Health And Safety Abroad

Every Part of You Matters

Your health and safety are really important to us. With all the excitement involved in preparing for a study abroad experience, it can be easy to forget about personal health needs, safety precautions, and security issues in your host country. We are here to help you proactively prepare for this important aspect of study abroad, and to assist in the event of an emergency while on an IFSA program. Our Health and Safety team, with team members based around the world, works with you, providing individual advising unique to your personal health, safety, and security needs.
health and safety with IFSA

Alerts / Announcements

Recent health & safety alerts from our program locations.

Start With Research

Safety and Security

Before you embark on your journey, research your location to inform yourself about current events and safety information. Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Talk with friends who have studied in your location, faculty members who specialize in the region, as well as the IFSA Health and Safety team. Consider purchasing a good travel guide or review online resources, including:
U.S. State Department
U.S. Students Abroad


If you receive accommodations at your college or university, we will work with you to find the IFSA program that best suits you and your individual needs. The type of accommodations available vary by country, city, and host institution, so it is important to share any requests for diversity practices, mental health concerns, dietary concerns, religious practices, physical disabilities, service animal needs, and learning disabilities early in the planning process.

Health and Wellness

Step One: Take a Personal Inventory

Staying healthy abroad begins before you travel. Be honest about any physical or mental health needs, medications, dietary concerns, disabilities, or exercise plans you currently have and research how you will manage them in your host country. You will receive detailed information from your IFSA Program Advisor and the Health and Safety team, but you should always feel free to reach out with questions or to discuss your specific situation.

Step Two: Make Appointments
We recommend you schedule an appointment with your treating physician at least three months before studying abroad. Certain study abroad locations may require vaccinations, and it can take a few months to get all of them. Also, it is a good idea to have a physical and dental exam, especially if you have any pre-existing conditions you will need to manage or medications to take while abroad. The Center for Disease Control’s website is a good starting point for health guidelines and advice for the country where you plan to study or visit.
Step Three: Complete Your IFSA Medical Form
Your Program Advisor and IFSA Health and Safety team will work with you, our resident staff, and our student health insurance provider to help meet your individual needs. If you currently suffer from physical or mental health concerns, know that support is available to you abroad; however, you should speak to your doctor or mental health provider to discuss your plans and available treatment options in your program location. Sharing this information with the IFSA Health and Safety team early in the process—through the required medical form—will help us to advise and guide you appropriately.


Many students experience the ups and downs of cultural transition at some point while studying abroad. Our resident staff is available to talk with you if you are having a hard time adjusting to your new country and culture. If you feel that your “ups and downs” are more intense or lasting longer than normal, we can connect you with professional support and services. IFSA encourages you to work with our staff and your care team to create and adhere to a wellness plan that works for you.

Mental & Physical Health

Accidents, illnesses, and mental health concerns are a part of life. IFSA is prepared to support you should you encounter a health concern overseas. We have dedicated relationships with general practitioners, specialists, and hospitals to support you while you are in your program location. This includes established relationships with mental health professionals who have a range of expertise to support your needs.

With the assistance of our insurance and assistance company, we can connect you with the appropriate care. It is critical that you are transparent with our resident staff when you encounter a health concern. They are ready to help you determine the best path meet your needs.

Student Insurance

All IFSA programs include generous accident and illness insurance coverage through Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI). This coverage may help cover you abroad if you need to see a doctor, therapist, or visit the local emergency room. Additionally, the insurance includes coverage for some pre-existing conditions (including counseling) and offers worldwide emergency assistance from anywhere outside of the United states. Coverage is mandatory for every IFSA student, and we do not waive it if you already have additional insurance for your time abroad. If you have questions about insurance coverage for your specific health needs, we advise you to contact CISI directly. IFSA pays for mandatory university insurance coverage for students studying in Australia (OSHC) and New Zealand (StudentSafe). Students studying in the United Kingdom for six months or longer are covered under the U.K.’s National Health Service.

What isn’t Covered

CISI insurance calls out some specific situations that are not covered, and it is important that you understand these situations. Some examples of activities that may not be covered by CISI insurance include: skydiving, bungee jumping, rock climbing, and parasailing. Read your policy carefully and know your risks before engaging in these high-adventure activities while abroad.

Additionally, insurance policies currently do not cover urgent travel necessary due to a global pandemic, though they will cover illnesses that occur as a result of a pandemic. However, given the recent COVID-19 outbreak, insurance companies are re-evaluating their policies, so this may change.

IFSA adheres to the health, safety, security, and risk management guidelines and best practices in the field of international education as established by NAFSA and the Forum on Education Abroad. We also consult regularly with governmental agencies and private sector resources, as well as other safety and security professionals in the field of international education. This broad network allows us to remain well-informed and up to date on policies and best practices.

COVID-19 Vaccination Policy

IFSA is wholly committed to protecting the health and safety of our students and staff and respecting the wellbeing of the communities where we live and study. To this end, we have instituted a range of COVID-19 risk mitigation measures based on recognized best practices.

Vaccination is clearly the most important and effective way to prevent hospitalization and death due to COVID-19, as well as to minimize spread among students and communities. Beyond the primary goal of protecting student and community health, vaccination is crucial for students to thrive while abroad by enabling a richer overall experience with broader program options and avoiding additional quarantines, testing expenses, housing costs, and social restrictions. For these reasons, we require all participating IFSA students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, effective for our January and Spring 2022 terms.

We will continue to revise and improve our COVID risk mitigation measures as conditions and knowledge evolve. For more information, please visit our COVID Resources FAQs.

Sexual Misconduct, Relationship Violence, and Stalking

IFSA aims to create a safe and supportive environment for all students. We take a trauma-informed approach to receiving complaints of sexual assault and our resident staff are prepared to connect you with the appropriate resources, but they are not confidential informants under Title IX.

We strictly prohibit all forms of sexual misconduct, relationship violence, and stalking against students participating in our programs, perpetrated by an employee or agent of IFSA (including host families), or by another IFSA student. IFSA also strictly prohibits retaliation for making any complaints related to sexual misconduct, relationship violence, and stalking.

Read more about this on our complete IFSA Policy and Procedures Addressing Sexual Misconduct, Relationship Violence, and Stalking.

Inclusive Excellence

In addition, our participant agreement and conduct code prohibit discrimination, bullying, and microaggressions. We adhere to principles of inclusive excellence and seek to maximize the safe expression of one’s identity. However, it is critical to note that a program location’s cultural practices may not be in alignment with IFSA’s. Should you find yourself struggling with the cultural norms of your program location, please reach out to IFSA staff for support on these issues.

As a recognized leader in emergency response and crisis management for international education, IFSA has a comprehensive crisis response plan in place. Your safety and wellbeing is our top priority, and we employ experienced and dedicated IFSA staff around the world to help you have a safe study abroad experience.

Program Orientation

Once you arrive to your study abroad location, our resident staff will conduct an in-depth orientation that includes extensive information about health, safety, and how to respond in an emergency. Many sessions are led by experts and practitioners in the field, such as local police, U.S. embassy officials, doctors, and mental health professionals. You will be given an emergency number to contact IFSA resident staff 24/7 in a true emergency. This is a great time to ask questions, so you feel most comfortable in your new home.

Cell Phone Requirement

We require all students to bring with them, or purchase upon arrival abroad, a cell phone that can exchange calls and texts with our resident office. We recommend a local number so that you are better able to connect with local health, safety and security support services and are easily reached in a crisis.

It is mandatory that your phone number is added to the student portal by the end of orientation. We may be able to assist with the purchase of a cell phone in the event of financial difficulty. Please contact us as we consider these requests on an individual basis.

Onsite Support

We are proud to employ talented and experienced resident staff in each country where we operate programs. Our full-time resident directors and support staff have a deep understanding of the host culture and its nuances, which helps you navigate the medical system, emergency services, insurance, and support resources. Resident staff are trained in emergency response and student affairs. They are available to meet with you to talk through problems and concerns, refer you to support services, or assist you in an emergency.

Emergency Response and Crisis Management

IFSA has been navigating personal and program-wide emergencies abroad for almost three decades. Our Crisis Management Team works closely with our resident staff, emergency assistance provider and local emergency services in times of crisis, using our Critical Incident Response Plan as a guide. A member of our staff is on-call 24/7, both in the U.S. and in program countries, should a true emergency occur that requires immediate attention. You, along with your family and home campus study abroad office, will be kept up-to-date until an emergency situation has been resolved.

Reporting an Emergency

Students Currently Studying Abroad
Contact the local emergency number provided to you during orientation or local authorities. For non-emergencies, reach out to resident staff during office hours. If you are experiencing an emergency or need to report an emergency, contact:

• Local emergency services
• Your local resident staff
• Your embassy or consulate

Families Members or Advisors of Students Abroad
Our health and safety staff are located globally to assist you in the event of an emergency. For assistance, you can reach a crisis manager at the following number, 24/7: 1 (866) 726-9540