The safety of students studying abroad is USD’s top priority. In order to ensure students have a safe and successful semester abroad, the International Center urges students to disclose medical information prior to departure. By sharing this information, the International Center partners with students, the USD Wellness Center, and caring physicians to provide the best support possible for the abroad experience. Retaining important medical information can often times put students at risk as the appropriate support services may not be in place for the student.


It is your responsibility to ensure that your routine immunizations are up-to-date; ask if there are recommended and/or required immunizations or medications for the country/countries you will visit (including any countries you will visit that are not part of the study abroad program’s itinerary); and review educational issues relevant to your personal health and safety (transportation safety, cultural dating customs, laws about alcohol use, etc.).

All countries recommend that travelers be up-to-date on routine immunizations. Routine immunizations may include:

  • Tetanus-diptheria-pertussis (DTP)
  • Hepatitis B
  • Polio
  • Meningitis
  • Chicken pox (Varicella)
  • Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)
  • Influenza

Some immunizations require a series or spacing for protection (as long as three months for a series of shots), so allow as much time as possible for immunization. The USD Student Health Center can provide students with the most up to date information regarding required and recommended vaccinations based on your study abroad program location. Please visit the USD Student Health Center for more information about their travel medicine services and/or to schedule an appointment.


Wellness Resources while Abroad

While abroad, students have access to many wellness resources that can help support students through their experience. These include:

On-Site Staff
If you are experiencing difficulties while abroad, please reach out the on-site staff members as soon as possible. Because these individuals are on-site with you, they should be your first point of contact since they can help support you most immediately.

USD Counseling Center
The USD Counseling Center can be reached at any time, on any day, and are well-prepared to assist USD students studying abroad. They can provide private and professional consultations over the phone should you need any assistance or advice. To reach them during business hours, please call 001-619-260-4655. If you need to reach a counselor after business hours, please call USD Public Safety at 006-619-260-2222 and you will be directed to speak with the counselor on-call.

USD Study Abroad Administration
The Director and Assistant Director of International Studies Abroad are available 24/7 and can be reached at:

  • Dr. Kira Espiritu (Director): 001-619-302-5699
  • Jessica Luchesi (Associate Director): 001-619-507-9047

Caring Physician in the US
Because you have a relationship with your caring physician in the US, connecting with them can also provide you with additional support while you are abroad. Please be sure to bring their contact information with you when you go abroad.

The University of San Diego would like to ensure that you have a successful and enjoyable experience abroad, so please do not hesitate to utilize the information listed above.

Mental Wellness & Study Abroad

More and more students with mental health conditions or histories are attending college. Today’s college students report struggling with bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, stress management, family or other relationship issues, career decision-making, cultural identity, lesbian/bi/gay/transgender issues, interpersonal concerns, and sexual assault. Thankfully, with a combination of medications and therapy, the vast majority of these students have productive and enjoyable experiences on campus and abroad.

Experiencing another culture is an exhilarating but often stressful experience that can sometimes cause symptoms or conditions to worsen, even if temporarily. Therefore, it is important to disclose your history on the Participant Health Form so that the USD International Center can best advise you on managing your condition abroad. If your condition is very serious, the International Center staff may recommend that you speak with your regular physician about the unique challenges that a study abroad program may pose for you, along with possible coping strategies.

Recognize, too, that experiencing some level of depression or anxiety about your study abroad experience prior to departure can be expected. However, if you begin to doubt your readiness to participate or if you fail to complete pre-departure requirements, you may wish to discuss your feelings with a medical professional.

Taking Medications Abroad

If you have a pre-existing medical condition for which you may require treatment or prescription medication while traveling, be sure to bring an adequate supply – in the original container – and a prescription with your physician’s explanation of the condition and generic and brand names of the medication and dosage information. Please note that some common prescription medications in the U.S. are illegal abroad. Check with the embassies of the countries you expect to visit to make sure that your prescription and over-the-counter medications are permissible. Carry all medications in your carry-on bag. If medical attention is required while in transit, please notify the nearest airline representative or airport employee as soon as possible.Do not plan on sending medications abroad.

Be sure to maintain your usual dosage and pattern of taking your medication while you’re abroad and ask your physician how to make adjustments due to time zone changes. Note that combining some medications with alcohol can be dangerous to your health. Be sure to bring your prescription with you in the event your medication gets lost or you need a refill while abroad.

Alcohol Use & Misuse

Many of the injuries sustained by study abroad students are related to drunkenness and an associated lapse in judgment. Although alcohol misuse may not carry the same legal penalties as the use of illegal drugs, it can create dire circumstances for you, your participation in the program, your safety on site, and the future of the program. Remember that you are serving as an ambassador of USD, California, and the United States.

Although there may be no minimum or a lower drinking age in your host country, the customs regarding alcohol use may be very different from those in the U.S. You may be tempted to slip into – or to maintain – patterns of alcohol misuse while abroad. Such use may occur for a variety of reasons: a mistaken impression of how alcohol is used in your new surroundings; cheaper costs in some countries; a lower minimum drinking age; more lenient laws against drunkenness; or a desire to experiment or fit in. Alcohol abuse and misuse are not tolerated globally and will not be tolerated on USD study abroad programs. Violation of local laws and/or USD regulations or policies may result in (a) immediate dismissal from the program; (b) academic withdrawal from the university for the semester in progress; and © disciplinary action upon return to campus.
Alcohol misuse is defined as any use that is harmful or potentially harmful to oneself or to others. Alcohol abuse is planned, systematic misuse of alcohol. Alcohol misuse will not be tolerated on USD study abroad programs. What is “alcohol misuse?”

Alcohol misuse is present when:

  • A student misses any scheduled event because of the effects of alcohol consumption
  • A student becomes ill due to the effects of alcohol consumption
  • A student is disrespectful of others sharing the same or neighboring housing, due to the effects of alcohol consumption
  • A student engages in inappropriate behavior toward other individuals that is the result of alcohol consumption
  • A student becomes so intoxicated that he/she cannot walk unassisted
  • A student engages in destructive behavior toward property that is the result of alcohol consumption
  • A student does not abide by the laws of the country in which he or she is staying
  • A student engages in behavior that causes embarrassment to the other members of the group, the program leader(s), or the in-country host(s) as a result of alcohol consumption
  • A student engages in behavior that causes his/her companions concern for the safety of the individual or the group
  • Students in a group encourage or ignore a fellow student who is misusing or abusing alcohol or
  • Students transport quantities of alcohol to program sites with the intent of sharing the alcohol with members of the group

Students are encouraged to use good judgment if consuming alcohol at private homes or other accommodations during non-program hours. Student groups are encouraged to discuss with the on-site administration and/or support staff issues related to alcohol abuse by other members of their group. Peers should look out for each other and keep each other safe.

If a student becomes incapacitated due to alcohol overuse, or if he/she is in need of medical attention, others are strongly encouraged to contact a local emergency medical service, or on-site staff immediately in order to protect the health and well-being of the affected student. Peers are encouraged to make the responsible choice to notify program or emergency personnel quickly. The person (or persons) making the call will not be subject to disciplinary action.


Everyday Safety Abroad

The University of San Diego considers the safety of its students to be of top priority. Regardless of whether a student is traveling to a small town or a large metropolitan city, the fact remains the he/she is not a local citizen and will most likely be recognized as a foreigner. As in any “tourist culture”, it is important that students remain aware of their surroundings, use good judgment and take the following simple precautions:

  • Do not go out alone at night
  • Protect personal documents and keep a copy of them at home with friends or relatives
  • Know how to ask for emergency or medical help
  • When traveling, always carry the phone number and address of the hotel in which you are staying and leave your itinerary with the program director at your study site
  • Keep family and friends at home informed about travel plans
  • Do not yell, curse, or speak loudly in public places (especially not in English)
  • Do not drink alcohol in excess or use drugs
  • Do not confront locals
  • Walk away from confrontational people (local and/or tourists)
  • Always stay away from physical confrontations
  • Call for taxis (safer), rather that hailing one off the street (risky)
  • Always sit in the back seat of a taxi
  • When in doubt, watch the locals for appropriate behavior
  • Fold bills individually for easy access to smaller denominations
  • Avoid taking out large amounts of cash in public
  • Do not keep wallet in back-pocket in large crowds
  • Know where you are going before leaving
  • Try not to open a large map in public. Instead, fold maps so that the section needed is facing out.
  • When alone, walk with purpose
  • Avoid looking people in the eye and smiling, especially in big cities (this is an American custom that is hard to change)
  • And most important…USE GOOD COMMON SENSE!

Safety for Women Abroad

The majority of students who study abroad are women and they report back that they have had incredible experiences. However, in certain locations and programs, women may have a difficult time adjusting to attitudes they encounter abroad, in both public and private interactions between men and women. Some men openly demonstrate their appraisal of women in ways that many women find offensive. It is not uncommon to be honked at, stared at, verbally and loudly approved of and, in general, to be actively noticed simply for being a woman and, in particular, a U.S. American woman. Sometimes the attention can be flattering. Soon, it may become very annoying and potentially even angering. Local women, who often get the same sort of treatment, have learned through their cultures how to respond to the attention.

Eye contact between strangers, or a smile at someone passing on the street, which is not uncommon in the U.S., may result in totally unexpected invitations and some women feel forced to avoid eye contact. You will have to learn the unwritten rules about what you can and cannot do. Women can provide support for each other. You may wish to get together several times early in your stay abroad to talk about what does and doesn’t work for dealing with unwanted attention. U.S. women are seen as liberated in many ways and sometimes the cultural misunderstanding that comes out of that image can lead to difficult and unpleasant experiences.

These cultural differences may make male-female friendships more challenging. Consider the implicit messages that you are communicating, messages that you may not intend in your own cultural context. Above all, try to maintain the perspective that these challenging and sometimes difficult experiences are part of the growth of cultural understanding, which is one of the important reasons you are studying abroad. Female travelers may be more likely to encounter harassment such as unwanted sexual gestures, physical contact, or statements that are offensive or humiliating. Uncomfortable situations such as these may be avoided by taking the following precautions:

  • Dress conservatively. While short skirts and tank tops may be comfortable, they may encourage unwanted attention.
  • Avoid walking alone late at night or in questionable neighborhoods.
  • Do not agree to meet a person whom you do not know in a non-public place.
  • Be aware that some men from other cultures tend to mistake the friendliness of U.S. American women for romantic interest.

If, after acknowledging cultural differences, you still feel uncomfortable with what you interpret as sexual harassment, you should talk with the on-site staff. This conversation may provide you with some coping skills and a possible action plan to avoid future encounters. It may also help you to gain a different perspective by understanding the local customs and attitudes. It is possible that the behaviors that you feel uncomfortable with are behaviors that are also considered unacceptable in the host culture.

If you feel that you are being sexually harassed by any person, contact the International Center immediately or call USD Public Safety at 619-260-2222.

Illegal Drugs

The University of San Diego has a zero-tolerance policy regarding the possession, use, manufacture, production, sale, exchange, or distribution of illegal drugs by students participating in USD study abroad programs. The determination of whether or not a drug is illegal is governed by U.S. federal drug laws, the laws of the State of California, and host country laws. Violation of this policy may result in (a) immediate dismissal from the program; (b) academic withdrawal from the university for the semester in progress; and © disciplinary action upon return to campus.
Each year, 2,500 U.S. citizens are arrested abroad. One-third of the arrests are on drug-related charges. Many of those arrested assumed that as a U.S. citizen they could not be arrested. From Asia to Africa, Europe to South America, U.S. citizens are finding out the hard way that drug possession or trafficking equals jail in foreign countries.

There is very little that anyone can do to help you if you are caught with drugs. You are operating under the laws of the host country and the regulations of the local institution. Neither the U.S. government nor the University of San Diego will be able to secure your release should you be caught.

It is your responsibility to know the drug laws of a foreign country before you go, because saying “I didn’t know it was illegal” will not get you out of jail. Some laws may be applied more strictly to foreigners than to local citizens; therefore, don’t assume that just because local people are using drugs, it’s acceptable for you to use drugs. U.S. Americans have been arrested abroad on drug charges for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. The risk of being put in jail for just one marijuana cigarette, or for other illegal substances, is not worth it. If you are purchasing prescription medications in quantities larger than that considered necessary for personal use, you could be arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking. Once you’re arrested, the U.S. consular officer CANNOT get you out of jail!

If you are caught using illegal drugs by the on-site staff, you may be immediately dismissed from the study abroad program. If you are caught by local authorities buying, selling, carrying, or using drugs – from hashish to heroin, marijuana to mescaline, cocaine to Quaaludes, to drugs like ecstasy – it could mean:

  • Interrogation and delays before trial, including mistreatment and solitary confinement for up to one year under very primitive conditions and delays before trial including mistreatment and solitary confinement for up to one year under very primitive conditions
  • Lengthy trials conducted in a foreign language, with delays and postponements
  • Weeks, months, or life in prison (some places include hard labor, heavy fines, and/or lashings), if found guilty
  • The death penalty in a growing number of countries (e.g., Malaysia and Pakistan)

Although drug laws vary from country to country, it is important to realize before you make the mistake of getting involved with drugs that foreign countries do not react lightly to drug offenders. In some countries, anyone who is caught with even a very small quantity for personal use may be tried and receive the same sentence as the large-scale trafficker.

A few words to the wise…
A number of countries, including the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Mexico, and the Philippines, have enacted more stringent drug laws that impose mandatory jail sentences for individuals convicted of possessing even small amounts of marijuana or cocaine for personal use.

  • Once you leave the United States, you are not covered by U.S. laws and constitutional rights.
  • Bail is not granted in many countries when drugs are involved.
  • The burden of proof in many countries is on the accused to prove his/her innocence.
  • In some countries, evidence obtained illegally by local authorities may be admissible in court.
  • Few countries offer drug offenders jury trials or even require the prisoner’s presence at his/her trial.
  • Many countries have mandatory prison sentences of seven years to life without the possibility of parole for drug violations.
  • If someone offers you a free trip and some quick and easy money for just bringing back a suitcase…SAY NO!
  • Don’t carry a package for anyone, no matter how small it might seem.
  • The police and customs officials have a right to search your luggage for drugs. If they find drugs in your suitcase, YOU will suffer the consequences.
  • You could go to jail for years with no possibility of parole, early release, or transfer back to the United States.
  • Don’t make a jail sentence part of your study abroad experience.

Overseas Citizens Services

It is the students’ responsibility to register with the U.S. Department of State in all countries included in your program itinerary; however, you should also register with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate as soon as you arrive on site. To register, you will need to provide all the information on the front page of your passport. This will be helpful to you and your family if there is a need to locate you in the event of an emergency. To register, please follow the instructions on the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program web site. The Overseas Citizens Services of the Bureau of Consular Affairs (OCS) is responsible for the welfare and whereabouts of U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad. American Citizens Services and Crisis Management (ACS), a branch of OCS, assists in all matters involving protective services for Americans abroad, including arrests, death cases, financial or medical emergencies, and welfare and whereabouts inquiries. The OCS toll-free hotline is (888) 407-4747. From overseas, call (202) 501-4444.

Further information regarding emergency services to U.S. citizens abroad and related U.S. Department of State services can be obtained at their International Travel website. Travel warnings can be viewed at the U.S. Department of State Travel Warnings website. You should check this site regularly until your departure to ensure that you are familiar with events on site and any concerns of which you should be aware.


International Insurance

All students participating in a USD semester or short-term study abroad program are covered by international health insurance through ACE/EuropAssist. There is NO deductible per illness/injury. A summary of benefits of the ACE/EuropAssist medical insurance policy will be provided to all students participating a study abroad program, along with an identification card. Coverage begins 15 days prior to the program start date and 15 days after the program ends. Students are encouraged to review the summary of benefits document so they are informed of coverage.

In the case of a hospitalization, ACE/EuropAssist will work with the treating facility to arrange for direct payment of services. However, there are some countries where such arrangements are not permitted. In these locations, the student may be required to pay for services up front and seek reimbursement from ACE/EuropAssist upon return to the United States.

Routine Medical Care Abroad

Students who need medical care abroad should contact the on-site support. The on-site staff will help locate the best facilities and physicians to ensure students receive the care they need. If students cannot reach the on-site staff, they should contact their USD Study Abroad Advisor immediately for assistance.

For non-emergency medical care, students will often need to pay for treatment out of pocket and will be reimbursed upon return to the US. Students are advised to save all receipts and medical reports to submit to ACE/EuropAssist. If students need to receive ongoing care abroad for a condition (such as mental health treatment), they should contact their USD Study Abroad Advisor immediately. In some cases, the insurance company can pre-pay for these visits to reduce the burden of paying for services out of pocket.

Emergencies Abroad

If a student is overseas and is involved in an emergency situation, the student should either contact an emergency responder or the on-site staff immediately. If a student is unable to do so, please contact USD Public Safety staff at the number listed below.

  • USD Public Safety: 619-260-2222
  • Dr. Kira Espiritu (Director, International Studies Abroad): 619-302-5699
  • Jessica Luchesi (Associate Director, International Studies Abroad); 619-507-9047

Each member of Public Safety staff has the emergency contact numbers for each of the overseas program sites as well as the Director and Associate Director of International Studies Abroad. All of our overseas offices have emergency contact procedures in place 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our staff is able to contact overseas partners and students quickly to relay information promptly.

Should an emergency occur while students abroad, the following steps should be taken:

  1. If the student has not already done so, the on-site staff needs to be notified.
  2. Contact the USD Office of International Studies Abroad (619-260-4598) during working hours (8:30AM – 5:00PM, PST) or the USD Office of Public Safety (619-260-2222) after working hours.

The International Center may choose, in consultation with the program leaders or on-site representatives, to inform a student’s emergency contacts about a potential emergency abroad without the student’s permission, when the student:

  • Is unable to speak for him/herself
  • Has been missing for more than 24 hours
  • Is perceived to be a danger to him/herself or others, or when
  • A significant health, safety, or security incident affecting the entire program has occurred abroad

Program Interruption

If students need to briefly return to the US during their program abroad, they should immediately contact the on-site staff and their USD Study Abroad Advisors. It is not advised that students leave the study abroad program without involving the on-site staff as well as the International Center. If students return to the US for medical reasons, they will need to obtain a letter of clearance from their caring physician, approving the student to return to the international location and complete the remainder of the study abroad program.


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