Health and Safety

As you prepare for your time abroad, you will need to think about how to maintain your health in a new environment, how support services in your host country may be different from what you’re used to and how certain resources can help you navigate potential challenges overseas. The information below outlines requirements you’ll need to fulfill before going abroad and points to consider to be proactive about having a safe and healthy experience abroad.

Columbia International Travel Policy

All students, including Columbia, non-Columbia, undergraduates and graduate students, traveling overseas on a Columbia-Led or Columbia-Approved Program must comply with the Columbia International Travel Policy prior to departure. All undergraduate students who receive funding from a fellowship listed on the Center for Undergraduate Global Engagement (UGE) website must also comply with the Travel Policy. You must start this process no later than four weeks prior to departure. If you do not submit a School Sponsorship application and complete all subsequent pre-departure requirements, you may face disciplinary action.

Columbia undergraduate study abroad students, please note that the information you submit to comply with the International Travel Policy on the Undergraduate Travel Web App is supplementary to the clearance (approval) applications available on the UGE website. You must complete and be approved for both processes to study abroad under the auspices of Columbia University.

Barnard and non-Columbia students, since you need a Columbia UNI (unique identifier providing access to Columbia's electronic network) to access the website, if you are a non-Columbia student you must wait for instructions from our office to activate your UNI and begin the process. This is generally about 4-6 weeks prior to the start of your program. If you are a Barnard student, you have a Columbia UNI, but may need to activate it.

Please note that you must first apply for sponsorship. Once you have received sponsorship approval, you will receive an email at your Columbia account and can return to the website to complete the remaining steps.

International SOS

All students participating in a Columbia-Led or Columbia-Approved program or fellowship receive emergency coverage through International SOS (ISOS). ISOS provides health, safety, and security advice as well as worldwide assistance in the event of an emergency. Membership in the program will be provided at no charge. ISOS services include:

  • Pre-trip information on travel health issues
  • Medical transportation or care
  • Emergency evacuation
  • Medically supervised repatriation
  • Companion ticket for medical repatriation
  • Online travel security information

No later than four weeks prior to departure, you are required to register your trip under "My Trips" on the Columbia member portal for ISOS.

Medical Forms and Self-Disclosure

It is important that you be candid in self-disclosing any conditions you may have (physical, psychological, etc.) or additional support you may need well in advance of departure to the program representatives. You may find that familiar medication, support networks, and health services may not be available in your host country. Once you share your health information, you will then learn ways in which you can be best supported while overseas.

If you regularly take medication, find out if you can bring an entire supply with you to last the duration of your time abroad or if it is readily available in country. Make sure to know the generic name of the drug. Many countries have restrictions on what types of medication or how much of a particular drug can be brought into the country at a time. For further questions, contact ISOS.

Columbia Global Travel

An essential part of Columbia’s mission is “to support research and teaching on global issues” and “to convey the products of its efforts to the world.” These activities frequently involve travel outside the United States. While traveling internationally can be an enriching experience, it also entails risks. Because of this, careful planning must precede international travel, even for seasoned travelers. Each destination requires a different strategy for responding to small inconveniences and serious emergencies.

The Columbia Global Travel website provides information and tools that can better prepare members of the Columbia community before traveling to distinct locations.

Health Insurance

You are required to have international health insurance while abroad.

Please remember the following:

  • Verify that your health insurance will cover you throughout the duration of your stay and that coverage will work abroad.
  • If you are a Columbia student
    • and you are enrolled in the Columbia student health insurance, please review your coverage while travel.
    • and you waived out of the student health insurance plan in the Fall but would like to enroll in the plan because you are abroad in the spring, please contact the Columbia Health Insurance Office. You will need to complete a petition that has to be completed in person at the Columbia Health Insurance Office. In the case of studying abroad, you will need to show proof that you will be studying abroad. Your UGE adviser can provide you with a letter showcasing proof.
  • If you are a non-Columbia student, you should verify overseas health insurance policy requirements with your home school. You should maintain your own health insurance coverage while abroad.
  • All Columbia University affiliates traveling internationally on Columbia Travel have health insurance for emergent illness and injury while abroad. This insurance is provided at no cost to the traveler via Zurich. No additional steps are required to sign up for this coverage once you have completed the steps of the International Travel Planning Policy. For more information regarding Zurich and ISOS services, please click here.

Health Services

Make sure to meet with your healthcare provider, who is familiar with your health history, prior to departure. In addition, CU on the Road Travel Travel Medicine Program, run by Columbia Health, works with CU students, faculty, and staff to prepare for vacation, work, or academic journeys abroad.

Many other campuses will have someone who specializes in international travel at their health services center. Please check with your home school's global office to determine the resources available to you to help you prepare for your time abroad.

Disability Services

Many institutions, including Columbia, have a Disability Services Office. These offices facilitate equal access for students with disabilities by coordinating accommodations and support services and cultivating a campus culture that is sensitive and responsive to the needs of students. Contact your home school's Disability Services Office and your UGE adviser if you anticipate needing accommodations abroad. In addition, Mobility International USA provides additional information for travelers with disabilities abroad.

CDC Travelers' Health

The CDC Travelers' Health offers information to travelers and their healthcare providers regarding vaccines, medications, and other measures necessary to prevent illness and injury during international travel.

World Health Organization

Country-specific health guidelines for travelers are published yearly by the World Health Organization.

Department of State

The U.S. Department of State provides country information as well as travel warnings and alerts for travelers. Review this information to make an informed decision about international travel.

We encourage you to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which is a free service that allows U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

In the STEP program, you will receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans. You will also help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.