Health & Safety: Before You Go

BCA takes your health and safety very seriously and we have a number of resources to help you stay healthy and safe abroad. It’s very important that you think carefully about your own needs even as you’re choosing a program.

Research Program Locations

Health and safety concerns vary by location. You should begin by reviewing the CDC travel website and the US State Department travel website for your program locations. These websites provide detailed information about required immunizations, medical resources, travel warnings and tips for staying safe.

Think About Your Health Needs

The first step in staying healthy and safe abroad is to think about your health and safety concerns before you go! Living and studying in an unfamiliar environment can trigger physical and emotional stress and exacerbate current health concerns. We encourage you to ask yourself a few questions to help you identify any areas you might want to discuss with BCA. For example:

  • Do you have any allergies (medication, food, pets, environment, etc…) that might impact your living environment?
  • Have you been treated for a physical health condition, injury or mental health condition in the last five years? How could this impact your time abroad? How could your time abroad impact this condition?
  • Do you have a health condition or disability (physical disability, learning disability, brain injury, hearing or visual loss, for example) that may require accommodations abroad?

Think About Your Identity

Social identities shape how we perceive and interact with the world and how others perceive and interact with us. Consider how social identities might impact (or be impacted by) your study abroad experience. For example:

  • What are the cultural attitudes toward sexual orientation and gender identity in your program location? Are there any laws regarding sexual orientation and gender identity?
  • What is the attitude of local residents toward people from the U.S., people of other nationalities, different ethnicities, religions or sexual orientations?
  • What are your interests in seeking and finding community with people who identify in the same way as you? Are there active communities or organizations in your program location?

Talk to BCA Staff

We encourage you to discuss your health needs and concerns with our office. Providing this information will not impact your acceptance into our programs, but will help us work with you to identify the best programs and outline available resources. You can be in touch with your BCA Program Advisor (applications@bcastudyabroad.org) or Rachel Helwig, the Assistant Director of Health & Safety and Program Services (rhelwig@bcastudyabroad.org) with any questions.

Contact BCA’s International Health Insurance Provider

BCA provides Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) international health insurance and emergency evacuation services to all semester, year and summer students. This coverage is provided as a part of your BCA program fee, so there are no additional costs for this service. CISI can help you schedule doctor’s appointments, work to arrange payment (in advance or through claim reimbursement), coordinate emergency medical services or obtain replacement documents. It is important to note that the coverage is based on your program dates, so if you are traveling before or after your program, the CISI coverage is not available during that time (although you can purchase additional coverage).

Students with on-going health concerns are encouraged to contact CISI to discuss your health needs. CISI can work with you to identify appropriate care in your program location as well as discuss medication concerns.

Pre-Departure Orientation

All students are required to join an online program-specific pre-departure meeting approximately one month before your program begins. During the meeting, you’ll receive important health and safety information about your program location. You’ll also have the opportunity to speak with your Resident Director and begin to outline your own hopes and goals for your term abroad.

Health & Safety: Once You’ve Arrived On-site

After you arrive in your host city, you’ll have additional health and safety resources. All students on BCA programs are registered with the State Department and the US embassy in the program location.

Resident Director

Each of our program sites is led by a Resident Director (RD). The RD is there to greet you upon arrival, assist with course registration, and help you explore the culture through group coursework and field trips. The RD is available 24/7 for emergencies; whether you’re feeling homesick or need medical attention, the Resident Director is there to help! It’s important that you let your RD know if you’re experiencing any health concerns as soon as possible so he or she can work with you to get the care you need.

On-Site Orientation

All students are expected to attend the on-site orientation. During the orientation, your Resident Director will provide you with an introduction to daily life at your program, including dining, public transportation, academic expectations, and surrounding attractions. You’ll also learn important information regarding ways to stay safe and how to contact medical or emergency services.


BCA requires all students to have cell phones with them while studying abroad. Some students choose to bring their unlocked US smartphone and get a local SIM card (with a local phone number); other students purchase inexpensive phones on-site. Your Resident Director will provide more information about this, but it is important to keep your cell phone with you at all times so that you can contact BCA in case of an emergency (or so that BCA can contact you).

Independent Travel

Many of our programs offer the opportunity for you to explore your host country or other locations on your own. This is a great opportunity to dive deeper into the local culture. You will need to register your independent travel with your Resident Director so that we can be in touch with you in case of emergencies. BCA continuously monitors events that may impact student health and safety, both in BCA program locations as well as broader regions of travel. In some cases, specific locations may be deemed too risky for student travel and you will be prohibited from independent travel to these locations.

BCA Study Abroad is monitoring coronavirus across its sites.Read our updates