health & Safety
While studying abroad is an experience of a life time, it is important that your health and safety take top priority!
The Global Education Office is here to help answer any questions you have and to provide resources. You should make copies of all health forms to take abroad with you, especially if you are taking any medication, have any conditions, or are receiving treatment. You should also visit travel.state.gov for country and traveler specific information as well as travel warnings and alerts.
- Immunizations & Regional Health Conditions
Depending on your host country, you may want to consider certain immunizations before you leave. To learn about recommended, or even required, immunizations, please visit the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) website for travelers. Here you can read about an array of health issues related to all regions of the world. Print this information out, and take it with you when you meet with your doctor to complete your Study Abroad Student Health form. Please discuss this information with your doctor and when completing the health form.
- Medications & Treatments
If you are taking medications, make sure that you know what you are taking. Have your doctor provide you with an explanation of your prescription, especially if you know you will need to fill it abroad. You cannot mail medication internationally. Customs officers will confiscate it. Follow the same procedures for any other type of treatments you may be undergoing. If you know you will need to see a doctor abroad for a specific reason, bring as much documentation about your condition as possible. Depending on the seriousness of you condition, you may want to bring it to the attention of the Global Education Office well before you leave so that we can help you locate a doctor abroad in advance.
- Code of Conduct
Even when you are abroad, you are expected to follow the SUNY Plattsburgh Student Code of Conduct. The best way you can ensure your own safety is to conduct yourself as a diplomat. Think, talk, act, and dress conservatively. Give yourself time to settle in and meet good people. And certainly, stay away from drugs, disorderly conduct and drink responsibly if you are of legal age. You do not want to find yourself charged with a crime in another country.
In light of recent events, terrorism does need to be taken into account when studying in another country. It is always important to check travel.state.gov for alerts for your host country or any other country you are traveling to. If an attack does take place abroad, our office will take quick action to check in with students to make sure they are safe.
- Being Responsible for Your Safety
Unfortunately, there are no parts of the world that are untouched by crime. Just as in the U.S., how safe you are abroad will largely depend on the personal decisions you make. To make sure you are thinking about your own safety, all host institutions conduct an arrival orientation where they cover general health and safety specific to their regions. The Global Education Office also conducts a general pre-departure orientation each semester where we cover basic safety information, and other topics. If you are not a SUNY Plattsburgh student, contact your home campus’ study abroad office to see when they conduct their orientation.
- Travel Health Preparation Guide
With permission of University of Michigan’s Global Engagement Office, we have included their Travel Health Preparation Guide with slight modifications. This is a valuable resource for you to review, even before deciding on a study abroad program. Please let us know if you have any questions about the information listed. Please also make sure to consider this guide when filling out your Study Abroad Student Health Form after you are accepted on a program.
Travel Health Preparation Guide
This guide is designed to help you identify and plan for your health and well-being during travel, with a particular focus on how health conditions or disabilities that are managed in the U.S. health-care context may change or be more challenging in an off-campus or international setting.
Whether you are traveling domestically or abroad, answering the questions in this guide will assist you in proactively addressing potential health challenges such as securing appropriate on-site treatment services, obtaining prescription and over-the-counter medications, understanding controlled substance regulations from state to state or in foreign countries, researching customs requirements for medications and/or medical devices, and preparing for emergencies.
- Answer the questions within this guide.
- Research strategies to manage your health in your specific travel destination/s.
- Consult with your current psychological and/or physical health care provider or the Student Health and Counseling Center. If needed, work together to develop a self-care plan for your off-campus experience.
- Keep an electronic or printed copy of your completed guide with you during travel for easy reference. Disclose health conditions to a study abroad advisor, onsite staff member, or program leader (if applicable) if it will make you feel safer or help you in case of emergency. Common examples include sharing information about emergency medications or life-threatening allergic reactions.
What is a self-care plan?
A self-care plan is a set of strategies to manage your health and wellbeing and to minimize the potential that health issues become a barrier to your learning experience. The self-care plan helps you catalog, reflect upon, and plan for your physical and psychological health needs. This is especially important while living and working in a foreign environment, where available resources or stressors may differ.
Consider the following questions about your health and well-being:
1. Everyone is impacted by travel. In terms of your emotional wellbeing, these questions can help you prepare: What are you expecting to do during your trip? What are you expecting to learn and how might the travel experience change you? What are you most excited about? What are you most anxious/fearful about? What experiences may be most challenging for you (e.g., culture, interpersonal situations, etc.)?
2. Physical Health. Are you currently being treated, or have you been treated for a serious physical health condition injury or disease within the last five years? If yes, what do you do in the U.S. to care for these conditions (e.g., medication, seeing a health professional, personal networks, other strategies)? Do you need a prescription for medications that you might take during a flare and will you be able to replicate this treatment while traveling?
3. Physical Health Needs During Travel. What do you need in order to successfully manage your physical health conditions during your travel experience? What concrete steps will you take to address these needs? Do you need to consult with a health care professional or take medications at your destination?
4. Mental Health. Are you currently being treated, or have you been treated during the last 5 years for a mental health condition (e.g., addiction, depression, anxiety, eating disorder, a condition related to loss or grief)? If yes, what do you do on campus to care for these conditions (e.g., medication, seeing a health professional, personal networks, other strategies)?
5. Mental Health Needs During Travel. What do you need in order to successfully manage your mental health and well-being during your travel experience? What concrete steps will you take to address these needs? Do you need to consult with a mental health professional at your destination? How would this condition be treated during an acute flair and will you be able to replicate this treatment while traveling?
6. Allergies. Do you have any drug, food, or other allergies (e.g., medications, nuts, shellfish, bee stings, wool, etc.)? If yes, what are your reactions if exposed? How likely will it be to encounter these allergies in your host location? What steps will you take to minimize the risk of exposure and/or plan for treatment?
7. Dietary Needs. Make a list of any dietary restrictions you may have (e.g., vegan, vegetarian, kosher, no pork, etc.). How will you accommodate these restrictions during travel? Will your main sources of nutrition be available in your host location? Are there any items you should plan to carry with you?
8. Medications. Make a list of any prescription and over-the-counter medications you are currently taking (e.g., birth control, insulin for diabetes, Claritin for outdoor allergies). Next indicate which ones you will need during travel and in what amounts. Are these medications available in your host location/country? Are there any legal restrictions? What are the translations for each medication in your destination language and local brand name?
Contact the Global Education Office to learn more about the international health insurance required for all study abroad students.
9. Immunizations and Prophylaxis. Do you have the following?
- Copy of your own immunization record to carry in case of health emergency.
- List of required and recommended immunizations and prophylaxis for your host location(s). For general recommendations, look up your destination(s) on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Travel Website.
- If you do not have these items, how will you locate them and arrange for any boosters or new immunizations needed prior to departure?
10. Language. Are you traveling to a destination where English is not the primary language? Do you speak the local language? If not, what strategies will you use to explain your health care needs? If needed, have you identified health care facilities where English-speaking professionals are available? Note: Medical facilities affiliated with GeoBlue that have English-speaking staff are listed on their website.
11. Accommodations. Do you have any conditions that may require special accommodations during travel (e.g., mobility or physical activity restrictions, learning disabilities, hearing or visual loss, etc.)?
If yes, what accommodations or support services do you receive on campus? Will these accommodations be needed during travel? Are they available in your host location? What steps will you take to research your options?
Health Care Provider Information
Having this information in one place can be helpful when seeking health care or emergency care during travel.
- Health Care Provider Name. List the name of your regular health care provider (personal physician, group practice, etc.).
- Health Care Provider Office Contact Information. List the office phone number and email address for your regular health care provider.
- Health Care Provider Emergency Contact. List the after-hours emergency number for your health care provider.
Additional Planning Questions
- What are your greatest challenges in taking care of your health on campus?
- What do you anticipate will be the most challenging aspect of taking care of your health while traveling?
- What questions do you still need to research about your particular travel health care needs?
- Are there any particular psychological or physical health concerns that are so serious
that you may not be able to manage them during travel? If so, is it better to:
- Travel to another destination for another experience where you will be better able to manage your health and well-being.
- Postpone your travel to another time when you are better able to manage your health and well-being.
- Implement strategies and utilize on-site resources that will better enable you to manage your health and well-being at your intended destination.
- To better manage your health while traveling, who should you disclose your health information to? Your study abroad advisor, a classmate, a program leader, on-site staff at your destination, or others?
SUNY mandates that all students have adequate health insurance coverage while traveling abroad on a SUNY sponsored program. All students are automatically enrolled and billed for a SUNY international health insurance policy through United HealthCare. If on a Plattsburgh-sponsored program, Plattsburgh will enroll you in this plan. Students on other SUNY programs will be enrolled with their administering campus. Regardless, the policy is the same for all SUNY students. The cost of insurance depends on the duration of your program. Please see the program costs sections of the program's webpage for the exact cost of your insurance coverage.
Once registered, you will receive an email from UnitedHealthcare prompting you to create an account on their website. It is very important that you create your account before you leave the United States. Once you create your account you can print your health insurance card and explore the services found on the student portal. In the event that you do need medical attention while abroad and have to go to an out-of-network healthcare provider, you should contact UnitedHealthcare to set up direct billing or download a claim form from your portal.
This policy provides comprehensive sickness and accident insurance and emergency travel medical insurance, including coverage for medical evacuation and repatriation of remains, which is generally not provided by domestic insurance companies. UnitedHealthcare has also identified a network of doctors worldwide who will provide treatment. In addition, UnitedHealthcare will set-up direct billing on your behalf and will assist students in establishing treatment for ongoing medical conditions while abroad (including doctor visits and continuing medications).
UnitedHealthcare StudentResources and HealthiestYou have partnered together to provide access to doctors and mental healthcare from anywhere you are, even while traveling internationally. All services are free for students covered under the UHCSR insurance plan
- Choose a therapist and schedule an appointment by phone or video
(7 a.m. to 9 p.m.)
- Choose a therapist and schedule an appointment by phone or video
- Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
In the event if an attack or natural disaster occurs while you are abroad, it is important that you know what resources are available to you. One recommendation is that you register your trip in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP is a free service for U.S. citizens and nationals who are traveling or living abroad. STEP allows you to enter information about trips abroad so that the Department of State, via the embassy and consulate, can better assist you in an emergency by providing important safety and security information. You can also subscribe to receive email updates with travel alerts and other information for a particular country.
To enroll, visit https://step.state.gov/step/ It only takes a few minutes to create an account and register your trip.
Benefits of Enrolling in STEP
- Receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans.
- Help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.
- Help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.
How can the embassy or consulate assist me while I am abroad?
Consular officers assist U.S. citizens and nationals who encounter serious legal, medical, or financial difficulties. They can provide the names of local attorneys and doctors, provide loans to destitute Americans, and provide information about dangerous conditions affecting your overseas travel or residence. Consular officers also perform non-emergency services, helping Americans with absentee voting, selective service registration, receiving federal benefits, and filing U.S. tax forms. Consular officers can notarize documents, issue passports, and register American children born abroad. In a crisis situation such as a natural disaster or severe political instability, the Department of State often takes an active role in providing information and assistance to U.S. citizens in the affected area. Visit the website of the closest embassy or consulate for more information.
If I don’t enroll, but I need assistance while I am traveling, will the embassy still help me?
Yes, but they will not be able to proactively contact you if the embassy or consulate has important information about safety or security conditions in the area you are traveling. If there is a crisis or an emergency, it is much easier for them to assist travelers who have previously enrolled their trip information with STEP.
Information you provide the U.S. Department of State is protected by the provisions of the Privacy Act (5 USC 552a). This means that the Department of State will not disclose your info or email to any third parties unless you have given them written authorization to do so, or unless the disclosure is otherwise permitted by the Privacy Act. They will not share your email or personal information and will only contact you as part of this STEP enrollment. You may update your country alerts or enrollment preferences at any time via the mobile website or the STEP link at https://step.state.gov/step/.
- Passport Information
Occasionally, the United States Post Office (USPS) in Plattsburgh hosts a Passport Day at SUNY Plattsburgh. This opportunity to apply for a passport is open to students, faculty, and staff, along with any friends or family of the Plattsburgh community. Contact GEO to see when the next Passport Day may be.
A passport is “an internationally recognized travel document that verifies the identity and nationality of the holder” (NAFSA). You cannot travel internationally without a passport. In addition, your passport must be good for at least 6 months after you return from your international destination.
- Apply for a passport right away if you are considering doing any international study or travel while at Plattsburgh. You must apply in person if you are applying for your first passport.
- For the most up-to-date and accurate passport requirements, plus everything else passport related (lost or stolen passports, passport corrections), consult the US Department of State passport website (http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports.html).
How to Apply for a Passport
If you do not yet have a passport or you need to renew your passport, it is important that you apply as soon as possible. The processing time can sometimes take up to two months. Please consult the USPS Passport page for detailed application information. You should consult this Passport Fees page to determine how much you will be expected to pay for your new passport. You will also need to complete an application for your new passport. You will need to provide proof of citizenship/identification as well as a 2" by 2" color passport photo. The Post Office processes applications, fees, and takes pictures for a fee of $15. You will then need to submit your materials at an acceptance facility or passport agency. Post Offices may have limited hours for passport services an you can use this location search to find the nearest Post Office that offers passport services.
Lost or Stolen Passport
If you loose your passport or it is stolen, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate immediately. Before departing, make a copy of their passport and leave it with their parents and take a copy with them abroad in case a situation like this arises. When you apply for your study abroad program, we will have a copy of your passport on file as well, so you can always reach out to us for a copy if you need it. Please consult travel.state.gov for additional information.
If your passport is lost or stolen, you should:
- Contact the nearest embassy or consulate for assistance.
- Ask to speak to the Consular Section to report your lost or stolen passport
- If you have been the victim of a serious crime, report it to the consular officer
- Provide consular staff with details of your travel
Get or bring the required documents:
- A passport photo (if possible, bring this with you when you go abroad)
- Evidence of citizenship
- DS-11 Application for Passport
- DS-64 Statement Regarding Lost or Stolen Passport
File a police report.
- A police report is not mandatory, but it can help confirm the circumstances of loss or theft.
- Visa Information
A visa is a conditional authorization granted by a country to a noncitizen to enter and temporarily remain within that country. The US Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs provides country-specific information regarding entry requirements for US citizens traveling abroad.
I am a US citizen traveling abroad. Do I need a visa?
- Research this by visiting the U.S. State Departments website for International Travel.
- If you are not a US citizen, notify the Study Away Team right away, as your procedure for traveling abroad and obtaining the necessary visa may be different than most other students.
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of participants to obtain the required visas (if any) for entry to the country in which the Overseas Academic Program is located and for return to the US. These requirements change frequently, and it is the participant's responsibility to keep informed about them.
Make photocopies of your passport and visa and scan and email the copies to yourself. Save them to a cloud-based password-protected server (i.e., Google Drive, Dropbox). In the event that your passport and visa are lost or stolen you will be able to access them via an Internet connection. Similarly, keep the hard photocopies with you throughout your program.
- Assault & Sexual Harassment
While you are abroad, make sure to carry the contact details for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate both in English and the local language in case you are the victim of a crime. Also make sure that you know the location of the nearest hospital or urgent care facility. Always be aware of your surroundings and travel in groups. Keep emergency phone numbers with you at all times, including the numbers for local staff.
What should you do if you are a victim of a crime?
- Contact the nearest U.S. embassy, consulate or consular agency for assistance
- Officials can assist you with:
- Contacting family and friends
- Obtaining appropriate medical care
- Addressing emergencies
- Emergency assistance is available 24/7
- Contact the local police
- Don’t forget to request a copy of the police report
- Inform your host university of the situation
Additional resources for Victim Assistance
- Pathways to Safety provides services to Americans traveling abroad and living overseas.
- The Department of State provides a website full of online resources for those that are a victim of a crime or assault.
SUNY Plattsburgh’s Title IX page provides information on your rights in regards to sex and gender discrimination and violence.