No activity is risk-free, but study abroad may involve unique risks to participants.
This section provides guidelines for ensuring a safe experience for students participating
in a study abroad program and outlines procedures for handling crisis situations abroad.
Students going abroad must carry insurance that will cover medical expenses, emergency
medical evacuation, and repatriation of remains.
Before departure you should learn about the general attitudes toward health care in
the culture, e.g. do doctors hesitate to use potent drugs and take a wait-and-see
approach or do they aggressively treat problems? This information will be invaluable
in dealing with medical emergencies.
In the case of serious medical situations, take the following steps:
- Take the person to a hospital/clinic, verify the nature of the emergency with a doctor,
inform health care personnel about chronic medical conditions, and assist with the
medical insurance paperwork;
- Obtain the medical help indicated;
- Contact CIPS with the nature of the medical emergency, and keep in regular contact
with CIPS until the emergency has passed. Advise CIPS if the student does NOT want
the emergency contact notified;
- Have the student call emergency contact. If the student is not able to communicate,
CIPS will call the contact;
- If the student is unable to make advance payments for treatment, contact CIPS with
details. Note: this is why students should carry the International Student Identification
Card and why it is recommended that they carry a credit card;
- If the student has not signed authorization for you to obtain medical treatment, seek
authorization from the student's contact person;
- The following is a list of information you should obtain to assess the situation:
- i. student's name
- ii. date of accident or commencement of illness,
- iii. details of injuries, symptoms, present condition, including temperature,
- iv. name and telephone number of attending physician,
- v. name, address, and number of hospital or clinic, if applicable,
- vi. drugs administered,
- vii. x-rays taken and results, and
- viii. surgery proposed and type of anesthesia; wait for authorization if necessary
and possible (work with doctor).
Natural Disaster and Group Accidents
In the case of earthquake, flood, avalanche, epidemic, bus crash, etc., take the following
- See to the safety of all group members;
- Communicate immediately with CIPS as to the safety and state of health of all group
members, the group's location, plans and when you will contact CIPS again;
- Communicate the same information to the nearest American Embassy or Consulate. Diplomatic
channels are an alternative way to get information to CIPS if public communication
- Consult with American Embassy/Consulate, local police, local sponsors, etc., for advice
on how to respond to the situation;
- Discuss plans with group members. This may include change of location, change in program
schedule, cancellation of the program, or a shift in emphasis in the program;
- Some students may decide to return home immediately. Of course, this is their prerogative
and you should assist in making arrangements;
- Keep in touch with CIPS.
- Be aware of situations and locations which can be potentially dangerous. Warn students
and advise them to avoid such areas whenever possible. Discourage or forbid, if necessary,
attendance at particularly sensitive political meetings, rallies, or other sizable
- Keep the American Embassy notified of your location at all times if you suspect problems
are likely to erupt. Make sure you fully understand evacuation procedures to be followed
in case it becomes necessary;
- Keep CIPS informed of developments and follow instructions issued by the American
- Contact CIPS as soon as possible in the event of a coup, assassination, riot, revolution,
etc., so parents who call may be fully informed.
Missing Program Participant (more than 24 hours)
- Inquire with friends and associates of the missing participant about her or his whereabouts;
- Notify the American Embassy, local police, and local sponsor(s) and give them your
- Notify CIPS at once. CIPS will notify the student's emergency contact. Be sure to
provide CIPS with as many details as possible regarding what happened and what is
- Check with authorities daily, and inform CIPS of any new developments.
- Call local law enforcement agency;
- Visit the student in jail and determine what happened;
- Have the student call emergency contact person. If the student is unable to make a
call, CIPS will call contact;
- Report situation to American Embassy or Consulate;
- Assist the student in obtaining funds for bail if possible;
- Notify CIPS about incident.
- Call local law enforcement agency;
- Assist the student in obtaining funds to replace stolen money;
- Have the student call emergency contact;
- Notify CIPS.
- Go through medical emergencies protocol in section 1;
- Call local law enforcement agency to report incident;
- Notify CIPS about the incident.
- Go through assault protocol in section 7;
- Notify CIPS about the incident;
- Help student find counseling. Keep in mind that in many cultures medical doctors are
often the first point of contact for people struggling with emotional or psychological
- Help student (if requested or required) to return home.
Death of Student or Faculty Member
If a student or faculty member dies while participating in the program, record all
available facts accurately. The atmosphere surrounding the program will be emotionally
charged, and it will be difficult to manage the program while handling all of the
details listed below. Even so, it is very important that the tasks below are handled
promptly and effectively.
Take the following steps if a student or faculty member dies:
- If word comes by phone, obtain the identity of the person giving the information;
- Determine the cause of death - if an illness, what illness; if an accident, what kind,
where it happened, others involved, etc.;
- Find out time and place of death;
- Get name and address of undertaker, if available;
- Determine participant's religion. If Catholic, check if last rites have been administered.
If Jewish, contact a local rabbi immediately. For those of other religions, wait until
you have heard from the family as to their wishes;
- If the participant dies in an accident, inquire about the local laws regarding autopsy;
- Find out if anyone has contacted the participant's family;
- Contact ISIC card services number and, if applicable, the participant's insurance
company for coverage of repatriation of remains.
Reporting the information:
- Inform CIPS immediately. CIPS will then inform the participant's family personally;
- Notify the US Embassy or Consulate.
- Continue to keep a chronological record of events and actions as they occur;
- Talk to other student participants and keep them informed and counseled;
- CIPS will give the participant's family as much support as possible;
- CIPS will send a letter of sympathy to the participant's immediate family;
- CIPS will assist the program director in making arrangements for the repatriation
of the body or remains;
- Gather the participant's belongings and make an inventory;
- Ship the belongings and inventory to CIPS, which will then forward everything to the