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Health and Safety on SAGE Programs

The news media often exposes us to images of an unsettled state of world affairs, and you may be concerned about your student’s safety while abroad. You will find the location of the US Embassy or consulate in the country where your student plans to study along with regular updates and public announcements and travel advisories on these websites: US State Department Information for Travelers and Study Abroad Resources. To be honest, you might be concerned as you read over some of this information, especially since the State Department raised the level on most of the countries in the world to "Level 4: Do Not Travel" a couple due to Covid19 and not all these ratings have been adjusted. To keep these ratings n perspective, if the same standards were applied to the US, it would also be at Level 4! The US government only documents the problems for which travelers should be alert and so it is primarily news alerts and warnings reported. If you were to read the advice about travel to the US produced by other governments, you might be equally disconcerted about living in many highly populated cities in the US.

We recommend that students enroll in STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) with the State Department so they will receive location specific information during their time abroad.  This is a free service - click here to register. The local US embassy or consulate may issue short-term announcements urging extra caution for activities ranging from rail strikes, demonstrations and weather issues to information on possible terrorist activity.  The State Department has kept a continuous World-Wide caution status since 9/11 that is updated every six months and current warnings reflect CoVid concerns. This is not to say that these the country-specific alerts are not important but to offer perspective on the fact that it is standard operating procedure when the US government learns new information to be shared with US citizens so travelers can make informed decisions about their plans. The majority of students who travel abroad each year do so without incident. It is important to be informed of world events but also crucial to confirm perceptions against the reality of events in the region; please check with your student for accuracy and the local context of stories behind the often sensational headlines.

Scripps students are required to maintain a US health insurance policy whether in the US or on a SAGE program. The Dean of Students Office has information on the policy available through the Claremont Colleges if a student does not have health insurance through their own individual policy or through a parent or guardian policy.  There are often limitations to such coverage for students participating on a SAGE program outside the United States.  Many SAGE programs have a mandatory insurance policy for participating on the program and of such policies are covered by SAGE for approved participants.  In addition, Scripps students participating in college-related activities abroad are covered by a policy for Emergency Medical and Accident Insurance through Zurich Traveler Assistance for the official dates of the SAGE program. This coverage includes helpful resources and students are encouraged to register for each college-related trip involving international travel. Your student has access to these materials (insurance card, claim form, and policy details) while they are abroad through their SAGE portal (under Documents). Contact the SAGE Office if you would like us to forward the details to you. 

One of the key factors affecting your student’s safety while abroad involves the behavioral choices students can make for themselves. Each program holds a thorough orientation when students arrive and students should take careful notes, particularly for information on academic policies and safety issues. Students are sometimes distracted in the first days of the program when such information is presented since they are eager to explore their new surroundings, but the information is vital to a successful and safe experience. Students should also be prepared for certain requirements and restrictions that are being imposed to address any current health precautions. Please encourage your student to heed the advice of the program director or university staff in all matters of health and safety. 

Often the program may restrict students from certain activities (driving, riding motorcycles,hitchhiking, rock-climbing, scuba diving, bungee-jumping etc. - note that most insurance policies exclude coverage for injuries resulting from participation in these activities or other extreme sports). Traffic accidents and drowning are the leading cause of injuries to US travelers while abroad, and many of the other restricted activities are not regulated in other countries. These program rules are in place for the safety of the students and we ask you to encourage your student to heed the program advice.

Many programs have a Code of Conduct, Behavior Contract, or Program Guidelines that the student must agree to follow in order to participate. Since the advent of the CoVid19 pandemic, these documents may restrict independent travel outside the program region.  Please encourage your student to follow such advice and restrictions as required by the program.  As a guest in a foreign country, there are additional rules and policies set by the host government.  Failure to comply with any host government regulations may result in fines, being deported, and/or banned from future travel to the country, resulting in significant financial penalties and loss of credit for the semester.

Most programs require that students register all travel plans outside the program location with the local staff.  This is an important component to all program emergency and safety protocols. In the event of an unexpected crisis (natural disaster, violent protests, terrorist activities, etc.), failure to register with the program when traveling will hinder the program's efforts to connect with students, check on their safety, and/or provide necessary advice on how to proceed.  Please encourage students to consistently register their travel plans with the program sponsor. 

If your student has any ongoing health issues that may require treatment while abroad or receives any academic accommodations at Scripps, please have your student inform the program well before departure so that appropriate reasonable arrangements can be made, as is possible, in the host location.  Students should contact the office of Academic Resources and Services at Scripps to have any accommodation documentation forwarded to the program sponsor so that the program can work with the student on the support services available abroad.  For questions regarding access to prescriptions or other health-related support services while abroad, students should register with Zurich 24/7 Travel Assistance before departure to gain access to advice and many helpful resources. Information is available through SAGE.  

As with everything since the pandemic, the study abroad field has had to continuously adapt to changing circumstances to mitigate the impact of Covid restrictions.  In all cases, students will need to follow the directives of the local government where they may be travelling regarding vaccine requirements, mask wearing, social distancing etc. Some housing arrangements have been altered for the time being but are beginning to revert to the arrangements that were common before the spring of 2020.  There may be limitations put on crossing borders (students' optional travel) including required testing and/or quarantine periods upon arrival but those too are easing.  Students should expect the return of temporary restrictions again if there are additional case surges in the future.