Health & Safety
Misfortune can happen anywhere, at home as well as abroad. As careful as you may try to be, you may end up in situations where you are in danger. However, if you prepare before you go, things are less likely to happen, and if something does happen, it will be easier to resolve it. In the case of health and safety, knowledge really is power.
The level of support available to students while they are abroad greatly depends on the practices of each individual institution involved in COST. Please contact your COST Coordinator for details on what support services are available for international programs on your campus.
The safety and security of COST participants abroad is of the utmost importance to us, and that is why we work hard to provide ample information and guidance to ensure that students can make informed and wise decisions regarding program selection as well as their behavior abroad.
Upon placement, COST students will be assigned an Overseas Coordinator to answer questions and provide support services. At all times before during and after the program, students are welcome to contact the COST office for support.
Complete the COST Emergency Plan.
Give a copy to your US COST Coordinator and someone at home. Bring copies abroad for yourself, your Overseas COST Coordinator, and your host.
Helpful links for completing your COST Emergency Plan
If you are in an emergency situation while abroad, contact local resources for immediate assistance:
- Main contact at your host school or your on-site COST coordinator
- Nearest medical facility where you can seek emergency care
- Police or other local authority that serves as a first responder to emergencies
Once you have accessed the necessary local resources, contact your U.S. COST Coordinator.
Medical & Health Insurance
As you plan your participation in the COST program, we want to remind you of the importance of having adequate medical coverage for your time abroad. Your health and safety are extremely important, therefore COST requires all students to have health insurance coverage for the duration of your program. We hope the following information proves to be useful in the planning process.
- All COST participants are required to show proof of sickness and injury health insurance that is valid in the host country for the duration of the teaching program. To show proof, you must provide the Insurance Provider Name and your Policy Number in the Insurance Information section of your online application.
- As an adult individual, it is your responsibility to know your coverage and understand how your insurance will work for you while abroad.
It is strongly recommended that you have a thorough medical and dental examination prior to your departure for your study abroad program.
Keep in mind that all students have varying medical needs and that each program location will not provide the same health care services. We feel that you need to personally make an assessment of your needs while taking into consideration the location in which you will be living, what care will be readily available, and any special medical needs you may have.
Please take time to review your current coverage and any supplemental plans available to you.
We suggest that you make a list of insurance coverage you have, for example, your home institution's student plan or private carrier, or the International Student I.D. card (ISIC). ISIC provides basic travel insurance that fulfills COST's policy requirements. Visit their website for more information.
After reviewing your coverage, if you feel you do not have adequate protection, we can suggest a variety of supplemental plans specifically designed for international travel and study.
COST does not endorse any specific insurance plan; however, we can suggest some insurance carriers that have comprehensive coverage.
SMART Traveler Enrollment Plan
Before you travel, it is wise to register with the U.S. Department of State and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in your program destination. We recommend that you register by going to https://step.state.gov/step/.
Travel Warning Policy
Because the Consortium for Overseas Student Teaching (COST) recognizes that a global perspective is essential to the future of education, COST is committed to developing a wide variety of student teaching opportunities for its participants. At the same time, COST realizes that some areas of the world present heightened health and safety risks and remains committed to the safety and well-being of its participants traveling abroad. Read more about COST's travel warning policies here.
Sources to Consult for Additional Information
Safety Guidelines While Teaching Abroad
Dangers exist in cities and at schools abroad, just as they do in the U.S.. Problems can occur if and when travelers fail to take the same precautions abroad as they would at home. The best way to maximize your safety while teaching abroad is to be aware of conditions that affect safety in your host country and any countries you plan to travel to, then adjust your behavior so that you take normal safety measures. You can also receive general information by following the news in local/national newspapers and on news websites/channels such as BBC or host country news sites (see our program information pages for links to local news).
The most important factor in your safety abroad is likely to be your behavior. It is wise to do the following:
- Keep a copy of important emergency contact telephone numbers such as 9-1-1 equivalents, local police, hospitals, where you live, etc. and other important information in your bag and at home abroad. (See the COST Emergency Plan document)
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Don't wander through unfamiliar areas alone, and always remain alert.
- Avoid going out alone at night. Even when you're with friends, stick to well-lit streets where there are a lot of people.
- Don't flash jewelry, expensive cameras, or electronic equipment.
- Use caution when walking or jogging. Remember that in some countries, drivers use the left side of the road. In certain areas, drivers may not expect anyone to be running along the road.
- When crossing streets, keep in mind that pedestrians may not be given the right of way.
- Be careful with alcohol. If you drink, make sure it is only with people you know and trust, and designate one person to remain sober.
- Avoid attracting attention to yourself with provocative or expensive clothing or boisterous conversation in public. Observe locals' behavior, and try to mimic it.
- Use only official taxis. Unless meters are used, agree on the fare before you get in.
- Before you travel from your home/school, find out what methods of transportation are safest and whether any roads should be avoided.
- Read the local papers to find out where high crime areas are and whether civil unrest is brewing.
- Stay away from demonstrations or any kind of civil disturbances. Even innocent bystanders can be hurt or arrested.
- Protect your passport. Only carry it when absolutely necessary close to your body in a front pocket or purse. Be careful when displaying it.
- In general, avoid being engulfed in a crowd.
- Accidents can happen anywhere. Always use a seatbelt when riding in cars.
- Remain alert when walking. Before crossing streets, remember to look both ways; in some countries, traffic will be coming from the opposite direction from what you would expect.
The Culture of Safety
Health & Safety Checklist
If you have questions or concerns regarding your COST Placement, please contact your institution's COST Coordinator.
HEALTH CARE SYSTEM
_____ I know who to contact in the event of an emergency while abroad and have packed the COST Emergency Plan document.
_____ I have thoroughly reviewed the Center for Disease Control information and Consular Information Sheet(s) for the countries I will be visiting.
_____ I understand that the availability of some prescription medications may be limited. I am bringing an ample supply of medications I am currently taking to last for the duration of time that I will be abroad. I have also checked with my host country’s Embassy for information on any restrictions that may apply regarding bringing prescription medications into the country. IMPORTANT: Always pack medications in your carry-on luggage. DO NOT put prescription medication in your checked luggage.
_____ I have a copy of my prescription(s) (including information on the generic equivalent) and a letter from my physician describing the medication I will be carrying, how much I should have, and what it is for.
_____ I am aware of the recommended immunizations for all of the countries in which I will be traveling.
_____ I have checked my records to ensure that I have received all routine immunizations for tetanus, diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella, and polio.
_____ I have made arrangements to meet with a health care professional to discuss any questions or concerns I have relating to required or recommended immunizations.
_____ I have carefully reviewed my health insurance policy and understand what I am covered for in the event of illness or injury overseas. I have also explored the limitations that may apply to this policy and have considered supplemental plans that are available to me.
_____ I understand how my health insurance coverage will work overseas.
LEGALITIES AND CUSTOMS
_____ I understand that I am subject to the laws of all the countries that I will be visiting.
_____ I understand that I am subject to the laws and customs with regard to alcohol and drug use in all countries that I will be visiting.
_____ I am aware that the sexual mores and legal and illegal practices may be different in the countries that I will be visiting.
_____ I understand that, as an American citizen, if I am caught engaging in illegal activity while abroad, there is little that COST, my home institution, or the US Government can do to assist me.
_____ I know what kinds of foods are typical of the region I am visiting.
_____ I am aware of the quality of the drinking water in the region and plan to take necessary precautions for disinfecting contaminated water, if necessary.
_____ I understand that at times a strict vegetarian or other diet may be difficult to accommodate and have planned accordingly for this possible difficulty.