By and large, living and traveling abroad is no more or less dangerous than staying in the United States. The primary difference is that students and travelers may not have the accumulated knowledge and subconscious signposts they would have at home and, as a consequence, must be more actively aware of their surroundings. The Office of International Programs and The University of Akron take the safety of our students very seriously and will not send them into regions of the world that are truly dangerous.
All University of Akron students participating in an education abroad program are required to obtain insurance that will cover both routine medical needs and hospitalization while abroad valid for the duration of their program. Moreover, all students must also obtain insurance that will cover the costs of medical evacuation, repatriation of remains and other emergency services. Participants in UA-sponsored programs such as short-term, faculty-directed programs or exchanges must purchase the United Health Plans policy available through the Office of International Programs. Participants in third-party programs will purchase insurance through that program. If none is offered, those participants should purchase the UHP policy.
The Office of International Programs closely monitors Travel Warnings issued by the US Department of State, as well as travel advice from other governments. The default position of The University of Akron is to prevent university-related student travel to locations subject to such warnings. However, programs to such countries may also be evaluated on an individual basis, a process which involves several offices on campus, including the Office of International Programs, the Office of Academic Affairs and the Office of the General Counsel.
Students are strongly encouraged to register for the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) while abroad. STEP is a free service which notifies US consular officials that the student is in the country, thereby allowing them to provide routine information from the closest consular mission, as well as assistance in the event of an emergency.
The University of Akron and other Ohio institutions contract the outside organization International SOS to provide risk management services and advice, which can include assistance with evacuation in the event of an emergency. UA faculty and students are provided the membership information prior to departure in order to access International SOS services.
Family members may contact the Assistant Director for Education Abroad directly with any concerns and questions they may have. However, please keep in mind that federal privacy laws may restrict the ability to release certain information, depending on the exact circumstances. Family and friends should always try to maintain direct communication with the student.
In the event of an emergency, the Office of International Programs and selected other UA offices will communicate with students, faculty and partners abroad, as well as designated emergency contacts in the US.