The health and safety of our study abroad students are of paramount importance and will be a cooperative effort between you, Vassar College, and your program provider.
Below you will find emergency contacts for while you are abroad, information regarding measures Vassar has in place to support your safety abroad, as well as important steps you need to take to ensure your own well-being.
Emergencies while Abroad
** During Vassar business hours (8:30am - 5:00pm EST), please contact the Office of International Programs directly for any emergencies while abroad:
** Outside business hours, please contact the Campus Response Center (available 24/7) for any emergencies. They will immediately contact us on your behalf:
Campus Response Center
Tel: 011-1-(845) 437-5221
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a serious impact on students’ study abroad plans. The Vassar College Policy on Student Travel was updated accordingly to take the pandemic circumstances and current accessibility of vaccines into consideration. As of June 2021, students who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are generally permitted to travel to countries with a level 3 or 4 advisory/travel health notice if the sole reason for the advisory/travel health notice level is due to COVID-19. However, the College will continue to monitor conditions closely and approval for travel to specific destinations may be rescinded if health and safety conditions deteriorate to a level the College determines to be unsafe. More details about how the travel policy guides this decision are below. You may also visit our COVID-19 FAQs for answers to commonly asked questions.
The Vassar College Policy on Student Travel is designed to support student safety abroad. To determine if it is safe to pursue study abroad, the College consults a number of sources. These include health and safety updates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of State, as well as data from the World Health Organization. In addition to that, we are in close consultation with our travel insurance partner, On Call International, which provides regular updates from its Global Security and Medical Teams, as well as itinerary-specific assessments of potential health and safety risks of scheduled study trips. Please navigate to the Vassar College Policy on Student Travel to read full details.
General Preparation and Procedures
Post-decision Materials and Questionnaires
Upon approval for study abroad, your application moves to the “post-decision” phase in which preparation for the study abroad experience begins. This includes planning for your health and safety while abroad. The Office of International Programs is here to guide you through that process.
As a first step, you are required to complete a series of forms in the Vassar Global Learning Portal. It is critical that you complete these forms so that we are prepared for any emergencies and are aware of your health needs. Post-decision items include:
- Enrollment in International Health Insurance required by Vassar
- Student and Parent Medical Release form
- Health forms
- Emergency contacts for your program and for your family
Each semester the OIP holds a mandatory general pre-departure orientation for all students scheduled to study abroad in the following semester or academic year. In addition to that, students will attend a program-specific pre-departure orientation, organized by Vassar (if it is for a Vassar program) or by the program provider. Program provider orientations are held in a variety of formats, including in-person or virtual pre-departure meetings, an online tutorial, or self-review of a pre-departure packet.
If you need more information regarding health and safety specific to the location where you will study abroad, we encourage you to reach out to your program provider or the OIP (if going on a Vassar program). Please contact us if you have trouble getting the information you need from any of our program providers.
Political and Health Developments Abroad
While we are here to support you, it is also your responsibility to be fully informed of political and health developments in your country of study. To ensure your safety, please follow these important measures:
- Read all program material carefully.
- Make sure you understand, and keep available all relevant local emergency numbers, in addition to the Vassar 24/7 emergency number.
- Find out the equivalent of 911 in the location where you will be, as well as the 24-hour contact for your program.
- Ensure a plan to be in communication while on your program. This includes arranging for a cell phone that will work where you will be abroad. For example, you may be able to activate an international plan on your current phone or you may need to purchase a new sim card or phone on-site. If you need help figuring this out, please let us know.
- Disclose to the program director/institution all physical and mental health information that is necessary for a safe experience. For example, let them know if you have any serious allergies, physical or mental health conditions, and let them know of any accommodations you may need.
- Inform your parent(s)/guardian(s) of all relevant study abroad contact information and have a communication plan in place should you need to reach each other quickly.
- Make sure you understand how to use the insurance policy/policies available via your program and the international insurance policy required by Vassar.
- Review the Country Information page for your study abroad location on the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention websites.
- Understand and comply with all laws of the host country and act in a respectful manner. For example, the use of illegal drugs in other countries can result in much harsher punishment than in the U.S. If you get arrested and convicted, the laws of that country will apply, and there is little we can do to assist from afar.
It is our priority that you have sufficient health insurance coverage while on study abroad. Many insurance plans are designed primarily for use in the United States, and may not cover you while abroad. They may also require you to pay large sums upfront and wait for reimbursement.
In addition to enhancing your insurance coverage, it is also important that we are able to assist you in the event of an emergency. Therefore, Vassar requires all study abroad students to be enrolled in a supplemental international insurance policy through On Call International. You will be automatically enrolled and billed for the insurance along with your Vassar tuition; the fee is approximately $250/semester.
Please note that this supplemental international insurance may not be waived. It will cover you solely during the period you are participating in a study abroad program and is not a replacement for your primary insurance coverage, nor is it a replacement for any additional coverage that may be required for your specific program.
Here are some tips regarding medications while abroad.
- Disclosure of medication information on your program medical form. If your study abroad program requires you to submit a health form, we encourage you to be forthcoming with any information about medications that you may take regularly, or periodically so that they are aware in case of an emergency.
- Medical Bio Sheet. Prepare one that includes critical information about any health conditions and allergies, as well as medication you take. Include the names and phone numbers of your doctors and emergency contact person back home. Give that person a copy of the bio to keep while you are abroad and carry a copy with you. Consider keeping a scanned copy or shared doc.
- Allergies/medical conditions. If your study abroad program requires you to submit a health form, you should provide information about any allergies, including allergies to medications, that you may have. If warranted, wear a medical alert bracelet so that healthcare providers can more quickly diagnose a problem.
- Original packaging. Keep medication in its original packaging (both prescription and over-the-counter). This will be helpful in the event you are questioned by border authorities.
- Names of medications are often different. Many countries use different names for common medications, both over-the-counter and prescription. Research the names of any common medications you take. Do this before you go; you’ll appreciate knowing this information if you are sick and need to find medication quickly.
- Availability, or lack of availability of medications that you prefer. If you are prone to certain illnesses (UTIs, for example), consider carrying your own preferred medications or prescriptions if you are uncertain about their availability at your destination.
Over the counter (OTC/Non-prescription)
- Obtaining non-prescription medication may work differently in your study abroad location, compared to the U.S. and/or your home country. For example, you may need to ask a pharmacist to provide you with medication that we typically would be able to access ourselves. You can ask your program for more advice about this.
- Some prescriptions that are legal in the U.S. or your home country may be illegal in your program country. You should consult your personal physician, or the travel nurse at Baldwin Health Services, to ascertain the legality of your prescribed medications prior to traveling abroad.
- Bring copies of all doctor’s prescriptions with you. The prescription should list your name, the brand name and generic name of the medication, dosage, and amount prescribed. You may need additional documentation for any prescription that requires use of a syringe.
- Pack your medications and copies of your prescriptions in your carry-on luggage. You don’t want to lose access to your medication if your checked luggage gets misplaced in transit! You may also need to disclose prescription medication when clearing customs, so it’s important to have easy access to these items.
- Refilling prescriptions may be difficult while abroad. If you are able, try to obtain enough medication to last for the duration of your program. This may require a special override from your insurance company, so make sure to begin this process well before your departure date.
- Consider time zone differences if you take a prescription at a certain time of the day, or spaced a specific amount of time between doses.
This is not a comprehensive list of guidance; you should always consult with your primary care physician to plan for medication use abroad.
The Vassar College Health Service offers travel counseling as well as immunizations for students studying or traveling abroad that can prepare and protect you against many of the most common travel-related illnesses such as Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. Other travel immunizations available at the Health Service include Tetanus/diphtheria, Typhoid, Japanese Encephalitis, and Polio, Yellow Fever. They can also provide anti-malaria medications. Please contact the Health Service for a travel clinic appointment.