Health, Safety and Security Abroad - Italy Programs
- Planning for a Healthy Abroad Experience
- Medical Insurance
- LGBTQ Students
- Health Tips
- Culture Shock
- Laws, Customs, Safety
- Alcohol Use
- Illegal Drug Use
- Health Services Abroad
- Safety and Security
- Important Contacts
- Emergency Policies and Procedures
- Study Abroad Safety Handbook
- Saying Goodbye
- Reentry—Reverse Culture Shock
- Making the Most of Your Abroad Experience
- What’s Up With Culture?
- Students Abroad—Go From Here
- CIEE—Knowledge Series
- U.S. State Department Travel Site
Planning for a Healthy Abroad Experience
Once you have been accepted to a Sarah Lawrence Study abroad program, we’ll want you to complete a comprehensive health assessment with your doctor. Besides meeting our college requirements, this assessment gives you the opportunity to discuss any health issues that you might have with your treatment providers and create a personal health plan for your study abroad. Whether you are traveling on a Sarah Lawrence Program or one of our approved international programs, we suggest that you begin your health-assessment by asking yourself the following questions:
- Is my physician or mental health practitioner aware of my plans to travel?
- Do I have any pre-existing medical or mental health issues that will need attention while abroad?
- Am I taking any medication that will need to be prescribed and/or monitored while abroad?
- Do I have health care plan or need help creating one for my medical or mental health needs?
Once you have reviewed any possible health concerns, it is also important to think through any social, emotional and physical adjustment issues that may be relevant for you. Consider the following:
- Do I manage well with new situations and people?
- How important is it for me to have structured daily routine?
- Am I looking to create distance from problems or other students at school?
- Have I just ended romantic relationship or am I planning to continue relationship long-distance?
- Have alcohol and/or drugs become regular part of my college experience?
Answers to questions like these will help you think through any physical and/or emotional issues that may accompany you on your travels. We suggest that you speak with your physician, your parents, and other members of your support network to help you address any concerns you might have. Your college health services and counseling centers are also available to help you plan for the treatment of any medical or mental health concerns while you are abroad. Planning for support, rather than ignoring the issues, will go a long way in helping you maintain your physical and emotional wellbeing while studying abroad.
Many students who study abroad each year have prescription medication that they take along with them. From contraceptives and allergy medications, to antidepressants and ADHD medications, prescriptions have become a part of our everyday life. Therefore, it is critical to plan ahead for your medication needs BEFORE you leave the United States.
Begin by speaking with your doctor about any and all medications that you take regularly. Determine if you will be able to take an adequate supply of medication with you, or if you will need access to a pharmacy or prescription provider during your time abroad. The U.S. State Department suggests that you “bring an extra quantity (of medication) with you and pack it in your carry-on. Just remember to keep it in its original container and clearly labeled. In fact, you should check with the local embassy to make sure the medication is acceptable to carry into the country. Some countries may consider your prescription medication to be illegal.” www.studentsabroad.state.gov
We recommended that students pack copies of prescriptions (including brand names and generic names) and letter from at-home doctor if regular medical care is needed. Keep in mind that beginning a new academic experience in foreign country is typically not best time to discontinue medical prescriptions, so plan ahead.
Proof of comprehensive medical and mental health coverage is required for participation in all Sarah Lawrence International Programs. If you are individually insured, or insured through your parents or your educational institution, check with your individual health care provider for information about the limits of your health coverage.
Unfortunately, many U.S. medical insurance plans do not cover individuals when they travel out of the country, so it is important to know if you are covered for a study abroad program. If you are covered for study abroad, find out the details of your coverage. Since all medical bills incurred during study abroad will be your responsibility, it is important to know the extent of your medical coverage in advance, including coverage for medical evacuation and repatriation benefits. If you are not covered for study abroad, you will need to purchase additional coverage.
All students on the SLC study abroad programs (London Theatre, Oxford, Paris, Florence, Catania and Cuba) will be required to enroll in the SLC Study Abroad Health Insurance Plan. The Sarah Lawrence study abroad plan ONLY covers students while they abroad and only for a designated amount of time. Please be sure that you have the necessary health insurance coverage in place for when you return to the United States or should you be travelling abroad beyond the designated dates. This policy will not provide any coverage for the student upon his/her return to the United States.
LGBTQ life exists in every corner of the world, but the degree to which individuals are free to express their identity varies widely from country to country. As with other facets of the study abroad experience, being aware of cultural norms and laws is essential for a safe, productive international experience.
When considering a study abroad location, take time to ask program administrators questions about the local culture:
- How conducive is the local host culture to outward expression of LGBTQ sexuality?
- Are there any culture-specific sexuality or gender issues that you need to be aware of?
- How does the local culture respond to varied sexual identities and gender expressions?
- Do local laws protect or prohibit specific gender expressions and sexual identities?
- Is there a culture of violence or tolerance toward LGBTQ individuals in the host country?
Knowing the culture of a region will not only help you select a study abroad program, but will also assist you in managing the inevitable culture shock that comes with each international experience.
The Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE)—Knowledge Series suggests:
“As in any cross-cultural situation, it pays to observe, be sensitive to local customs, and express yourself appropriately and respectfully. If you come to the experience with your own sexual politics and a desire to actively challenge local cultural norms, that could complicate your interactions with people both inside and outside the classroom. Be true to yourself, but stay open to every learning opportunity.”
There are so many things to remember and consider as you plan for your experience abroad, here are some tips to remember about the basics of staying healthy:
- Get enough rest. Recovering from jet lag can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Help yourself out by establishing a regular sleep/wake schedule and try to stick with it throughout your trip.
- Stay hydrated. Dehydration is a major travel issue that can cause serious complications. Make sure you drink plenty of bottled water or other non-caffeinated/non-carbonated fluid each day.
- Eat wisely. Of course you’ll want to sample the local fare, but use common sense when selecting eating establishments. If a dining room or food cart looks dirty, chances are that it may be a health hazard. Be careful about eating raw foods, since food that has not been stored or cooked properly can make you sick.
- Be physically active. Making sure you get physical exercise each day, whether it’s walking to explore your new city or dancing at a nightclub, will help you balance the intellectual and emotional demands of your new experience.
- Manage your stress. Transitioning to a new culture, with all the excitement of a new language, new people, new surroundings, on top of an academic workload can be overwhelming. Take time to relax and unwind each day. Allow yourself to experience the ups and downs of emotional adjustment and be sure to connect with your supports.
- Packing a small first aid kit of over-the-counter medicines will help you deal with minor illnesses and emergencies. We recommend that you include:
- Antibacterial ointment
- Pain reliever
- Anti-diarrhea medication
- Regular medications
- Contraceptives (if needed)
If you prefer certain brand name products, be sure to bring them with you. While you will be able to purchase drug-store items abroad, you may not be able to find U.S. brands in other countries.
Whether you are a first-time traveler, or an experienced globetrotter, it is important to prepare for an adjustment period when you embark upon study abroad. Allowing yourself time to manage the effects of jet-lag as well as a myriad of cultural issues, large and small, will go a long way toward helping you transition to your new surroundings.
An issue for all travelers who cross multiple time zones, jet lag cannot necessarily be avoided, but taking a few simple steps before, during and after your flight can ease its effects.
- Before your flight, be sure to have several good nights sleep so that you don’t begin your trip already sleep deprived. If possible, begin to shift your internal clock closer to the time zone that you will be traveling to, by moving your sleep/wake schedule up or back an hour or two before you depart.
- While in transit, be conscious of staying hydrated with non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated drinks and lots of water. Make sure you stand up, stretch your limbs and walk around frequently, particularly on flights lasting over three hours. Many airlines now include in-flight exercise manuals to help travelers improve circulation during their flights. Try to eat several light meals throughout the flight, which are low in sodium (watch those peanuts!) and high in protein. And don’t forget to reset your watch to the time zone of your destination. Most travelers attest to the psychological benefits of preparing for their new time long before they land.
- Once you’ve arrived in your host country it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new city and forget to give yourself some time to adjust. A few simple tips will help you overcome jet lag quickly and help you be on your way to new adventures:
- Establish a sleep/wake routine that fits your new time zone. Go to bed each night at a regular (evening) time and set an alarm to wake up at the same time each morning. Taking brief (less than an hour) naps may initially help you shift your internal clock.
- Continue to stay well hydrated. Drink lots of water (bottled if you’re unsure of the water quality in your host country). Refrain from alcohol while you are managing jet lag. Alcohol will dehydrate you and make you feel even more fatigued and lethargic.
- Eat healthy, well-balanced meals, including plenty of protein and complex carbohydrates. These foods will help you maintain your energy level, as will eating small, frequent meals each day.
- Daily exercise will fight fatigue, increase energy and improve your sleep patterns as well. Walking your new city is an excellent way to build exercise into your routine while learning your new surroundings at the same time. Just be sure to bring a map—and a friend!
Regardless of how much you have traveled or how familiar a location may seem, you should anticipate some type of culture shock when you arrive in your host country (this includes English speaking and Western countries). According to psychologist Dr. Carmen Guanipa of San Diego State University, there are several phases of culture shock that travelers may experience:
- The first phase, known as the “honeymoon phase,” is characterized by feelings of euphoria and wellbeing. Like falling in love for first time, travelers in the honeymoon phase are full of wonder and excitement. Difficulties are minimized and students are typically caught up in the excitement of experiences in their new country.
- The second phase of culture shock may bring with it feelings of moodiness, irritation and the unwelcome “thud” back to reality. During this phase, you might feel anxious or blue for a while as you get used to a new country’s rhythms and culture. You might feel frustrated by simple tasks, such as making a telephone call or managing a bank transaction, or teary when speaking to friends and family from home.
The following symptoms are typical of the second-phase culture shock:
- Sadness, loneliness, melancholy
- Insomnia, desire to sleep too much or too little
- Changes in temperament, feeling vulnerable or powerless
- Trying too hard to absorb everything in the new culture or country
- Lack of confidence
- Feelings of inadequacy or insecurity
- Longing for family or friends
This uncomfortable phase of culture shock usually resolves itself within the first few weeks. However, if you find yourself feeling out of sorts or emotionally unstable for a longer period of time, let someone know. Tell your program director or one of the program staff members. They can help you determine if you need additional supports as you adjust to your host country.
Once the shock of the second phase has eased, you should begin to develop a sense of comfort and understanding of your new country. This is the third phase of cultural adjustment. Less about “shock” and more about adjustment and regaining a sense of equilibrium, this third phase is marked by an acceptance of cultural differences and the ability to critique the positives and negatives of your home country and your host culture. Highlighted by personal growth and the integration of disparate ideas, thoughts and values, the majority of the study abroad experience takes place within this last phase.
For more information on preparing for cultural differences in your host country, check out the online cultural training resource guide What’s Up With Culture? Designed at the request of the U.S. Department of Education, by the School of International Studies/University of the Pacific, What's Up With Culture? has been used by over 2 million students globally to prepare for study abroad. This self-directed program is packed with useful information, so give yourself several sessions to go through the material. We strongly recommend it for anyone preparing for international travel.
Laws, Customs and Safety
When participating in a study abroad program, the most important thing to keep in mind is that no matter how comfortable you may feel in your host country, chances are that the laws, customs and security issues are different than what you are accustomed to in the U.S. Behavior that may be tolerated or encouraged at home may be considered wrong or dangerous. And conversely, actions that would not be acceptable in the U.S. may be a fact of life in your host country. Take the time to learn all you can about the culture and values of your host country. Pay attention during your orientations (!) before you leave and when you arrive in country.
Some basic safety tips and a healthy dose of common sense will go a long way toward keeping you safe during your study abroad experience:
- Be aware of your new surroundings. Learn where you can go safely and at what time. Find out if it’s safe to travel alone.
- Secure your personal possessions. Lock your doors whenever you leave your room or apartment.
- Don’t carry much cash in your wallet at any given time.
- Learn the rules of the road and pedestrian traffic. Find out how and when it is safe to use public transportation.
- Determine appropriate dress, especially if you are female.
- Travel with a buddy and always let someone know your plans or itinerary.
- Always carry U.S. student abroad identification
Although the legal drinking age may very from country to country, the importance of caution and common sense when using alcohol remains a constant. Keep in mind that excessive alcohol use can impact your judgment and impair decision-making.
Unfortunately, incidents of assault, sexual molestation and other violent crimes occur abroad each year due to alcohol intoxication. While the frequency of such incidents is low, especially compared to many college campuses, it is important to be aware of the laws that govern alcohol-related crimes in your host country. Likewise, driving under the influence of alcohol and public intoxication may be are illegal activities in most countries that can get you arrested and put behind bars.
Illegal Drug Use
Let’s be clear here: Do not travel with, buy, use or have illegal drugs in your possession while you are abroad. Penalties for the purchase, use or possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia can be severe and unyielding—from imprisonment without bail to sentences ranging from fines and jail time to years of hard labor. The U.S. State Department cautions:
Obey the local laws of the country you are visiting. An arrest or accident during a trip abroad can result in a difficult legal and expensive situation. Your U.S. citizenship does not make you exempt from full prosecution under another country's criminal justice system, and the U.S. government cannot bail you out. Many countries impose harsh penalties for violations that would be considered minor in the United States, and unlike the U.S., you may be considered guilty until proven innocent. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, so be informed. (www.studentsabroad.state.gov).
Health Services Abroad
The most important thing to remember when managing your health abroad is communication with the study abroad program staff. Pay attention during your pre-departure and on-site orientations and learn how to access routine medical and mental health care before you need it.
If you have a pre-existing medical or mental health issue, make sure that your program director is aware of your needs. Will you need access to a physician or therapist while you are abroad? Will you need access to a pharmacy for filling prescriptions? What other types of medical or mental health support services are available? A private, honest conversation with your program director or advisor can help you access the services you need.
Open communication with your study abroad staff will go a long way to insure that you have access to individual health services. However, unforeseen circumstances can always occur. Make sure you know your program’s health emergency protocol. Does your host country have a local or national emergency number, the equivalent of the U.S. 911? If so, what services can you expect by calling? Does your program have it’s own internal emergency number? Emergency information such as this should be provided in detail during your study abroad program orientation. But if it’s not, or if you need clarification, be sure to ask.
Your program director and staff have years of experience in their host countries, including detailed knowledge of medical and counseling resources. Take advantage of their expertise. They are there to help.
All SLC study abroad program directors are required to consult with Prema Samuel, Assistant Dean of International Programs, when they are concerned about a student’s health and well being. The program director will also consult with the Director of Counseling and/or the Dean of Studies at Sarah Lawrence College at any time for advice on matters concerning a student’s health and well being. Particularly, if there is any risk of danger to the student or his/her peers on the program.
Sarah Lawrence College is taking every possible measure to ensure the safety of our students in our programs abroad. Students on the SLC programs will receive information on safety and security before they leave, during the term and during the vacations. We ask that students notify our program staff of any travels away from the program site. Any student who chooses to leave the program before completion may jeopardize their chance of receiving credit for the semester's work.
In case of an emergency after office hours, please call the Sarah Lawrence College emergency telephone number at (914) 395-2222, provide your telephone number and request that Prema Samuel, Assistant Dean, International and Exchange Programs, be contacted as soon as possible.
Office of International Programs
Prema Samuel, Assistant Dean, International and Exchange Programs
Sarah Lawrence College
Bronxville, NY 10708
(800) 873-4752 or (914) 395-2305
Italy Program Contact
011-39-055-24-09-04 (6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time)
London Theatre Program Contact
011-44-207-487-0730 (5 hours ahead of E.S.T.)
Oxford Program Contact
011-44-1865-277-541 (5 hours ahead of E.S.T.)
Paris Program Contact
011-33-1-43-22-14-36 (6 hours ahead of E.S.T.)
Emergency Policies and Procedures
We would like you to be aware of the following emergency and evacuation information and policies pertaining to Sarah Lawrence College's International Programs:
- Under what conditions will we cancel a program?
Sarah Lawrence College has never canceled a program and would only do so if directed by the U.S. Department of State to evacuate all civilians from that country or location. If U.S. citizens are asked to leave, we would require our students to return home. The International Programs office at SLC, and each of the study abroad offices, receive regular Department of State worldwide cautions, travel advisories and warnings as well information from the equivalent body in each country. Please visit www.travel.state.gov to review information from the Department of State and to see individual U.S. Embassy Web sites.
- When would students be evacuated?
We would evacuate only in the event of a call from the U.S. government to evacuate all U.S. citizens. A call for the withdrawal of U.S. citizens is an extreme measure and a last resort.
- How would students be evacuated?
In the event of an evacuation, the overseas resident director and several designated officers of the Sarah Lawrence campus in Bronxville, New York would analyze the event and work together to create an appropriate response. The overseas directors are in regular contact with the U.S. Embassy or Consulates in their respective countries. We would closely follow the directors’ recommendations and notify students and their parents of the specific plan and recommended time frame. We would arrange for students to be moved either to the U.S. or to another destination, according to the specific advice from the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy. Sarah Lawrence College will make all arrangements and initially cover the costs for return flights home, including airline penalty fees for flight changes. These costs will be charged to the student’s account and the College will expect to be refunded for all travel related costs.
- How and when will students and parents be notified?
Sarah Lawrence College and program offices keep contact information for all registered students. In the event of a serious emergency, Sarah Lawrence College would undertake measures to contact all students by telephone and email. Sarah Lawrence College would communicate immediately with parents or guardians if a program were to be canceled and students were to be evacuated. Each of the study abroad program offices has emergency parent/guardian contact information for each student. Please ensure that you notify the offices of any changes to the contact information. Parents/guardians are also encouraged to check the Parents' page of this Web site.
- How does a student communicate with SLC in an emergency?
At orientation, students are given local emergency instructions and numbers for police, ambulance, etc. In an emergency, a student should contact our overseas emergency or office number (after receiving any necessary assistance from police or medical professionals). We would assist students with contacting family members. Each of our overseas offices has a 24-hour emergency contact system for students. We ask students to always carry an emergency contact number for their parents or guardians, in their wallets at all times. Students can rent cell phones to stay in contact with their families. Our offices overseas can provide information on how to rent cell phones.
- What happens if a student chooses to leave the program?
Students who choose to leave a program must notify the overseas director of the date of departure and all information relating to the journey and destination and additional contact details. Students who withdraw from a program that has not been canceled during the semester will not receive any credit. Students who leave a program that has not been canceled are subject to SLC's normal refund policies.
- If the program is canceled, will there be a refund?
If Sarah Lawrence College cancels a program we will refund recoverable money to any student currently enrolled in the program. Recoverable money is defined as any tuition or housing fees that the College is not obligated to pay when a program is canceled. Sarah Lawrence College will make all arrangements and initially cover the costs for return flights home, including airline penalty fees for flight changes. These costs will be charged to the student’s account. The College will expect to be refunded for all travel related costs.
- If the program is canceled, how will the student receive course credit?
If a program is canceled mid semester, partial credit will be awarded for work completed. The number of credits will be determined on an individual basis.
Study Abroad Safety Handbook
The Center for Global Education's Safety Abroad Handbook provides resources and preparation tips for students considering studying abroad and parents trying to help them.
The Handbook should help you ask the right questions and find helpful resources for international study and travel.
It may seem obvious, but saying goodbye is an important part of returning home. You may experience a range of feelings and thoughts at the end of your abroad program--from the excitement and anticipation of returning home to the sadness and loss of leaving your host country. Although endings can be difficult and many of us would prefer to be distracted with last-minute adventures, it is important to think about how to experience a meaningful goodbye. Here are some suggestions:
Before your last week spend some time gathering up memories of your experience: photographs, postcards, journal entries, ticket stubs, recipes, addresses and any other meaningful mementos that will help you capture your time abroad. Exchange contact information with new friends and faculty members who you would like to keep in touch with. And think about what type of goodbyes you would like to have with those who have become important to you. Is a big going-away party your style? Or do you prefer quieter, one-on-one conversations?
Be sure to ask your program director about local customs around departures as well. In some countries, small gifts to your hosts may be appropriate, while in other countries the reverse is true. The cultural resource guide, What’s Up With Culture? (www2.pacific.edu/sis/culture/) notes that every culture has its own rules on the appropriate way to bring closure. Doing the culturally sensitive thing is likely to be greatly appreciated and remembered by those left behind.
Customs and personal preferences will shape your individual departure experience, so be sure to allow yourself time and space to acknowledge your experience and begin the process of closure before you leave.
Re-Entry Culture Shock
Many students expect that their transition home will be relatively easy and are surprised when they experience re-entry culture shock.
Unlike the process of arriving in a host country where advisors and fellow students focused on cultural adjustment, your friends and family may expect you to fit seamlessly back into life at home. They may expect you to be the same person you were when you left, even though you may feel vastly different, and may have little understanding or patience for your new thoughts, behaviors, or critiques of your home country.
Your family members may not appreciate the changes you have made since you’ve been gone. Or you may find yourself unable to communicate the intensity of your experience and feel alienated from friends who “weren’t there.”
Just as culture shock has its own phases of adjustment, re-entry culture shock follows a similar pattern of acclimation. The initial phase is typically marked by excitement and joy of being home and re-connecting with friends and family. This may be followed by feelings of alienation, low-mood, feelings of loss and/or boredom. This phase, too, usually resolves itself within the first few weeks.
However, if you find yourself feeling out of sorts or emotionally unstable for a longer period of time, let someone know. Contact your college health services center or a trusted clinician. They can help you determine if you need additional supports as you readjust to your home country.
Like culture shock, the final phase of re-entry culture shock is characterized by adjustment and acceptance of cultural differences. Typically the most rewarding phase of return, this third phase is marked by personal growth, the integration of disparate ideas, thoughts and values.
Get more information on managing Re-Entry Culture Shock.
It’s likely that you’ll have discovered a lot of new things about yourself while studying abroad. You may have new attitudes, new thoughts and new opinions about a wide variety of issues that barely crossed your mind before. It’s important to take some time to reflect on the changes you’ve made and how your friends and family might experience the ‘new you’.
Just as you have changed, there’s a good chance that people at home have changed as well. New things may feel unfamiliar, and familiar things may feel strange from your new perspective. Expect to have some psychological and emotional responses to all this newness, and try to give yourself time for reflection and contemplation. Try to be patient with yourself and with others who are interested in learning about your experience, and who have also had experiences of their own while you were away.
Try to avoid making comparisons between cultures and resist the temptation to be too critical of home. It will take some time to fully integrate your experience, so try to remain flexible and open when resuming relationships. You may want to seek out students who have also returned from study abroad, or others who have had international experiences, to discuss your re-entry process.
Making the Most of Your Abroad Experience
Many students struggle to integrate their study abroad experience with academics back on their home campus. We’ve compiled some tips on how to use the knowledge and perspectives you’ve acquired and make the most of your study abroad experience once you return:
- Academic courses
- If possible, select academic courses that will broaden and deepen the knowledge you’ve gained during your abroad experience. Look for courses that will allow you to present new perspectives and confront culturally ingrained ideas and attitudes.
- On-Campus Opportunities
- Contact your campus International Programs Office (Prema Samuel, SLC Asst. Dean, 914-395-2305) and volunteer to be a resource for international students studying on your campus.
- Join or start an International Club or Foreign Language Club to maintain your connection with the language and culture of your host country.
- Participate in campus-diversity forums. Offer to speak or organize a panel discussion for your campus on cultural sensitivity and awareness.
- Volunteer to participate in your campus Study Abroad Fair. Most colleges and universities have annual fairs where prospective students appreciate the opportunity to speak with returnees.
- Community Organizations
- Many colleges and universities have community outreach programs which prize experience in cultural diversity. Speak with your institution’s Director of Community Outreach (SLC, Director of Community Partnerships, Irene King, 914-395-2573) about opportunities to utilize your international experience locally and nationally.
- Daily Life
- Continue to integrate your international experience into your daily life by maintaining cultural awareness, sensitivity and curiosity in all aspects of your life.
We suggest you check out the following links for more useful information on preparing for study abroad.
What’s Up With Culture?
What’s Up With Culture? an on-line cultural training resource for study abroad focusing on cultural adjustment and reentry.
Students Abroad—Go From Here
This website has been designed by the U.S. State Department’s Office of Overseas Citizen Services specifically for students preparing to travel abroad.
Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE)—Knowledge Series
The Knowledge series is intended to enhance pre-departure preparation for both students and their parents with additional resources to assist in the process.
State Department Travel Sites
The State Department’s Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management (ACS) administers the Consular Information Program, which informs the public of conditions abroad that may affect their safety and security
CDC Travelers' Health offers information to assist travelers and their health-care providers in deciding the vaccines, medications, and other measures necessary to prevent illness and injury during international travel.