Health, Safety and Travel Planning: a guide for students on non-UW Oshkosh-sponsored programs
You may be responsible for some or all of the following preparations. Know which ones you are responsible for, and then do them far enough in advance so that minor problems don’t keep you from your study abroad experience! You will certainly have other responsibilities which are not covered below.
Health & Insurance
Purchase Health Insurance
If I am on a UW Oshkosh-sponsored program, do I have insurance for medical and emergency services while studying abroad?
YES - but only during your official program dates! UW System requires all participants on UW Oshkosh-sponsored programs abroad to purchase insurance through Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI). This insurance is included in your study abroad program fees; your coverage will begin on the first day on which you are required to be in the host country and end on or just after the last day on which you are required to be in the host country.
CISI coverage can change from policy year to policy year. All benefits are clearly explained on the Description of Coverage. If your program begins
- on or after August 1, 2012-May 1, 2013: http://www.uwosh.edu/oie/abroad/handbook/CISIpolicy20122013.pdf
on or after May 1, 2013 - April 30, 2014: http://www.uwosh.edu/oie/abroad/handbook/CISIpolicy20132014.pdf
Additional Comprehensive Security Evacuation Insurance is outlined on a separate Description of Coverage, available from http://culturalinsurance.com/pdf/security_evac_comprehensive_ace.pdf.
Are there additional insurance requirements?
In addition to CISI, all students studying through an Australian, German or New Zealand university are required by the foreign government to carry additional health insurance. You will receive instructions and the necessary paperwork to obtain your insurance card at your host university’s orientation.
- Students studying in Australia must purchase "Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC).
- Students studying in Germany and New Zealand must purchase health insurance offered through individual universities.
- Students studying in Japan must join the National Health Insurance (NHI) system.
How do I access information about my CISI coverage and print my insurance card?
Instructions on accessing information and printing your insurance card, among other things, are available from http://www.uwosh.edu/oie/abroad/handbook/myCISI.pdf.
In addition, use the CISI Participant Portal to
- View, print and email your
- Consulate letter (if you are applying for a visa to enter a foreign country, you may need this),
- Claim form (submit this directly to CISI)
- Access travel-related sites.
- Research country specific information.
- Access a personal security assistance website.
- Extend your coverage (prior to or following your program dates).
I will arrive abroad prior to my official program start date and/or will return after my official program end date. Do I need to extend my insurance coverage if I'm on a UW Oshkosh-sponsored program?
YES! If you don't extend your insurance coverage, you won't be covered. Follow the instructions available from http://www.uwosh.edu/oie/abroad/handbook/myCISI.pdf to extend your coverage. You must pay for the additional coverage directly at the time that you request the extension.
Can I use my personal health insurance plan without purchasing additional insurance for travel abroad?
If studying on a UW Oshkosh-sponsored Program, no. UW System does not allow for the exemption of any participant for any reason.
If you are studying through a program not sponsored by or affiliated with UW Oshkosh, sickness and accident coverage while in a foreign country may be included in your personal health insurance plan, but it is rare for personal health insurance plans to cover medical evacuation, security evacuation, repatriation or emergency medical reunion. BEFORE you travel you should be familiar with the type of coverage you have and the steps you need to take in order to use your policy abroad. If you are not satisfied that you have sufficient coverage abroad, you can purchase a temporary policy.
My insurance company requires me to be a full-time student in order to take advantage of a lower premium. Will study abroad affect my ability to keep this premium?
Your insurance company may require you to be a full-time student in order to take advantage of lower premiums. IF you are NOT enrolled in classes at UW Oshkosh for a full semester (i.e. you are transferring credits back to UW Oshkosh at the end of your study abroad program), AND you are NOT enrolled for full-time credit through another accredited U.S. institution, this may affect your premiums. Information on your enrollment status is automatically extracted from UW Oshkosh records and sent to a Clearinghouse, which many insurance companies monitor. You will show up in the Clearinghouse as “not enrolled” at UW Oshkosh IF you are not enrolled for courses AT UW OSHKOSH, and your premiums may be affected.
In order to avoid problems, contact your insurance company BEFORE leaving for your study abroad destination. Your insurance company will either give you a form or a list of information which they need. You can fax this form/list to the institution abroad for verification of full-time status while studying there.
Please note that if you are on Academic Leave of Absence, you are being reported by UW Oshkosh as "not enrolled."
What are some insurance supplements or alternatives?
At $22, the International Student Identity Card (ISIC) is a popular option for students. The ISIC can be purchased on line; policy details are available from the link above. To call STA Travel: 1-800-329-9537 (menu option “Student, youth and teacher identity cards”). A second option is to search on the internet or contact your local travel agent. There are many other insurance companies that will cover you during your time abroad.
What are medical evacuation, security evacuation, repatriation and medical reunion?
Medical evacuation, security evacuation and repatriation benefits cover the insured when the insured is moved to a location outside of the host country or returned to the U.S. because a medical condition cannot be treated locally, because of a security risk at the site abroad or because of the death of the insured. Medical reunion benefits cover a family member who travels to the location where the insured is undergoing medical treatment. If you have medical reunion, identify one or more family members who have a valid passport as your emergency contact. Anyone not holding a valid passport will need to apply for one before being able to take advantage of emergency medical reunion.
Is the insurance offered through CISI sufficient?
CISI insurance is not comprehensive. It is each participant's responsibility to review the policy for sufficient coverage. If you feel that coverage is insufficient, purchase additional coverage through your insurance agent. Do not cancel your health insurance policy in the U.S. while you are gone. In most cases, your international policy will cover you while you are gone and/or bring you back to the U.S., but once you return, your domestic policy will need to provide coverage.
Do I need trip cancellation insurance or baggage insurance?
Because the UW Oshkosh OIE runs all programs on a cost-recovery basis, it is not possible to make exceptions to the withdrawal and refund policy for any reason, including withdrawal for medical reasons or family emergencies. To protect yourself, reach through the CISI insurance policy provided through UW System and then consider purchasing TRIP CANCELLATION INSURANCE to cover other potential eventualities. If you choose not to purchase trip cancellation insurance and the CISI policy does not cover your withdrawal, study abroad fees assessed by the OIE will be your responsibility regardless of your reason for withdrawing. Trip cancellation insurance may provide reimbursement for CERTAIN financial losses UNDER A LIMITED SET OF CIRCUMSTANCES. Read policies carefully and shop around. Not all policies cover pre-existing conditions.
Baggage insurance typically provides coverage related to lost or delayed luggage. Because there are fairly low limits on the claims you can make, you may also need to purchase insurance riders through your home insurance policy to cover items such as digital cameras or other expensive equipment.
Insurance for Loss, Theft or Damage of Personal Property
If traveling with valuable personal property such as cameras, laptops or equipment, your (or your parents') rental or homeowner's policy may provide sufficient coverage or you may need to purchase a rider to cover specific items; items normally covered without a rider may not be covered while traveling.
Security Evacuation Alternatives
If traveling to parts of the world which are difficult to reach or are considerably less safe than you are accostomed to, you may want to consider purchasing additional insurance to cover security or medical evacuation (above and beyond what is provided by the university insurance or by your own insurance). Two options are International SOS (http://www.internationalsos.com/en/) and Global Rescue (https://www.globalrescue.com/).
The Center for Disease Control provides health information on specific destinations, information about specific diseases that can affect travelers, immunization recommendations, tips on avoiding illness from food or water and more through it's web site. For information specific to your destination/s, see http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/.
When reviewing the CDC information, it's important to understand the distinction between "recommended" and "required" immunizations.
- Required immunizations are those immunizations which a foreign country requires that you prove you have had in order to enter that foreign country. For example, a country that requires the yellow fever immunization will require you to present your "yellow fever vaccination card" when you show up in the foreign airport or you apply for a visa. If you don't present this, you may be required to get the immunization (and pay for it) on site or you may be sent back to the U.S. (at your own expense).
- Recommended immunizations are those immunizations which the CDC recommends that all travelers have prior to visiting a particular foreign country. Unless you face serious health risks if you receive a particular immunization, it is extremely unwise to ignore these recommendations. If you think you'll save a bit of cash by not getting the recommended immunizations, think again! If you were to contract a disease overseas, you could be faced with $1,000's of dollars in medical expenses upon return. In addition, depending on the disease, you may miss a semester or more at UW Oshkosh upon your return. This can happen! A UW Oshkosh student did not to get the Hepatitis A vaccination prior to traveling to Peru, contracted the disease and was too ill to attend UW Oshkosh over the semester following her program abroad.
If you can't afford an immunization, you may be eligible for a financial aid loan.
If you aren't sure whether you've already had a particular immunization recommended by the CDC, you may be able to check your records with your healthcare provider or on the Wisconsin Immunization Registry.
Visit the Student Health Center or Your Healthcare Provider
The student health center offers the most frequently used immunizations, and can get others on order with advance notice, at lower fees than travel clinics and other healthcare providers. Make an appointment with the student health center (424-2424), a Travel Health Clinic (listings for Aurora available through International Travel Clinic) or your healthcare provider at least 6 weeks before leaving for a foreign country. Some immunizations must be administered over time in order for them to be effective. You will be asked to provide information on your specific destination/s (within each country), date of departure, length of stay and childhood immunizations (bring a copy of the actual record, if possible) either when making the appointment or during your visit.
Travel to an unfamiliar environment can increase stress levels; honestly evaluate your mental health in relation to support systems you can reasonably maintain while studying abroad. If traveling to a developed country, consider setting up an e-mail and phone-support system with friends and family before you leave. Keep in mind that some study abroad sites have very limited means of communication.
The Student Health Center can also provide certification of physical and mental health if needed to apply for a visa. Take care of all dental work, eye exams, and other things which may be offered at a different level of quality or standard of care efore you leave for abroad.
Put Together A Personal Medical Kit
Many prescription and over-the-counter medications available in the U.S. are not available abroad or cannot be found in the same form or at the same quality. Carry all prescription medications AND a letter from your doctor describing your condition and your prescriptions (using both the generic names and the drug name which appears on the prescription container) in your carry-on luggage. All prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs must be carried through customs in original containers. Consider bringing a medical ID bracelet if you have allergic reactions.
For those who wear glasses or contact lenses, carry an extra prescription or extra lenses. Not all countries use the same scale for determining prescriptions, so arrange to have someone send a replacement pair in an emergency. Contact lens supplies can be rare and expensive, so bring saline and cleaner or wear glasses.
Find English-speaking Doctors
U.S. embassies often maintain lists of English-speaking doctors by city. For a list specific to your destination, find the embassy or consulate nearest your destination city using the link above, click on "American Citizen Services" and look for a "medical" list.
Pack to Walk!
You will walk a lot. Codes pertaining to the height and depth of steps, sidewalk conditions, the height of signs (this is for you tall people!) etc. may be different. Avoid foot and ankle injuries by packing appropriate shoes, socks and lots of bandages!
Check Department of State Country-specific Information, Travel Alerts & Travel Warnings
The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs regularly publishes country-specific information, travel alerts and travel warnings; U.S. embassies abroad publish messages for U.S. Citizens and emergency messages for U.S. Citizens.
- Country-specific Information includes health conditions and crime and security information. If an unstable condition exists in a country that is not severe enough to warrant a Travel Warning, a description of the condition(s) may be included under an optional section entitled "Safety/Security.
- Travel Alerts are issued to disseminate information about short-term conditions, either transnational or within a particular country, that pose significant risks to the security of U.S. citizens. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, coups, anniversaries of terrorist events, election-related demonstrations or violence, and high-profile events such as international conferences or regional sports events are examples of conditions that might generate a Travel Alert.
- Travel Warnings are issued when long-term, protracted conditions that make a country dangerous or unstable lead the State Department to recommend that Americans avoid or consider the risk of travel to that country. A Travel Warning is also issued when the U.S. Government's ability to assist American citizens is constrained due to the closure of an embassy or consulate or because of a drawdown of its staff.
- Message for U.S. Citizens is used to disseminate information about routine topics such as voter registration, income tax season, new passport procedures, and other non-security issues of interest to the local U.S. citizen community.
- Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens is used to inform U.S. citizens about events or threats that can affect their personal security. This includes demonstrations, civil disturbances, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and other breaking events. Whenever the Department revises the Worldwide Caution or issues a Travel Alert or Travel Warning for a country or region, posts (Embassies or Consulates) will also disseminate it with an Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens. To ensure that you receive these messages, register on the State Department's Smart Traveler's Enrollment Program (STEP).
Check State Department Travel Publications
Read relevant Consular Affairs Brochures , available for free at http://travel.state.gov/travel/abroad_brochures.html. These should answer many of your questions about traveling abroad.
Smart Traveler's Enrollment Program (STEP)
The Smart Traveler's Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service which allows you as a U.S. citizen to record travel details which help the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad locate you when you need them the most.
All UW Oshkosh students traveling abroad are required to (and responsible for)
completing the registration at
Family Communications Plan
Develop a reasonable family communications plan that includes contingencies for emergency situations. Use the Emergency Communication Form to record important information; leave a copy of this form, your itinerary and other important information with someone back home.
UW Oshkosh also has Emergency Response Plans in place.
Upon Arrival (this could take more time than you had planned!)
It's not easy to contact friends and family upon arrival! By the time you get off the plane, go through immigration & customs, travel to your accommodation, purchase an international calling card, learn how it works and locate a public phone or an internet cafe, all when you're jet lagged and dealing with a new environment, you may not be able to call or email until the next day.
You may or may not have easy access to reliable email from hotels, internet cafes or universities, depending on your study abroad site. In some countries where crime and computer theft are problems, internet sites may be protected by guards. In this case, avoid sites which are open to the street or are not guarded.
When using UW Oshkosh TitanApps:
- Turn off the pop-up blocker on the computer you are using. TitanApps WILL NOT WORK with the pop-up blocker turned on.
- Remember that staff & faculty at UW Oshkosh will continue to use your UW Oshkosh email address. If you are away for an extended period of time, you must continue to check this!
Sending mail to the U.S. can take two to several weeks, depending on your location. Choose DHL to ship important items and USPS for regular mail. If staying in hotels or hostels, you will not be able to receive mail and you will not have an address abroad. If staying with a host family, your address will be the same as the host family's address, but ask friends and family to use both your host's name and your name when addressing the envelope. At USA Summer Camp, you can send mail from some camp sites but not from others. If possible, buy stamps in Japan before you get to the camp. Mail should be sent to your host family's house rather than to the camp so that it can bereturned to you if you are no longer in Japan when it arrives.
- It's best to use pre-paid phone cards purchased in your destination country. If you purchase these in the U.S., call the customer service number on the back of the card before departing from the U.S. to get the access number from your destination country!
- Avoid using an international phone card tied to your phone number in the U.S. It’s very easy to rack up a $100-200 phone bill in just a few nights.
- Do not make international phone calls from your hotel room, even with a calling card or pre-paid calling card, without asking the hotel desk clerk whether or not you'll be charged by the hotel for time spent on the telephone line! Hotels are notorious for charging for time spent on the phone, regardless of how you are paying for the actual call.
- Never call the U.S. from your host family's phone without a calling card. This is expensive, and it will be difficult to pay the family for the calls after you return to the U.S.
- Wisconsin in Scotland: international prepaid calling cards purchased in the U.S. do not work on the phones in Dalkeith House.
While most cell phone companies will tell their customers that their U.S. cell phone will work abroad, the reality is that some U.S. cell phones work abroad and others don't. In some cases two people with the same cell company experience different results. In many cases cell phone customers have been unpleastantly surprised upon returning home to enormous phone bills. Unless you have a cell phone which is specifically designed for use outside the U.S. or you have successfully used your U.S. cell phone abroad, use your U.S. cell phone at your own risk!
If you plan to use your cell phone a lot while outside the U.S. and perhaps plan to continue traveling into the future, consider purchasing a phone which will work anywhere in the world. Otherwise, consider renting a phone. There are lots of options available on the internet - here's what you're looking for:
- GSM Quad Band (850/900/1800/1900)
- It must be unlocked!
You will also need to purchase a SIM card. Your phone number will be on the SIM card (not on the phone). Without a SIM card, your phone is useless.
- If you plan to be abroad short-term, for many countries you must now purchase your SIM card PRIOR to traveling. In many countries, you now need to show that you'll be residing in the country for a significant period of time before you can purchase a SIM card in-country. If purchasing before travel, consider purchasing a card which can be replenished on line. A simple google search should turn up multiple companies selling SIM cards.
- If you plan to be abroad long-term (a semester or longer), purchase your SIM card in-country after speaking to other students in the area to find out which company is currently offering the best deal for international students.
Check the U.S. State Department's Consular Information Sheet for driving conditions at your destination before deciding whether or not to drive while abroad. Generally, it is not recommended since you will not know the rules of the road. If you do decide to drive, get a permit to use a U.S. driver’s license abroad. These are available at any AAA office. Bring two 2"x2" photos. Check with the embassy of the country you will visit before you leave to find out about driver’s license, road permit (these take the place of paying tolls) and auto insurance requirements. Keep in mind that the permit to use a U.S. driver’s license abroad is not valid in all countries and that driving rules differ dramatically from country to country. Read the first few pages of the guidebook you purchased for your trip for recommendations on driving.
In some countries, it is legal to rent a car but ILLEGAL TO DRIVE without the proper auto insurance. In other countries, everyone involved in a car accident (even the one who gets hit) is arrested and taken to the local jail until matters have been resolved. If you don't know the rules, don't drive!
Purchase a Travel Guide
Purchase a travel guide for your study abroad destination for current information on money/currency, customs & duties, staying healthy, public transportation, travel tips, telephones, sending mail, tipping, and a lot more. Choose the guidebook which fits your needs, and make sure it is current for the year in which you are traveling! Guidebook titles include Frommer's, Fodor's, Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, Let's Go and more.
This page was last updated on: March 25, 2009