Faculty-Led Study Abroad Program Development Guide

WCU Center For International Programs

Health and Safety


  • All faculty and students must visit a travel clinic before going abroad. Travel clinics provide information on health concerns for most international destinations. The Travel Medicine Program at Chester County Hospital and Main Line Health Care are great resources.
  • Learn about your new environment. Is tap water potable? What are common illnesses? Country-specific guidebooks such as Lonely Planet or Let's Go are a great way to prepare for the unique context of your destination. International health information is available through the Centers for Disease Control.
  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water or carry hand sanitizer if soap is not available.
  • Research local clinics and hospitals. Know where you will go in case of an emergency before you leave the U.S. You may need to find an English-speaking doctor if you do not speak the local language well.


  • Learn about your new environment. What kind of crime is most common? What other safety hazards do you need to be aware of? Again, country-specific guidebooks are great resources.
  • Blend in while in public. By not calling attention to yourself you are more likely to stay safe. See what the locals do and adapt their behaviors. Clothing and behaviors common in the U.S. may be offensive in some foreign cultures. While physically it may not be possible to blend in, modifying your behaviors shows respect for local customs.
  • Before travelling internationally, be aware of Department of State travel warnings and Department of State travel resources. Register your trip with the State Department's Smart Traveler Program (STEP). The Department of State recently released its new Mobile Phone Smart Traveler App, which provides official country information, travel alerts and travel warnings, U.S. embassy locations and more.
  • Start conservative. You will be in a new environment with its own unique traffic rules, social protocols, and crime rates. You should spend your first few days abroad observing the behaviors of others. Watch when and how locals cross the street. Ask someone you respect where it is okay to walk late at night and where it is not. Once you gain an understanding for your new home, you can then make educated decisions to keep yourself safe.

Managing Health and Safety Incidents

Have you done your research in advance? The program proposal form asks you to know of local resources available to you BEFORE you go! Faculty must review the Health, Safety, and Crisis Management Manual while developing the program to ensure all requirements can be met.

In the case of extreme emergencies, WCU should be contacted by calling the Department of Public Safety. Although most emergencies are better managed by working with local authorities, WCU's Public Safety can be contacted in extreme emergencies requiring the WCU's involvement. DPS can be reached by calling (610) 436-3311.

CIP's Commitment to Health & Safety

CIP has implemented a number of policies to keep WCU study abroad students as healthy and safe as possible. CIP monitors Department of State travel warnings to ensure that students are traveling to safe locations. If students are already studying abroad when a travel warning is announced, those students may need to leave the country.

CIP study abroad students are required to submit proof of medical insurance and a health information form as part of their applications. The health information form requires a health practitioner's signature. It is an opportunity for a medical professional to discuss medical issues relevant to studying abroad. Proof of medical insurance allows CIP to know that students will be covered in case of a medical emergency abroad. Proof of medical insurance is sometimes waived if the study abroad program automatically provides medical insurance to participants.