Health and Safety | API Study Abroad


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.

In the event of an emergency that affects a group of students, updates will also be posted on our Facebook Page and Groups.


Mirror, mirror, on the wall, what is the most important safety tip of all?
  • Don’t drink too much, and make wise and thoughtful choices about your behavior and activities.
  • Don’t do anything in your host country that you would not do in the United States.
  • Don’t do anything that you would not want your grandma, your home university, or local media to know about!
Is it safe to party at night in my host country?

Nightlife is a vibrant part of many cultures abroad and experiencing it will be part of the fun and enjoyment of living in your host country. The key is to be smart about participating in the local nighttime activities.  API highly recommends that you give yourself time to acclimate to your host city and benefit from our extensive on-site orientations before exploring your new cities too much. In other words, you need to know where to go and where not to go, and you need to know how to get around and how to back home late at night. Our orientation sessions include tours of the host city and host institution, as well as overviews of the cityscape. You are encouraged to explore the city in small groups with other participants during the day in order to become more familiar with their neighborhoods, and you should avoid getting drunk (Wait! Didn’t we already say that?!).

Past participants have reported that the on-site orientation helped them to better understand the layout of their city, gain familiarity with the local transportation system and feel overall more comfortable in their new home away from home so that they felt comfortable when going out at night.

Bottoms up! What is API’s policy on drinking?

Here’s the reality: bad things happen when people are drunk that do not happen when they are sober. In almost all API program sites, most university students are of legal drinking age. At the on-site orientation, the correlation between drinking and unsafe or risky behavior is specifically addressed. Participants are encouraged to carefully monitor their own alcohol consumption and act responsibly. You 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. You should also keep your eyes on your drink at all times, and do not accept drinks from strangers; it is critical that you know what you are ingesting! The API Study Abroad Agreement and Code of Conduct prohibit alcohol consumption during API-sponsored events (i.e. group dinners or activities), and they also expressly prohibit alcohol abuse. If you engage in behaviors that put your own safety or that of your program peers at risk, you could be dismissed from the API program, and under these circumstances you would need to return home at your own expense, potentially forfeiting academic credit and/or financial aid. API strives to make all participants 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.

If you are concerned about your drinking (or that of your peers), resources exist around the world through Alcoholics Anonymous:

Alcoholics Anonymous World Services

P.O. Box 459, Grand Central Station

New York, NY 10163

Tel: 212-870-3400

I took a pill in Ibiza… Illegal Drug Use Abroad.
  • “Drug use” doesn’t just mean “needles in your arm,” or buying or using drugs in back alleys or dark rooms. Drug use includes misuse of prescription medication (e.g., sharing your ADHD medication with friends or using anti-anxiety medication like XANAX recreationally) or smoking weed.
  • Drug laws differ from country to country, as they differ from state to state in the U.S.  The most commonly used illegal drugs include:  marijuana (laws vary by area), cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, methamphetamines and club drugs.  (  In many countries, the penalties for using, dealing or being caught with these drugs can be serious, including fines, imprisonment, years of hard labor, and in some extreme cases, the death penalty.  Marijuana is also illegal in some countries, and marijuana use, possession or purchase bears the same consequences as harder drugs.  If you are arrested for the use or possession of drugs you are subject to the laws of your host country and there is nothing API or the U.S. Embassy can do to modify the consequences.
  • API policy prohibits drug use for program participants. If participants are found to be using drugs in or out of program housing, consequences will range from a written warning to dismissal from program housing or program dismissal, depending on the severity of the incident.
  • You are responsible for complying with local drug laws whether or not you know what the law is.  DON’T TAKE CHANCES AND JUST AVOID THEM COMPLETELY!
  • Never carry an unknown package for a new friend or stranger.  If you are arrested with drugs, you can be found guilty whether or not you knew what you possessed.  This is not just a cautionary tale based on a Hollywood story like Brokedown Palace… the risk is real and the potential repercussions could be potentially devastating!
Recreational Use of Legal Drugs Abroad
  • When discussing the dangers of drug use abroad, a common assumption is that we are talking about illegal drugs only.  But equally, or perhaps more, dangerous is the use and abuse of “legal” drugs, those drugs prescribed by a doctor.
  • We cannot stress enough the danger of sharing prescription medications.  DO NOT SHARE YOUR MEDICATION WITH SOMEONE YOU LIKE (OR DON’T LIKE). Prescription medication is given specifically for the prescribed party, under the supervision of that party’s doctor, taking into consideration other health concerns and medical history.  As an example, even if your friend is freaking out, don’t give them some of your Xanax or other anti-anxiety medication!  Sharing your medicine with a friend, without knowing that person’s medical history, allergies, other medication being taken at the time, etc., can have severe unintended consequences.
  • If you are with a friend who appears to be having a reaction to a prescription drug, call the local equivalent of 911 (your API representative will share the local number during orientation) and your on-site representative.
How can I avoid harassment abroad?  Is the risk of sexual assault or gender discrimination higher abroad than on my campus at home?

Though significant data does not exist specifically regarding this question, there is some indication that some forms of gender discrimination are higher abroad than on a home campus.  The studies conducted have been small and focused on the experience of female travelers.  Some consistent themes related to sexuality and (unwanted) attention while abroad were as follows:

  • In many countries, “cat calling” and verbal comments regarding areas of the body are more common than would be considered acceptable in the U.S.  This is not considered harassment in many countries, although it would be in the U.S.;
  • Unfamiliarity with local norms regarding body language, attire, behavior and actions can lead to misinterpretations regarding interest in, and availability for, sex;
  • Unwanted touching, verbal overtures, rape or other non-consensual sexual activity is often linked to excessive alcohol consumption, and may result in decisions to leave friends to follow an unknown or lesser known party.

Based on these findings and anecdotal evidence from our own experience sending thousands of participants abroad every year, API cannot stress enough the importance of maintaining sobriety and remaining with trusted friends while out late at night.  It is also critical to trust your instincts.  If you feel like you are in an unsafe situation, regardless of cultural “norms” or politeness, get out or seek help.

In the event of rape or sexual assault, API encourages you to contact your Resident Director immediately to receive the help and support that you need in that situation, to pursue medical attention and to potentially to file a police report. Once API is informed, please be aware that API has an obligation to share basic information about any type of gender discrimination with the home universities of any current students.  (See API’s Non- Discrimination Policy).

As a special note, local laws vary by host country, though there are generally protections in place to support victims of sexual harassment and assault.  (In some API destinations, including the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, sexual assault victims are discouraged from reporting abuse to local authorities, due to the nature of local laws.) Should allegations of harassment or abuse be put forward against an API participant, steps will be taken by API to limit contact of the reporting party and the responding party while information can be collected to determine the veracity of the allegations.  All API participants are warned that abuse and disrespectful behavior toward fellow participants goes against the API Code of Conduct and can result in disciplinary action and sanctions.

If you are interested in reading more or conducting research are encouraged to consult the following sources:

The following links provide important information and support for how to prevent and respond to sexual assault and harassment while studying abroad:

How hard will it be to manage studying abroad? What can I expect in terms of physical and/or emotional effects of studying abroad? Mental Health Concerns.

Hey, if you are already at safety question #6 and still reading, you are well on your way to being successful already!

Traveling is a demanding endeavor, but one with so many rewards. To minimize risk, we encourage all outbound participants to prepare in advance as much as possible.  This may include learning about culture shock and the general trends of adaptation to a new host country.  API provides information on the stresses and cycles of cultural adaptation in your Toolbox prior to departure.  It may include speaking to your physician(s) or mental health professional(s) about the physical and emotional demands of studying and traveling abroad.  They 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

Mental Health Concerns

  • Being in a new environment may trigger or exacerbate mental health challenges.  It is important to notify API prior to departure of any specific mental health struggles of which we should be aware in order to best support you on your program.  It is to your benefit to inform API staff of any medication that you are taking while abroad.  In the event that you require medical assistance, an API staff member will be better equipped to assist you with a medical professional if we know what may/should be in your system.
  • While abroad, if you experience a mental health crisis, you are encouraged to notify your API RD as soon as possible so that we can assist you in receiving the support you need to successfully complete your program abroad.
  • English-speaking medical professionals, including medical doctors and therapists, are available to you.
Is it true that everyone hates Americans? How can I feel safe while abroad with API?

Though always a legitimate question when traveling abroad, in most countries the general population does make distinctions between “Americans” and “American politics/foreign policies”.  What participants will likely discover is that the general population in other countries likes to discuss politics and foreign policy more than the average American.  Participants may be asked their opinions on American actions or positions in the world from point of curiosity and discussion, but are less likely to experience hostility toward them simply because they are American.  Take this as an opportunity to learn about American politics AND your host country and you may have some lively conversations!  Note:  If discussions regarding American foreign policies or American politics/elections becomes heated, walk away.  It is not your responsibility to defend American political positions to the world!

For safety measure, API’s Code of Conduct prohibits participants from attending political rallies, demonstrations or other potentially volatile gatherings—these can become dangerous to both spectators and participants regardless of nationality.  Also, please note that in some countries, simply being part of the crowd in the vicinity of the protest can result in incarceration, so it is wise to avoid these situations entirely.

While there is no guarantee of “safety” in any country, there are choices that program participants can make that will minimize potentially dangerous situations:

  • Be educated and aware of your surroundings, neighborhoods and areas;
  • Do not consume alcohol to the point of inebriation or loss of consciousness;
  • Do not separate from friends or hosts to go with unknown people late at night after partying;
  • Try to frequent clubs or bars where locals go, rather than solely visiting venues targeting American visitors;
  • Do not instigate fights or provoke potentially volatile situations;
  • Avoid fulfilling the terrible American stereotypes of being a loud, obnoxious tourist!;
  • Learn about your host country and work to fit in—not compromising who you are, but being open to who others are;
  • Honestly identify personal habits, behaviors, lifestyle choices that may or may not be as widely accepted abroad.  Understanding the culture into which you are heading, and the social “norms” that are acceptable in that particular culture, can assist you in making choices that can alleviate potential tension or uncomfortable/unwanted situations.  Advance knowledge is a key to understanding and success!
What if I become ill or injured overseas?

Local resident directors and coordinators provide participants with extensive information about where to seek medical assistance when needed.  We prioritize identifying medical staff that is able to work with patients in English.  API resident directors are happy to accompany participants to medical appointments when English-speaking doctors are not available.

Participants are advised to contact their resident directors in the event of a medical emergency using the 24/7 emergency line provided on-site.

To prepare our coordinators and directors in advance of your trip, be sure to complete the API medical questionnaire as honestly and as with as much information as possible. Doing so will allow API staff both in the U.S. and abroad to determine if any special requests can be accommodated.

Up-to-date sources of information regarding both country-specific and world health can be found online at:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): The CDC website provides information on diseases and conditions, emergency preparedness, travelers’ health and much more.  They maintain the latest information on all world-affecting viruses, diseases and much more.

There are also great recommendations about minimizing risk available online at

How does API accommodate participants with special needs, including disabilities or food allergies?
  • Special Needs:  You should carefully consider your own health needs when selecting a preferred host country and particularly, a housing option. Accommodations that are “standard” in the U.S. are not always available abroad (e.g., academic, health or physical).  If you need specific accommodations, please contact the API office prior to applying for a particular program so that we can best advise you on the most accommodating locations, and visit the API Diversity and Identity Abroad page.
    • Multiple housing options are available in most sites. It is your responsibility to communicate to API any physical needs regarding your living arrangements prior to departure so that we can work to find the best options possible.  Ideal options may not be available in all host countries.
  • Disabilities Abroad:  While it has historically been more challenging for individuals with disabilities to study, travel and live abroad, the good news is that this is changing.  However, many countries still trail the U.S. in mainstreaming and accommodating people with special needs. Please be aware that many countries simply do not offer accommodations for participants with physical limitations. For example, entrance/exit ramps are not widely available in housing, universities or on public transportation in many locations.  Applicants should work with API to educate themselves about the cultural norms and commonly held perceptions [of those with special needs] within the desired host country prior to applying to a program. Sadly, individuals with visible physical disabilities may find themselves the subject of prejudice or unkind and unwelcoming behavior.
  • Food Allergies/Sensitivities: Participants 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.). Additional fees may be assessed to cover special accommodations.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 Americans are walking targets for pickpocketing. How can I avoid being targeted?

Petty theft is more common in large cities, but not just because you are abroad! To reduce your risk:

  • Leave valuables and expensive jewelry at home;
  • Do not leave your purse, bag, backpack, electronics or other belongings open and unattended in public (e.g., dining locations, public transportation, restrooms, etc.
  • Do not place valuables in easily accessible locations (i.e. do not put your wallet or passport in your back pocket, or in the outside pocket of your backpack or purse)
  • Keep personal items secured in your room and lock your doors;
  • Take routine precautions as you would on your home campus.
What should I do if I find myself in an uncomfortable situation abroad?

Local resident directors or API contacts provide you with their emergency contact information upon arrival. You should use these emergency numbers to seek assistance if you find yourself in a situation that could be potentially dangerous. Likewise, local directors will provide participants with contact information for local authorities, such as the police. You are also highly encouraged to talk to local directors or coordinators in your program site for information regarding any sort of recurring problem, either in regard to your own program experience or regarding the behavior of other program participants.

How does insurance work abroad?

All participants are provided with medical insurance for the duration of their program abroad. Participants receive details of the insurance policy in their acceptance packet and orientation materials.

Are there any governmental sources of information that I should get in the habit of consulting?

For information on U.S. State Department Resources: