Health & Safety: Terrorism & Related Concerns
Recent incidents of terrorist activity around the world have created the need for increased levels of vigilance when traveling abroad.
The decision to study abroad in a particular country is a personal one, which is made by each student and his or her family. It is regrettable that we must live with the fact that nowhere in the world, including the U.S., can one expect a totally safe environment. Neither can we predict future events or give guarantees about the course of events in the world. As a result of these concerns and our experiences in dealing with these kinds of issues, the International Academic Programs Office has made it a practice to explain our policy regarding safety and international study.
The International Academic Programs Office consults regularly with colleagues around the country who are involved in the administration of study abroad programs, with program directors, with responsible officials of host universities, and with contacts in the U.S. State Department and other government agencies. In addition, we consult with other experts, including our own faculty, who keep well informed on issues and events in the locations of our approved programs. Our ability to communicate almost instantaneously worldwide via electronic mail and fax machines enables us to obtain and share information quickly and efficiently with colleagues in the event of an emergency at an international study site that may have repercussions for international academic programs. In short, we use an effective system of consultation and consensus of informed opinion in making decisions concerning the safety of our students abroad.
We recommend that parents be in touch with Haverford’s International Academic Programs Office, the program and resident directors, and the State Department. We strongly recommend reading the Safety Abroad Handbook, which provides resources and preparation tips for students and their parents. Another good source is Students Abroad: Advice for Parents. For travel advisories, check with the U.S. Department of State or the State Department's International Travel Information. Also try calling the Department of State’s Office of Overseas Citizens Services Emergency Center in Washington, D.C. at (202) 647-5225. Incidents concerning an American citizen abroad can be reported to this number. American Citizen services can also be contacted the from the U.S. and Canada at (888) 407-4747 or from outside of the U.S and Canada at (202) 501-4444. Students who are involved in an incident or are in the region of an emergency situation should contact the nearest embassy or consulate to report their status (see the list of State Department safety guidelines below). The embassy will then pass the information to the Office of Overseas Citizens Services Emergency Center. This is a good way for students, family members, and Haverford to communicate in the event of a natural disaster or any other incident. We also suggest that students regularly communicate with parents and Haverford. For information on Consulates and Embassies in the U.S. and U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide, contact Embassy.org. Students can now register their trip with the State Department before they leave the country. Students will automatically receive updates and pertinent information about their destination.
We must all live with the fact that terrorism is a 21st century reality and is not likely to diminish or increase significantly. Even without the actual use of violence, terrorists often use threats to control the lives of others; to succumb to these threats by reacting in fear may simply help them to achieve their objectives. Nevertheless, there are certain rather obvious precautions that American students abroad can take. The State Department regularly issues standard safety guidelines for safe travel abroad. Among these are the following:
- Keep a low profile and try not to make yourself conspicuous by dress, speech, or behavior in ways that might identify you as a targeted individual. Do not wear obviously American style clothing, particularly American sweatshirts, T-shirts, jeans, and sneakers.
- Avoid crowds, protest groups, or other potentially volatile situations, as well as restaurants and entertainment places where Americans are known to congregate.
- Be wary of receiving unexpected packages and stay clear of unattended luggage or parcels in airports, train stations, or other areas of uncontrolled public access. Report such items to Security. Never agree to carry letters, packages, etc. for anyone.
- Do not borrow suitcases and make sure no one puts anything in your luggage. Be careful not to leave your luggage and belongings unattended at any time.
- Report to the responsible authority any suspicious persons following you or loitering around your residence or instructional facilities; keep your residence area locked; use your common sense in divulging information to strangers about your study program and your fellow students.
- Register upon arrival at the US. Consulate or embassy having jurisdiction over the location of your study abroad program. In an emergency, contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you cannot reach the U.S. Embassy, go to the nearest Australian, British or Canadian Embassy or Consulate.
- Make sure the resident director, host family, or foreign university official who is assigned the responsibility for your welfare always knows where you are and how to contact you in an emergency. Please leave a copy of your itinerary with your roommates and/or program director when you travel, even if you are traveling only overnight.
- Have access to sufficient funds if necessary to purchase a return ticket quickly. The best arrangement for this is simply to have a valid credit card with an unexpended credit limit.
Please note that the decision to withdraw from a program or return home early rests with the individual. However, there can be no guarantee of credit for students who withdraw from the program before the completion of classes and examinations. All decisions concerning the cancellation of the approved programs rests with Haverford College in consultation with the responsible authorities abroad. If a program was to be canceled or the individual chose to withdraw, Haverford would adhere to the established reimbursement policy of the program. In most cases, only pro-rated room and board fees would be refunded; airfare is not refunded. It is the responsibility of each student to know the refund policy of his or her program. This information is available from the program catalogs and online..
Road accidents are the single greatest hazard facing U.S. travelers abroad. Remember that in many countries, such as England, Ireland, Scotland, and Australia, you look in the opposite direction as you would in the States. The cross sections often note to “look left” or “look right” for traffic. Countries such as Egypt and Kenya have the worst safety records among the countries for which statistics are available. Korea, Morocco, Mexico, Ghana, Spain, India, Nepal and China also rank high, as do Greece and most non-European countries. In many of these countries, traveling at night is not recommended as the roads are not well lit. The Office of International Academic Programs recommends that students do not drive abroad.
- Learn the highway hazards in the countries in which you are traveling.
- Be aware of local driver behaviors and road conditions.
- Choose the safest form of transportation in each country.
- Avoid traveling at night.
- Contact ASIRT (Association for Safe International Road Travel) before traveling, for information regarding road safety travel in specific countries. phone: (301) 983-5252, fax: (301) 983-3663.
If students are concerned about medical requirements, conditions, and treatment abroad, the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers, (716) 754-4883, can provide a list of English-speaking doctors who are practicing in foreign countries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (404) 639-3311, maintains lists of medical requirements and recommendations by country, information about food and water precautions and aids, and reports of disease outbreaks in specific geographic locations. The World Health Organization website has the latest information on worldwide health concerns.
Finally, ACE Travel Assistance is a comprehensive program providing worldwide 24/7 emergency medical and security assistance to travelers. Haverford provides this benefit at no cost to all students, faculty and staff members. The plan also provides valuable pre-travel information. Travelers should understand that this is not a medical or accident insurance plan, and should be sure that they are covered under the terms of their own insurance.
Many thanks to the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Illinois for sharing their information with us.