U.S. Department of State:
The first thing parents and students should do before traveling anywhere is check with the U.S. Department of State's International Travel Information Web site. There you will find links to Consular Information Sheets and Country Background Notes, which provide important information about your host country. For some countries, there may be a travel warning in effect, so be sure to check the Department of State's current travel warnings as well. Travel warnings are issued when the Department of State decides, based on all relevant information, to recommend that Americans avoid travel to a certain country. To make sure you have a more comprehensive view of the situation in your host country, you may also want to cross-reference with other sources of information, such as the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and their Country Information page, the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the U.K. Foreign Commonwealth Office.
What to know about your Country:
Learn all you can about the health and safety issues of the countries you plan to visit. This includes reading about the cultural and political climate of those countries, as well as learning about how others view people from your country, race, ethnic group, religion, gender, and sexual orientation.
Get a complete physical, eye exam and dental check-up before going abroad. The quality of dental and medical care may be different in your country and/or more expensive than similar care would be in the United States.
Find out if water is safe to drink in the countries to which you will be traveling. Purify unsafe water before you drink it. Make sure water bottles come sealed when you buy them. Remember that ice can also be unsafe, as well as the water you use to brush your teeth.
Poor refrigeration, undercooked meat, and roadside/outdoor vendors could pose problems related to food contamination. If you get diarrhea or food poisoning, remember to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. As with any illness, consider seeing a doctor if your condition worsens. Give your body time to adjust to new types of foods you will be eating.
Make yourself aware of both the rules and regulations of the study abroad program sponsor, Oregon State University, and the local laws and customs of the countries that you will be visiting. Understand that you will not only have to conform to the legal system of the country you will be visiting, but also obey the codes of conduct required of program participants and the Code of Conduct at OSU.
Consider your own mental and physical health issues, and make all your necessary health information available to the program's administrators so they can assist you with any special needs or advise you on the risks you might face. Study abroad may include both physical and mental challenges for students.
Get a doctor's signed prescription for any medication you have to bring abroad. If possible, it is a good idea to bring enough medication for your entire stay abroad. Some prescriptions may need to be translated if you wish to fill them abroad. Include your glasses or contact lens prescription. Bring an extra pair of glasses.
Consider a well-stocked first-aid kit as a first line of defense. Some items to include are: sunscreen, bandages, flashlight, sterile pads, insect repellent, adhesive tape, aspirin, antacid, anti-diarrhea tablets, anti-malarial medication, extra bottled water, feminine protection, condoms, rubber gloves, etc.
Try to get fit in the time you have before departing overseas. A healthy body can help you to fight off illness and recover faster if you do get sick. Also, try to stay fit while abroad, even though it may be harder to follow a structured workout routine.
Get a good pair of comfortable walking shoes. Without access to a car or public transportation abroad, you may have to do quite a bit of walking. Break in your shoes before you go.
Keep the program staff and an emergency contact at home well informed of your whereabouts and activities and provide these people with copies of your important travel documents (i.e., passport, visa, plane tickets, traveler's checks and prescriptions). A list of contacts for OSU and Study Abroad providers can be found on the OSU Contacts Web site.
When you travel by air, drink a lot of non-alcoholic fluids, stay away from caffeine, eat light, and stretch often to avoid jetlag. Many airlines are now required to show an in-flight video of stretching exercises you can do on the plane in order to avoid the potential formation of blood clots, which can be caused by cabin pressure. A direct flight is usually easier for most travelers, but flights broken up by stops can also lessen jet lag.
Accidents involving in-country travel by air, bus, train, taxi, car, etc., are a major cause of injury to students abroad. It is important to understand what the safe modes of travel are.
Bus: Since it is the cheapest way to travel (though rather tedious), travel by bus is often a very popular choice for students and travelers. However, since it is so slow, you may prefer to take the train. Often, if you can't find service to a particular location on national or regional bus lines, local service should be able to take you to your desired destination.
Train/Metro: Travel by train is usually much faster than by bus, and can be a better option if you want to see more places in a short amount of time. You may want to avoid traveling by train alone at night, particularly in more urban areas. In major cities especially, you will find the metro system (where available) to be the most convenient form of transportation to move about the city, although beware of pickpockets.
Air: Air travel can be a good value compared to a long bus ride. If you know of discount airfare Web sites, you can find tickets for less than a train would cost. If road travel is unsafe due to poor road conditions, and if train travel is too slow for your needs, air travel can be a safe and pleasant option.
Cars (Driving): Oregon State University strongly recommends that you do not drive while abroad, as most Americans who are killed abroad die in car accidents (either as a driver or a passenger). However, if you insist on driving while abroad you need to investigate the driving laws of each country you are visiting. In countries where driving laws are significantly different than in the U.S., such as the UK or Hong Kong where drivers travel on the left side of the road or in other countries where you would experience a completely different driving environment, you should consider taking another form of transportation, especially if you feel hesitant at all about driving. U.S. driver's licenses are valid in most countries for up to 12 months. Insurance is required for all vehicles, including rental vehicles. You should obtain full coverage insurance when renting vehicles in any country. To make it easier, most rental places will arrange this beforehand. If a driver is involved in a vehicle accident resulting in damages or injuries to another party, the driver may be detained by local authorities until a settlement is arranged with the injured party. Furthermore, depending upon the extent of damages or injuries to the other party, you may face charges filed by the country's judicial authorities.
Use and abuse of alcohol and drugs abroad can increase the risk of accident and injuries. Many study abroad accidents and injuries are related to the use and abuse of alcohol and drugs abroad. It is the policy of OSU and the Office of International Education and Outreach that student use of drugs on an overseas program cannot be tolerated. Use of drugs is cause for immediate dismissal of the student involved. If approached by someone selling drugs, walk away. Do not even talk to that person, because a conversation with a suspected narcotics pusher is seen as an act of "intent to purchase" by some countries. Remember that being a citizen of the United States does not matter. You are subject to the laws of your host country. Violating drug laws abroad may result in very serious consequences. In some countries, being found guilty of violating drug laws can result in consequences as serious as death.
Set a good example. Remember you are like an ambassador for Oregon State University. Behave in a way that is respectful of others' rights and well-being and encourage others to do the same.