CONTACT API IN CASE OF AN ON-SITE EMERGENCY:
True emergencies warrant a phone call. Please do not send emails or Facebook messages during emergencies. Email and Facebook messages are not always checked on weekends or after normal business hours.
Participants abroad are instructed to call their on-site API director or local coordinator first in the event of an emergency.
Individuals not currently abroad or family members/friends who need to report an emergency should call the API office at 1.512.600.8900 during business hours, M-F, 8:00 to 5:00 pm. Outside of normal business hours, please call 1-866-311-2261 or 1-702-380-9073 and your message will be relayed to an API representative. An API staff member will respond to all messages within two hours.
Health and safety
Questions of health and safety are treated with the utmost care by API and its staff, both in the United States and abroad. In the preparatory phases of the study abroad process, we encourage all students and their parents to carefully think through the implications of studying in another country, not only in regard to academic concerns, but also in terms of the emotional and physical demands that will be placed on the student participant.
API begins providing students with essential information about health, safety and emergency preparedness upon their acceptance. Students, in turn, are asked to be as detailed as possible when sharing their own health concerns with API on the medical form. Utilizing this form, API staff members both in the U.S. and abroad determine which special requests can be accommodated and prepare students to handle any local characteristics that could affect their stay in-country.
Additional information and resources required to be safe and stay healthy can be found throughout the API pre-departure materials, including our on-line toolbox. Most importantly, API students will participate in detailed on-site orientations where they will receive important health, safety and emergency preparedness information from our on-site staff.
We hope that the following information about health and safety will help to answer any questions you might have regarding health and/or safety while abroad.
Is there a concern about anti-American sentiment abroad? How can I feel safe while abroad with API?
While API cannot control local perceptions of American visitors in its sites abroad, it can and does seek to provide students with an extensive amount of health and safety information both prior to studying abroad and upon arrival in the host city. Students are advised to follow local safety rules shared in on-site orientation sessions, and practice behaviors that minimize risk.
Where is API housing located? Where is my host institution located? How far apart will they be?
API on-site directors work closely with local families and housing agencies to find the best available housing for all of our students. Whether students elect to live with a host family, in a student apartment, or a residence hall, they should be prepared to live approximately 10-40 minutes from the host school, either on foot or via public transportation (busses, metro, subway, tram, etc).
Housing is selected based on minimizing the distance to the school, rather than placing students next to shopping or entertainment districts. Students are always encouraged to travel with other program students if returning home after dark and reserve room in their budgets to take an occasional taxi home when socializing late into the evening.
I’m worried about living and studying in a city that is unfamiliar. How have other students acclimated to life in their host city?
It is natural to feel apprehensive about living and studying in new country or city. API, however, has sent thousands of students abroad through its programs and provides detailed on-site orientation sessions for students upon arrival. These orientation sessions often include tours of the host city and host institution, as well as overviews of the cityscape. Students are encouraged to explore the city in small groups of other participants during the day in order to become more familiar with their neighborhoods.
What can I expect in terms of physical and/or emotional effects of studying abroad?
Students are encouraged to speak to their physician about the physical and emotional demands of studying and traveling abroad. Physicians can help determine any specific medical needs you may have while traveling outside of the United States. If you are currently taking any specific medications, your physician can also help to determine how much medication can be secured before traveling abroad and whether or not you will need to visit a local physician on-site to continue a specific health regimen.
Where can I find country-specific health information?
Country-specific health information can be found by visiting the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website. The CDC website provides up-to-date information about recommended vaccinations, local food and water conditions, and other pertinent health information for the informed traveler.
Another good resource for safety issues is the online “Study Abroad Safety Handbook“, which includes basic health information, tips, and links. There are also great recommendations about minimizing risk available on-line at www.globaled.us/peacecorps/.
What if I become ill overseas?
Local resident directors and coordinators provide students with extensive information about where to seek medical assistance when needed. Whenever possible, API staff is happy to accompany students to medical appointments when English-speaking doctors are not available. Likewise, students are advised to contact their resident directors in the event of a medical emergency and have access to 24-hour API emergency numbers while on-site.
Do API programs offer insurance while I’m abroad?
All API students will receive medical and life insurance coverage through AMA & Associates as part of the standard program fees. Students are generally required to pay for all medical visits up front. In order to properly submit a claim for reimbursement with the insurance company, students must retain all receipts that detail the diagnosis and treatment received. For more elaborate procedures, it is recommended that the student also solicit a written statement from the attending physician detailing the rationale for a particular form of treatment.
The insurance company must be notified within 90 days of the date of injury or the first treatment for sickness in order to process claims. Academic Programs International is not responsible for this process, but local staff are happy to help a student work through the paperwork if (s)he needs additional assistance.
Students should be aware that the insurance provided to treat pre-existing conditions has lower maximum coverage limits.
In addition to the health insurance, all students are provided with $100,000 of life insurance for accidental death. Each student will have named a beneficiary for his/her policy on the notarized document provided by Academic Programs International. This policy is also provided through AMA & Associates.
Click here to download the AMA Insurance Claim Form.
What is API’s policy on drinking?
In all API program sites, students are of legal drinking age. At the orientation, the correlation between drinking and unsafe or risky behavior is specifically addressed. Students are encouraged to carefully monitor their own alcohol consumption and act responsibly. Students are cautioned only to drink in the company of trusted friends and host locals and never drink to the point of inebriation or loss of control. The API Study Abroad Agreement and Code of Conduct expressly prohibit abuse of alcohol, and students who engage in behaviors that put their own safety or that of their program peers at risks are advised that they could be dismissed from the API program. API strives to make students aware that many dangers abroad are avoidable through careful monitoring of one’s consumption of alcohol and by making prudent choices about socializing and traveling.
How does API work with students who have specific medical/health concerns?
Upon acceptance, all API students complete a detailed medical questionnaire. This questionnaire provides students with the opportunity to share any information necessary to ensure their successful participation in an abroad program. We ask all of our students to be as honest and straightforward as possible when completing this medical form. It will allow API staff both in the U.S. and abroad to determine if any special requests can be accommodated.
How can API accommodate students with food allergies?
Students should carefully consider their own health needs when selecting their preferred housing option. In most sites, multiple housing options are available. Students who have very specific food concerns may wish to select an accommodation that allows them to prepare their own meals (e.g., private apartments, dormitories, etc).
SelectWisely is a great source of information for travelers with food allergies. The website offers customized translation cards and allows travelers to select from among 25 allergy-causing foods and nine languages.
I’ve heard that pick-pocketing is more common abroad than in the United States. Is this true? How can I avoid being targeted?
API students are given advice on-site about what areas of the city to avoid at certain times and how to carry one’s belongings in such a way as to deter theft. While it would be impossible to stop all crimes involving API students from occurring, there are basic practices that can help to minimize risk. Once students are on-site, local resident directors address specific techniques and tactics to help students avoid common pitfalls. In general, leaving valuable (and flashy) items at home and trying to blend in with the local population in dress and attitude is one way to avoid being targeted.
What one piece of safety advice does API consider to be the most important for all students abroad?
API sends students abroad to challenge themselves both academically and culturally. As a part of that challenge, API recognizes that students will want to explore new lifestyles and behaviors. API, however, encourages all students to carefully consider their own responsibility in keeping themselves safe. Making wise personal choices can be the number one factor in avoiding unnecessary risk. Whether that means choosing to pay for a taxi when returning home late at night or choosing not to overindulge in alcohol, API asks students to always keep their personal safety in mind when making decisions on-site. Local resident directors will provide students with strategies for minimizing risk, but ultimately, students make their own choices.
If a student is in an uncomfortable situation abroad, who can s/he talk to on-site?
Local resident directors provide students with their emergency contact information upon arrival. Students should use these emergency numbers to seek assistance if they find themselves in a situation that they consider potentially dangerous. Likewise, local staff will provide students with contact information for local authorities, such as the police. Students are also highly encouraged to talk to local staff members in confidence at the API offices in their program site for information regarding any sort of recurring problem.
What behaviors are considered safe abroad?
Students are sure to encounter situations abroad that they have not encountered at home. Additionally, linguistic and cultural barriers can make even familiar situations seem more difficult. API on-site staff will provide tips for making good decisions on-site, and will help identify behaviors that may have caused problems for students in the past. Our local directors want to help students to avoid making the mistakes that others have made and thereby prevent difficult situations before they occur!
Likewise, being as informed as possible about local political and social situations can help students to avoid problems abroad. Students are required to join the U.S. State Department Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) prior to departure. Registration allows students to receive warnings from the U.S. State Department about upcoming events in their host country and be formally recognized as an American citizen. Non-U.S. citizens are still eligible to register for the travel and safety alerts.
How can I find out more information about local resources and safety concerns in a particular host destination?
The following links provide important information and support for how to prevent and deal with sexual assault and harassment while studying abroad:
Sexual Harassment And Prevention In College Students Studying Abroad By Nancy Newport, RN, LPC, Licensed Professional Counselor, Consultant to Peace Corps
Treatment of Sexual Assault in College Students Studying Abroad by Nancy Newport RN, LPC, Licensed Professional Counselor, Consultant to Peace Corps
P.O. Box 459, Grand Central Station
New York, NY 10163
For European resources on accessibility: www.accessibleurope.com/info.html
Please review the following resources for more information about access for students with disabilities abroad (information courtesy of SECUSSA and the University of Minnesota’s Access Abroad web site.
Disability Information for Students. Check out the International Disability News Ticker, with links to news stories on disability from around the world.
Inclusion International – Calls itself “a global federation of family-based organizations advocating for the human rights of persons with intellectual disabilities worldwide.”
Mobility International USA/National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange – MI’s mission is “to empower people with disabilities around the world through international exchange, information, technical assistance and training; and to ensure the inclusion of people with disabilities in international exchange and development programs.” Useful information can be found on their website:
For information on U.S. State Department Resources:
BEING PREPARED FOR AN EMERGENCY ABROAD
What is API’s position on studying abroad, given such a tumultuous political and social climate around the world?
Along with our colleagues, API continues to believe in the value of intercultural experiences through study abroad for the purpose of exposing American and international students to the differences inherent in other cultures and lifestyles. By increasing cultural sensitivity and dispelling ethnocentric beliefs, peace and global understanding is more achievable. Additionally, the study abroad experience continues to provide a unique and unsurpassed opportunity for personal growth, individual revelation and maturity, as well as the possibility to master a new language! The opportunity for study abroad exists primarily during the college years, and as long as it is considered safe, API will continue to offer these opportunities to students.
What does API consider to be the best line of defense in the event of an emergency?
API believes that the best line of defense in an emergency is a sound emergency plan and access to quality information. Along with other international education organizations operating in the field of study abroad, API monitors world events and stays abreast of changing political and social climates. We carefully review U.S. State Department advisories and updates and monitor public U.S. and overseas media reports; we receive periodic updates from the API overseas staff in each city; and we formulate and follow recommendations conceived by representatives of the study abroad profession.
How does API account for safety when selecting program sites?
API believes it is essential to carefully review the safety and security of a given country before establishing any new program sites. For this reason, the development of a new program generally involves three years of careful research, planning, and evaluation. Once a site is ready to be opened, local resident directors are hired to conduct on-site orientations for students, provide local safety tips and insight, and serve as the local contact for students in the event of any emergency.
What procedures does API have in place on-site to ensure participants’ safety?
All API overseas programs have emergency evacuation and response plans in place, and students are kept apprised of any changes in these plans. Even within regions of the world more traditionally considered to be “safe”, tensions resulting from local bombings and protests, new migratory patterns, and increased political pressures around the world have resulted in heightened security in train stations, airports and other public domains. For these reasons, API overseas staff members receive regular updates via email from the U.S. consulates closest to their city, and will be notified directly in the event that immediate action needs to be taken for American students. Students are reminded, and notices are posted in each office, of API safety and security regulations. Likewise, students are given suggestions about how to minimize their visibility as Americans on-site.
All students are asked to inform their directors and host families when they schedule any personal trips during weekends or other vacation periods. API excursions and planned activities will be rescheduled or relocated in the event that a particular location is unsafe. Charter transportation is arranged in as many travel situations as is possible for excursions and other group transits.
If a program has to be evacuated, what will happen in regard to program payment and academic credit?
In the unlikely event that the U.S. State Department issues a travel warning for one of our program countries or regions, and informs Americans to evacuate these areas, or if API-Texas is counseled by one of our overseas staff of a specific danger in a particular city, we will take the necessary action to terminate the program(s) and to assist students as they return to the U.S.
If a program is terminated after it has begun, all recoverable fees will be refunded. If API cancels a program prior to the date the program is set to begin, the standard refund policy will be waived and students will receive a refund of all recoverable costs. There are costs that are incurred on behalf of a student prior to departure, and are considered non-recoverable. In the event that a program is shortened due to an emergency or security concerns, academic credit will be assessed with the aid of the host institution abroad and in careful collaboration with local U.S. university partners.
Has API ever handled an emergency on-site?
API emergency procedures have been tested by natural disasters, political unrest and health epidemics. In all cases, API staff followed the emergency procedures already in place on-site to locate all participants and notify the API headquarters in Texas of the safety of all of our students. API staff members in the U.S. were employed to provide electronic updates to our website, to contact the parents and universities of each individual participant, and to notify other partners of the safety of our students.