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Health and Safety

Safety is a prime concern for everyone involved in study abroad ventures: participants, their families, advisors, Eastern Illinois University, the host institutions, and any other personnel associated with our programs. Although statistics are in short supply, studying in a foreign country is no more dangerous than in the United States. On the other hand, risks exist that are unique to the settings abroad. When incidents occur, the impact on participants and their families is often more profound due to the unfamiliarity of possible problems and the distance that separates participants from their primary sources of support.

Family Education Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA)
The provisions of the Family Rights and Privacy Act (Buckley Amendment) coupled with the age of the majority at eighteen, often comes into conflict with the (a) Study Abroad Office, on-site coordinators’ need to have full information about the participants we serve, and (b) the desire of parents and EIU to be briefed fully when something goes wrong. This conflict is not unique to study abroad. The issue is faced continually on campus, but it does pose a more delicate challenge for study abroad because of a heightened sensitivity and increased distance. If you would like to be informed, then talk to your son or daughter about the FERPA Release in the application materials and ask him/her to put your name on it.

Traveling Safely: U.S. Department of State

One responsibility of the William V. Weber Program in Study Abroad is to keep students informed of any potential threats while they are abroad. The William V. Weber Program in Study Abroad continually checks the Department of State’s website to determine if any travel warnings are in effect. Students will be contacted if a problem arises in their host country or if it is believed that travel in a country is unsafe. However, these occurrences are very rare. While students are abroad, they should maintain safety precautions, just as they would in America. You can follow safety/security information from the Department of State's website.

We also suggest that all students preparing to study abroad take a look at the STEP program, administered by the U.S. Department of State. The "Safe Traveler Enrollment Program" is a way to stay informed about your destination, be it Shanghai or Spain. Students can enter their flight and passport information, and receive updates about the country, as necessary.

Consular Information

US Embassies and Consulates can be very helpful while in a foreign country. They provide a range of services including emergency and non-emergency services.

Student as a Representative of Eastern Illinois University

It is important for students to realize that they are subject to all laws and customs of the country in which they are staying. Researching the country will better prepare a student for any changes in laws or proceedings. Eastern Illinois University expects study abroad participants to abide by the laws, regulations, and customs of the host country, community, institution and program.

Among the rules that the student should abide by include but are not limited to:

Protecting Rights, Safety & Dignity

The Eastern Illinois University community strongly promotes the development of a personal values system that focuses on each person assuming responsibility for her/his own actions and on maintaining dignity and truth. As representatives of the University, faculty, staff, and students should uphold and promote the University’s mission whenever they are engaged in on campus or off-campus University related activities and events. When attending those activities where alcohol is available, those who choose to drink are expected to do so responsibly. Download a copy of the Eastern Illinois University Code of Student Conduct.

Common Sense

Students studying abroad should use common sense, just as they would at home. Here are some safety precautions to remind them about:
  • Avoid traveling alone at night.
  • Avoid public protests.
  • Keep a low profile by avoiding loud conversations or arguments.
  • Don't discuss travel plans with strangers.
  • Be aware of pickpockets. Usually an accomplice will push you, ask you for directions of the time, point to something on your clothing, or distract you by creating a disturbance.
  • Be aware that pickpockets may also be children, or use children to distract targets.
  • Even if you are lost, act as if you know where you are going. If possible, only ask questions from individuals in authority.
  • Know how to use the public telephones and have the proper change, or cards.
  • Learn a few phrases in the local language in case of emergency.
  • Make a note of emergency telephone numbers including: police, fire, the place where you are staying, and the nearest US embassy or consulate.
  • If you are confronted by someone, do not fight back. Give up your valuables, and remember that money and passports can be replaced.

Staying Healthy While Abroad

"What to do if you get sick while traveling" article.

For information about health or vaccinations that your son/daughter might need, visit the National Center for Infectious Diseases at This website will provide information about the country in which your student is staying.

Drugs, including Prescriptions

Students should be warned of the dangers of drug-related activities. While students are abroad, they most obey the rules and regulations of the country they are visiting. Most other countries in the world do not react lightly to drug violations. Students should be aware of the consequences of possessing, using, selling, or carrying what is considered drugs in the countries where they are visiting. Students should also be aware that large volumes of prescription drugs may be considered drugs. Any drug violation could result in harsh consequences such as jail time, and American embassy/consulates can provide limited help to convicted offenders

Emergency Information

Local Emergency Assistance for Students: In the event of an emergency, students abroad should first contact the on-site staff at the host institution or their faculty director. This is usually the best source of information and assistance in a foreign country. You can also contact the nearest U.S. Embassy and Consulate.

Visit Emergencies and Crises to find out what to do in a variety of circumstances (i.e., lost/stolen passport, financial assistance, arrest/incarceration, etc.)
Families in the United States whose U.S. citizen relatives abroad may be directly affected by the crisis can contact the Department of State through our Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management at (202) 647-5225.

Medical Assistance/Health Insurance: All students who study abroad through EIU are enrolled in a Gallagher International Health Insurance and Emergency Assistance Plan. Much more than a typical insurance plan, members have a great number of benefits available to them, including Doctor Search, CityHealth Profiles, Security Profiles, News, Drug Translation Guide, Medical Phrases and Terms Translation, and Travel Health (see below). What to do if you get sick while traveling:
  • Inside the US, call toll free 1.312.935.9242
  • Outside the US, call collect +1.866.693.6873

Eastern Illinois University: To reach the University in the event of an emergency, please call the EIU Police Department at (217) 581-3212. This information is detailed on the emergency card you received at pre-departure orientation.

Other important university phone numbers:
  • Dean of Graduate Studies - (217) 581-2220
  • Counseling Center - (217) 581-3413
  • Counseling Clinic After Hours Emergency - 1-866-567-2400
  • Health Service - (217) 581-3013
  • Housing Office at EIU - (217) 581-5111
  • Records - (217) 581- 3511 or (217) 581 - 3831
  • Financial Aid - (217) 581- 6405
  • Student Accounts - (217) 581- 3715

Gallagher Health Insurance

Eastern Illinois University requires that all students in study abroad programs carry proper international insurance while participating in the programs. We enroll all students with Gallagher Health Insurance, a comprehensive 24/7 plan that is active from the date of their departure, until their return home. Students will receive a copy of the plan as well as information on how to access their insurance card during their mandatory pre-departure orientation.

Gallagher provides the following coverage for study abroad students.

Demos of Member Services
  • Doctor Search - Learn more about Gallagher's international physician community and online Doctor Search that allows users to locate a contracted, English-speaking doctor in any of 178 countries, review his/her biography, and even schedule an appointment online.
  • CityHealth Profiles - These profiles contain critical health information about commonly visited countries and cities.
  • News - International travelers today need access to the latest security and health news, customized for their itinerary and interests, and delivered through a personalized web page or sent to their email inbox.
  • Medical Phrases and Terms Translation - Clear communication is a crucial part of high quality healthcare. This page will show you all related services. 
  • Travel Health - Whether your goal is to avoid jet lag or prepare for a safe overseas work assignment, Gallagher's  travel health blog can help. Check out this website to learn more.

*Encourage your son or daughter to leave you a folder with all copies of important documents in it: passport, copy of credit cards (front and back), insurance card, copy of bank cards, copy of photo ID, copy of acceptance letter, important phone numbers (Study Abroad Office, Office of Financial Aid, host institution, etc).*