Health and Safety

Health and Safety

Although most students experience no emergencies or crises while abroad, it is still important to be prepared. Being in a new and unfamiliar environment can make otherwise minor problems seem more serious than they are. What could be considered a minor emergency at home can easily become more difficult to handle while abroad. Language and communication barriers, as well as a lack of familiarity with local surroundings and norms, often make small emergencies seem much larger.

Major emergencies tend to be events outside of student and university control. Some unpredictable, major emergencies that could occur abroad include natural disasters, such as earthquakes and hurricanes, acts of terrorism, and serious medical problems.

Emergencies Abroad

Medical care

Students in need of non-emergency medical care overseas may contact UnitedHealthcare directly at the phone number or email address on their ID card for 24/7 service and assistance. All Eligible Participants are entitled to Global Emergency Services while traveling outside of the United States. To check claims status, ask benefits questions, or to inquire about specific drug coverage, call 1.888.714.6544 or email

In the event of an emergency, students are to go immediately to the nearest physician or hospital without delay and then contact UnitedHealthcare. UnitedHealthcare will then take the appropriate action to assist and monitor the medical care until the situation is resolved. To contact UnitedHealthcare in the event of an emergency, call 1.844.249.0748 (24/7) or visit the UnitedHealthcare website and click on “Login to My Account.”

Monitoring and Risk Assessment

Overseas program staff, Resident Directors, and UAlbany Education Abroad staff make every reasonable effort to keep abreast of local conditions and changes in local health and safety risks and to inform participants of these changes.

All decisions regarding program operations are made with reference to data from a number of sources. In addition to the consular information sheets and advisory messages posted by the U.S. Department of State, our Program Officers, Resident Directors, and partner institution staff use information gathered locally through conversations with our partner institutions and other providers in the city or country.

Evacuations and Natural Disasters

Due to political unrest or natural disasters, sometimes it is unsafe for travelers to remain abroad. Evacuation of students from a site is undertaken only under the most extreme circumstances when there is an imminent, direct threat to participants and the only way to assure safety is to leave the program site.

Even if it is determined that evacuation is warranted, it is not always possible to evacuate immediately, and in most cases immediate evacuation is not the safest course of action. Immediate evacuation from a site is not only often impossible, but may not be the wisest or safest choice. Experience has shown that when a crisis ensued that was severe enough to consider evacuation, the safest thing to do was to shelter participants in their residences and the most dangerous course of action was to try to leave the site. By the time the crisis had calmed enough for it to be possible to consider leaving, it was no longer necessary to evacuate.

Students must ALWAYS heed the advice of overseas program staff and UAlbany Education Abroad staff in the case of an emergency and follow all instructions and advice given.

Crime Abroad

If a student becomes a victim to a crime abroad, the student should first access the host country’s emergency service system for help. For additional assistance, the student should contact the program director or the host university’s Education Abroad office.

Arrest While Abroad

First and foremost, students should avoid getting arrested while abroad. Different countries have different legal systems, most of which are different from the U.S. legal system. Communication barriers, such as language, may make an already difficult situation worse. Therefore, it is important to avoid activities and situations that would result in arrest.

In the case of an arrest while abroad, neither the U.S. Embassy/Consulate nor UAlbany Education Abroad can assist, other than to help ensure fair treatment in accordance with international regulations.

Contacts in an Emergency

If your student has an immediate emergency concern about health or safety while abroad, first contact the Resident Director at the host university, the host university’s emergency line, or the local emergency responders (fire, ambulance, police), as appropriate. Local program and municipal staff are best equipped to address an emergency.

Contacting UAlbany Education Abroad

In the event of an emergency, the staff at UAlbany Education Abroad can be reached during business hours by calling 1-518-591-8172. After business hours (nights and weekends), please contact University at Albany Police by dialing 1-518-442-3131.

Emergency Action Plan

One way to prepare for emergencies, both major and minor, is to create an Emergency Action Plan. An EAP is a document(s) that contains the personal information necessary in the case of an emergency. This can include a list of emergency contacts, copies of passport and insurance cards, allergies, etc. Knowing the answers to the questions asked in the Emergency Action Plan can be a good first step in keeping safe in an emergency.

While no study abroad program can offer an absolute guarantee of safety, many steps can be taken to reduce the risk of illness, injury, or falling victim to crime abroad. The information and resources provided to students and families before, during, and after an overseas experience are designed to assist in understanding health and safety challenges students may face while overseas and to provide tools and support in making the most of this exciting, life-changing experience!