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Health & Safety

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Health & Safety

The U.S. Department of State maintains a number of web publications and websites with useful information on international travel and study abroad. The Office of Education Abroad refers to a number of state department publications during the pre-departure orientation session and recommends that you review the following websites:

Safety Abroad
Students Abroad
Lost and Stolen U.S. Passport Abroad
Assistance to U.S. Citizens Arrested Abroad

Prior to travel, our office also recommends that all study abroad participants register with the U.S. Department of State and review information on your host country compiled on the the State Department’s website.

Health Issues

Staying healthy abroad requires planning, research and smart decision making. Upon acceptance to study abroad with an approved University of Oklahoma program, you will be given access to several videos that cover a number of health topics.  All students are required to watch these videos before going abroad through an OU approved program.  

Education Abroad encourages all students to schedule an appointment with a health care professional as soon as they know where they will be studying abroad.  This will give you and your doctor an opportunity to discuss how best to plan for your wellness abroad.  OU Health Services offers travel consultations, and can advise students about immunizations, vaccinations and medication plans.  To make an appointment, call the Goddard Health Center at 405-325-4441.

The following links provide useful information about health and international travel:

OU Health Services International Travel Brochure (PDF)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
World Health Organization



Students abroad need to learn a new situational awareness because they are usually in surroundings that are very different from Norman, Oklahoma. While that statement may seem obvious, it is an important point. There are some general safety guidelines that can be followed anywhere in the world.

Don't carry more money at one time than you can afford to lose.

Don't carry your passport with you except when necessary for something like changing money at a bank. 

Take two copies of your passport page with you. Keep one with you and the other in your room separate from your actual passport.

Put your valuables in a money belt to be extra safe. This is not the same thing as a “fanny pack,” which is a ready invitation to thieves. DO NOT use a money pouch that hangs around your neck. Valuables that you keep in an easily accessible pocket in your pants or purse will be just as accessible to pickpockets.

Be very cautious and very alert in extremely crowded places like the metro, buses, flea markets and crowded tourist attractions.

Be particularly careful at night. Go in groups and be ready to take a taxi home if necessary.

Do not drink excessively. Alcohol consumption to the point of drunkenness is dangerous behavior on study abroad. You are not as alert and your common sense is dulled. If you do drink, use moderation.

Never leave a bar alone with someone you have just met.


It is hard to overemphasize the problems that can happen if you abuse alcohol on study abroad. Most of the serious situations that study abroad participants get themselves into deal with alcohol abuse. Many of them can be very serious!

We strongly recommend that you also check the U.S. Department of State information on safety abroad.  Got an iPhone?...then check out the new Smart Traveler iPhone app created by the US Dept. of State.

Click to access the annual Sooner Safety Report (PDF) which includes information about some OU study abroad sites.

Culture Shock

Be prepared to undergo a fairly typical adjustment cycle during your stay. Expect some ups and downs. You'll start out with a great deal of excitement. Wherever you are studying will be the most fantastic place on earth. You'll be riding high with enthusiasm. After a while, the novelty will wear off and reality will set in. You may feel lonely, frustrated, disappointed, depressed, homesick, and irritable. You may even feel "abandoned" by your friends and family at home due to the lack of communication. You'll complain about many things and many people, you'll probably wish you'd never left home, and long to be back in the United States or your home country -- if you could ever imagine that!

These feelings of "culture shock" are perfectly normal and will pass with time as you develop friendships and make progress in the language. It is important at this point not to give up, but instead hang in there and keep swimming. This stage will pass and remember that your family and friends -- and all of us at OU's Education Abroad office -- believe in you and what you are doing. Bit by bit things will get better, the petty frustrations will tend to disappear, and you'll finally figure out who you are, where you are, and why you are there. As you complete your adjustment cycle, you'll come to accept and then enjoy everything, including the academics, food, drinks, habits, languages and customs of the host country. Finally when you complete your experience, you may not want to leave when it is time to go home.

Signs of Culture Shock

Some signs of culture shock might include disorientation, depression, homesickness, excessive sleeping, withdrawal and irritability. It is important to note that this is very common and is a normal part of the adjustment process. Most of you will go through some form of culture shock.

For most, the difficult part of culture shock will last from two to four weeks. It is important that should you or a friend show any of the signs above for more than a month, some outside counseling might be helpful. Most of the institutions abroad have counseling centers with qualified staff to help students through difficult times.

There are some things you can do to help alleviate culture shock. Keep a journal of your experiences; make yourself write in it every day. Write letters home to your family and friends. Make yourself go out with friends or join a club or association, even if you don't feel like it at the time. Finally, don't keep your feelings to yourself. Share them with other international and American friends.


Staying in Touch with Education Abroad

Check your OU email. While students are abroad we communicate exclusively through OU email. We send important reminders to you while you are gone.

Stay in touch with your OU advisor, especially if you are having problems. Don’t let a difficult situation get really bad before contacting us. It’s best to let us know early in the semester if you are facing a problem that needs to be resolved and you aren’t having any success. We have experience in issues related to study abroad where your friends or parents may not, so please contact us first if you need help.