Health and Safety

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.

Below are policies, suggestions and resources student must follow or may utilize in order to ensure they remain healthy and safe abroad and, thus, allow themselves to be as successful as possible in their program.

International Health and Emergency Insurance

All participants in University of Akron-sponsored education abroad programs or international travel are required to purchase international health and emergency insurance through the Office of International Programs (OIP). The University of Akron has entered into an agreement with United Health Plans (UHP) to provide such coverage to participants for the duration of their programs abroad at low daily rate. In addition to health care coverage, the UHP policy provides seamless coordination with and coverage of services provided by International SOS (see below). Details of coverage are available here: Evidence of Benefits.

Participants in faculty-directed programs will purchase insurance through their faculty program director as part of the program fee. Individual students must purchase through the OIP website. Click on “Education Abroad Insurance Fee”, use the Insurance Calculator to determine the total insurance fee and complete the order form. Insurance must be purchased no later than one month prior to departure.

Once the purchase has been processed, participants will receive proof of coverage to take with them.

US Department of State Travel Warnings

The Office of International Programs closely monitors Travel Warnings issued by the US Department of State, and 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.

Students may view Department of State Travel Warnings at

Other governments maintain similar travel advisories, which are good resources, as well.

US Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

Students are strongly encouraged to register for the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) while abroad. 

From the Department of State website: 

The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service provided
by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a
foreign country.

STEP allows you to enter information about your upcoming trip abroad so
that the Department of State can better assist you in an emergency.

STEP also allows Americans residing abroad to get routine information from
the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. 

The Department of State also has a downloadable app for Apple and Android users.  It’s available here: Free Smart Traveler App 

Below are further resources from the US Department of State:

Travel Health Resources

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO) and other resources provide health information for international travelers.  This includes required and/or recommended vaccinations, Travel Health Warnings, information on outbreaks and information on common travel ailments.  Below is a list of such resources:

In instances of outbreaks of disease such as that of SARS in 2003 and H1N1 influenza (“swine flu”) in 2009, students should rely on information from the CDC and WHO, rather than general media, to determine travel safety.  In such instances, the Office of International Programs and The University of Akron likewise will monitor this information and, when necessary, make determinations about continued viability and safety of a given education abroad program.

Students can obtain information on English-speaking or other appropriate health care providers from the US consular mission in the host country, and local partners should have it available, as well.


Students who regularly take medication, whether over-the-counter or prescription, should consult their health care provider on how best to manage those medications while abroad.  Some medications will be easily available abroad and others may be more difficult to obtain or unavailable entirely.  Moreover, some medications, such as certain anti-depressants, are banned in some countries. 

Students may need to work with their health care provider and insurance company to bring sufficient quantities of needed medications to last the duration of the student’s time abroad.  Medication should not be shipped internationally.  Students should obtain copies of all prescriptions (including those for corrective lenses) in both English and the language of the host country.  As trade names differ internationally, students should ask for the generic name of any medication.

All medication should be transported in the student’s carry-on bags and in the original, labeled containers.

Pre-Existing Conditions and Disabilities

Students should be sure that they understand the physical, intellectual and emotional demands of their chosen program and how those demands will impact them.  Students with chronic physical and/or mental health conditions or disabilities are recommended to consult their health care provider on how to manage their condition(s) and the program demands abroad.  The University of Akron’s Office of Accessibility can also serve as a resource for identifying reasonable accommodations and working with the Office of International Programs and/or the faculty program director to incorporate those accommodations into the program.  Further advice and resources may available through Mobility International USA.

While disclosure of these conditions cannot be required, students are encouraged to have frank and open conversations with the Assistant Director for Education Abroad, the faculty program director or the program sponsor about their conditions.  Such conversations will prepare the necessary people to assist in the event of an episode or emergency and enable them to find the accommodations and/or programs that will allow the student to be as successful as possible in his/her education abroad experience.

LGTBQIA Identities

The acceptance of LGTBQIA identities varies broadly internationally. Identifying oneself as LGTBQIA may put one at risk for harassment and physical violence. In some countries, homosexuality and/or homosexual acts are illegal and punishable by imprisonment and even death. In choosing an education abroad program, LGTBQIA students should thoroughly research the attitudes and laws regarding LGTBQIA issues in the proposed destination(s) and make an informed decision.

Partner Requirements

In some cases, an international partner or the government of another country will require a time-sensitive  physical exam or vaccination as part of the admission or visa application process. For example, students seeking to participate in one of UA’s exchanges in South Korea are required to submit a letter from a physician attesting to their overall health condition, as well as proof of a recent test for tuberculosis. While The University of Akron cannot and does not require such items for its applications, it cannot waive the requirements of a foreign institution or government and cannot be responsible their decisions.

International SOS

International SOS is an outside organization contracted by The University of Akron and other Ohio institutions to provide risk management services and advice.  For instance, the International SOS website contains country-specific travel and health advice and, in the event of an emergency, International SOS can facilitate evacuation to the US. Furthermore, International SOS operates several medical clinics abroad. Through this contract, all UA faculty, staff and students travelling abroad may take advantage of these services. 

The United Health Plans insurance policy required of all participants in UA-sponsored education programs provides coverage of and coordination with International SOS.  Participants should have available both their proof of coverage and the UA International SOS membership information.

Membership Number: 11BCAS0010
Membership Type: Scholastic Comprehensive Access
Downloadable Membership Card: The University of Akron Membership
Smartphone App Information: Scholastic Membership App

Students participating in third-party programs and purchasing insurance through that program should verify their policy’s emergency coverage and procedures, as well as whether their policy covers the services of International SOS.

More information for students

Why Study Abroad?

Selecting a program

Finding a program

Applying to a program

Financial aid and scholarships

Obtaining credit

Health and safety

Returning students