Curious what it’s like to live abroad with Comforts of Home? We’ve got some answers for you!
COH on-site directors work hard to find the best available housing for all of our students. Whether students elect to live 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 (buses, metro, subway, tram, etc).
Housing is selected based on minimizing the distance to the school and locating the very best facilities in the historical center. We always encourage students 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.
It is natural to feel apprehensive about living and studying in new country or city. COH has hosted thousands of students abroad in coordination with its partners 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 city. Students are encouraged to explore the city in small groups during the day in order to become more familiar with their neighborhoods.
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.
Country-specific health information can be found by visiting the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website. This site provides up-to-date information about recommended vaccinations, local food and water conditions, and other pertinent health information for travelers.
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/.
Local City Managers and coordinators provide students with extensive information about where to seek medical assistance when needed. Whenever possible, COH 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 COH emergency numbers while on-site.
In all COH 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 COH 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 COH program. COH 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.
Upon acceptance, all COH 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 enable COH staff both in the U.S. and abroad to determine if any special requests can be accommodated.
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.
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.
COH 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 COH 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 are good ways to avoid being targeted.
While COH cannot control local perceptions of American visitors in its sites abroad, it can and does seek to provide students with an extensive amount of 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.
COH sends students abroad to challenge themselves both academically and culturally. As a part of that challenge, COH recognizes that students will want to explore new lifestyles and behaviors. COH 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, COH 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 it’s up to students to make their own choices.
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 COH offices in their program site for information regarding any sort of recurring problem.
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. COH 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 enables 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 residing abroad. Non-U.S. citizens are still eligible to register for the travel and safety alerts.
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
Substance Abuse Resources Abroad
Alcoholics Anonymous World Services
P.O. Box 459, Grand Central Station
New York, NY 10163
For European resources on accessibility: www.accessibleurope.com/info.html
Disability Information for Students
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.”
For information on U.S. State Department Resources: