Health and Safety Measures

When traveling, students are advised to be up to date on possible health problems in each new country. This is especially important for travel in developing countries. Students may wish to obtain professional advice before departure and take along familiar medications. For up to date information on specific local conditions and immunization information students should contact the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

The mission of the CDC is to promote health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability. The CDC is responsible for monitoring health and health problems, researching solutions to health problems, developing and implementing health policies, promoting healthful behaviors and providing training in the health field. For information on recommended immunizations for a particular country, you can reach the CDC at 1.800.CDC.INFO or visit the CDC Web site at cdc.gov/.

It is also important for students to be aware of the State Department Guidelines concerning areas to which you may travel. These Guidelines prepare you for a safe trip abroad and are updated regularly by the U.S. Department of State. The Guidelines can be obtained through the Overseas Citizens Services automated telephone information line. From the USA or Canada, call 1.888.407.4747 or online at travel.state.gov/.

Health Insurance

Never underestimate the importance of being insured while you are abroad. This is extremely important! Each participant for a UofM study abroad program is responsible for their own medical expenses, and any advance medical payment made by the program director, university coordinator, or faculty on your behalf must be reimbursed immediately. The University of Memphis Study Abroad Office requires all study abroad program participants to have medical insurance that covers the student for the duration of their study abroad program. The plan must cover the participant for accidents, sickness, medical evacuation, and repatriation. Program participants are required to have medical insurance coverage with the following minimum benefits or more:

  • Medical expense benefits of at least $50,000 per accident or illness
  • Expenses associated with the medical evacuation of $100,000
  • Expenses associated with repatriation/return of remains in the amount of $50,000
  • A deductible not to exceed $100 per accident or illness
  • Accidental death and dismemberment for $10,000

Participants should carry their insurance policy number and medical information concerning allergies, medications, blood type, immunization history, eyeglasses or other prescriptions. A good place to keep this information is with your passport. For any chronic medical condition, it is advisable to wear a medic alert bracelet.

General Health

It is solely the participants' decision and responsibility, and not that of the University, to determine, in consultation with his/her physician if whether his/her physical condition permits them to participate in studying abroad. If any accommodation is required, the participant should submit appropriate documentation to the University prior to his/her participation in the program. The University of Memphis may not be able to accommodate all individual needs or circumstances. The University of Memphis does not provide health and accident insurance for study abroad programs. Participants are responsible, financially and otherwise, for any medical bills incurred as a result of emergency or other medical treatment.

Participants should complete the Permission for Emergency Treatment form and the Health information form to enable The University of Memphis be of maximum assistance to you should the need arise during your study abroad experience. The information provided will remain confidential and will be shared with the program staff, faculty, or appropriate professionals only if pertinent to your own well-being. This information does not affect your admission to the program.

Mental Health

Please note that mental health treatment is not as widely accessible in many foreign countries as it is in the United States. In our admission process, we do not discriminate against individuals with disabilities. However, for your own welfare, we ask that if you have had any such problem that could affect your participation in the program you should consult with a mental health professional before you leave to discuss the potential stress or other adverse consequences of study abroad. Even symptoms that have been dormant for a long time may reappear suddenly as a result of experiencing culture shock.


Students should reference the CDC website and look through the information for each country you will visit to determine if any additional vaccinations are needed. Students are recommended to speak with their doctor on deciding what additional vaccinations to obtain. Students may also contact the Shelby County Department of Health (901) 222- 9000, an immunization clinic, or another public health office for country specific advice.

Some countries have specific immunization and other requirements which must be fulfilled before departure. Students should inform their physician of any plans to travel to other countries in addition to the host country, so that all necessary immunizations can be received prior to departure. All shots should be recorded on the International Certificate of Vaccination card which is approved by the World Health Organization (WHO). The vaccination card is available from the Student Health Service or County Health Department. Students must take the vaccination card abroad with them. Even though the host government may not require inoculation records for entry purposes, the card may be useful while traveling outside the host country, particularly in Asia and Africa.

Zika Virus

On January 15, 2016, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a travel alert to highlight countries where Zika virus is prevalent. The Zika virus is spread by mosquitos and is therefore most prevalent in tropical environments. Generally, symptoms are mild and include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes), lasting several days to a week. Currently there is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika, but severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.

Travelers can limit their exposure to Zika (and other mosquito-borne illnesses like Malaria, Dengue Fever and Chikungunya) by taking precautions to prevent mosquito bites.

Unfortunately, Zika is linked to a specific birth defect called microcephaly. This link is so strong that the CDC issued travel guidance for pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant, warning them to avoid visiting places where the virus is currently circulating. Such travelers should regularly review the travel alert for updates as more countries are likely to be added to the list.

If you are concerned about a risk of exposure to Zika related to upcoming travel, contact your medical care provider. Pregnant women, or women planning to become pregnant, should consult with their OB/GYN.

It may be that the virus may be transmitted from person to person, however the understanding of this virus is incomplete and evolving. The best source of up to date information is from the CDC.

For more information and a list of affected places, see: http://www.cdc.gov/zika.

Prescriptions, Vitamins, and Other Medicines

Students who regularly take any medication should take an adequate supply of it to last for the entire period abroad (providing it is not perishable). Students should label all medications and keep them in containers which clearly show the prescription number on the label. This facilitates Customs clearance in and out of countries, and makes it easier to refill prescriptions by mail.
If a prescribing doctor advises against taking a large supply of medication, he or she should provide a diagnosis/prescription describing the medication so that an overseas physician may fill the prescription properly.

While many prescription medicines can be purchased over the counter and at less cost overseas, students should be cautious. It cannot be guaranteed that the same pharmaceutical standards have been used in preparation and/or storage of the prescription as what is routine in the highly regulated U.S. pharmaceutical industry. Poor storage in high heat and/or humidity, for example, could negatively affect the effectiveness of some drugs.

Students who wear glasses or contact lenses should take an extra pair and their written prescription abroad. Take sufficient quantities of contact lens solution, since it is not always readily available.

Students who regularly take insulin or allergy or other shots, should pack a good supply of syringes; not all sizes are available abroad. Include a doctor's note with syringes as they can be construed as drug paraphernalia.

Students should become familiar with the dietary customs and availability of food in the host country. Those who regularly take vitamins, or feel vitamin supplements are advisable, should take a supply to last for the entire stay abroad, since the brand may not be available or may be excessively expensive overseas.

Students are advised to take a personal first aid kit. Some suggestions include Bacitracin for minor cuts and abrasions, and Imodium for temporary diarrhea.

Medical Letters

Students who are currently taking prescription medication or who have certain past or current medical concerns are required to submit a letter from their physician to the study abroad office. If a medical letter is required, the student is notified individually by email. The letter must be on office letterhead, signed by a doctor, and state the student is "clear to travel internationally." It is advisable, though not required, that the letter list medications, dosages, and any other information that may be helpful to have when abroad. Students will turn in a copy to the study abroad office and bring a copy with them in their carry on along with their medications.


Contraception usually is more difficult to obtain abroad than in the U.S. Students who expect to need some form of birth control while abroad should take it with them. Students who need information on contraceptives while abroad contact a doctor or the local equivalent to Planned Parenthood.

Sexually-Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

Many countries overseas have been unsuccessful in adequately controlling syphilis, gonorrhea, or other STDs. Lack of adequate precaution in situations where a student risks contracting a sexually-transmitted disease could lead to serious complications. Students who suspect they may have an STD should see a doctor immediately.


Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a fatal condition caused by the human immune deficiency virus (HIV). The virus causes the breakdown of the body's natural immune system, making the patient susceptible to opportunistic infections and diseases such as cancer. HIV infection and AIDS have been reported worldwide. The risk of acquiring HIV while studying abroad is determined less by geographic location than by individual behavior. Travelers are at risk if they have unprotected sexual intercourse (vaginal, anal or oral-genital) with an infected person, regardless of sexual orientation. Use or allowed use of contaminated needles or syringes for any injections or skin piercing procedures including acupuncture, ear piercing, tattooing, use of illicit drugs, steroid injections, or medical or dental procedures, can put you at risk for contracting HIV. Exposure to infected blood, blood components or clotting factor concentrates can also put you at risk.

Presently it is not believed that HIV is transmitted through casual contact; air, food, or water routes; contact with inanimate objects; or through mosquitoes or other insects that draw blood. Students can take precautions to avoid contracting the HIV virus by doing the following:

  • Avoid contact and/or exchange of semen, blood, or vaginal fluids with anyone. Abstinence is the safest protection against sexual transmission.
  • Practice "safer" sex measures by using a condom, which is recommended.
  • Use condoms made of latex rubber, and never use petroleum-based lubricants such as Vaseline, with them.
  • Don't have sexual intercourse with intravenous drug users, and persons who have multiple sexual partners, including male or female prostitutes.
  • Don't share hypodermic needles. In many countries, needle sharing by intravenous drug users is a major source of HIV transmission.
  • Don't use or allow the use of contaminated, unsterilized syringes or needles for any purpose (drugs, electrolysis, tattooing, acupuncture, medical or dental procedures). Needles for blood tests or injections must be sterile, preferably disposable, and pre-packaged in a sealed container. If an injection is required make sure the needles and syringes come straight from a sealed, sterilized package, or have been sterilized with chemicals or boiled for 20 minutes. If in doubt, ask how the equipment has been sterilized. In some countries you can buy needles and syringes and take them to the hospital for your own use.
  • Don't use infected blood, blood components, or locally-produced blood clotting factor concentrates and other blood products. Not all countries have mandatory HIV screening of donated blood.
  • You can inquire at the local U.S. Embassy, U.S. Consulate, or Red Cross Office about safe sources of blood. If an injury occurs and a blood transfusion is needed, the blood needs to be tested for HIV antibodies by trained laboratory technicians. Do not assume that blood you will receive has been screened.
  • If you are injured or become ill while abroad, delay any voluntary or other procedures that may lead to the need of a blood transfusion unless it is absolutely necessary.
  • Don't use alcohol or drugs. The link between intravenous drug use and HIV/AIDS has been well documented, as recreational drug and alcohol use can impair judgment and increase the possibility of high-risk sexual behavior. Drug and alcohol use can also cause immunosuppression in healthy or infected persons. For those with HIV, this can increase the risk of developing AIDS.
  • Additional information about AIDS is available from the CDC National Hotline (English and Spanish): 1-800-CDC-INFO or the World Health Organization who.int/en/.

Cross-Cultural Adjustment

Experiencing a period of adjustment to a new place and culture is normal. When living at home there is the possibility to take for granted that everyone follows a similar cultural norm. Understanding that the culture in your host country is different is a first step to adjusting to life in the new place.

Upon arrival in a foreign country, you may experience an immediate sense of excitement. Inevitably the thrill of being in a new place wears off, and you may begin to feel frustrated or isolated with cultural differences. Here are some tips on how to begin to adjust to the foreign culture:

  • Relax and realize that this experience of frustration and isolation is what is referred to as "culture shock." It is a good sign that you have, in fact, realized that you are living in a foreign culture and are no longer willing to be just a tourist. You want to be seen and treated as a participant in the life of the culture. Accepting this challenge offers you a tremendous opportunity for personal growth and awareness of your own culture, as well as to learn about the culture in which you are now living.
  • Adapt to the new situation by remaining open to learning. Pay attention to those around you, and practice your intercultural communication skills by being sensitive and paying attention to the differences in values and behaviors of those with whom you communicate.
  • Don't be hard on yourself when you make mistakes as you learn to speak the language and modify your behavior and interpretations to coincide with those of the locals. Learning a language is a process, and many locals will be glad you are trying!
  • Get involved. Join a club at school or volunteer in the community. Improve your language skills, learning the local traditions and customs so that you can make friends with the local people as your understanding and sensitivity take the place of previous criticism and judgment.
  • Develop meaningful ways of coping with the stresses that are placed upon you by cultural differences.