Health and Safety Abroad

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill considers the health and safety of students studying abroad one of its top priorities. Student safety comes first and we strive to provide a healthy and safe learning environment abroad through the following activties:

  • Collaborate with campus colleagues to develop and maintain emergency and crisis response plans.
  • Monitor world events and inform participants of known and potential risks.
  • Assess the health, safety, and security of programs abroad according to the University’s Policy Concerning Global Study, Travel, and Research.
  • Provide comprehensive pre-departure orientation for all participants.
  • Provide health and safety workshop for all faculty who lead programs abroad, allowing program leaders to proactively plan for and respond to emergencies and crisis abroad.
  • Require mandatory, comprehensive health and accident insurance for the duration of the program abroad.
  • Serve on campus Global Risk Response Team, charged with assessing and responding to emerging travel and work risks and is empowered to disapprove travel to international sites when necessary and/or to remove students, staff and faculty from sites which are no longer safe or tenable.

In addition to these activities, students and their their families have important roles to play in helping to ensure the health, safety an security of students abroad. Each participant in a UNC study abroad program is expected to take an active role by exercising good judgement, remaining aware of their surroundings at all times and monitoring current conditions.

The Study Abroad Office strongly encourages U.S. citizens participating in a study abroad program to sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), a free service that makes it possible for the U.S. Department of State to contact a traveler if necessary, whether because of a family emergency in the United States or because of a crisis in the place the traveler is visiting.

In addition to signing up for the STEP program, you are encouraged to do the following:

  • Visit the UNC Travel Clinic: All students are encouraged to schedule a visit and become a more informed traveler regarding health issues in their host country.
  • Leave a detailed itinerary with family or friends: This will be invaluable in case they need to contact you in case of an emergency.
  • Leave a copy of your passport biographical-data page with your familiy: It is always easier to replace a lost or stolen passport if a copy is easily accessible.
  • Sign your passport, and fill in the emergency information: Make sure you have a signed, valid passport, and a visa, if required, and fill in the emergency information page of your passport.
  • Familiarize yourself with local conditions and laws: While in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws. The U.S. Department of State has useful cultural, legal, safety and other information about the countries you will visit.

All study abroad participants are required to maintain comprehensive health and accident insurance for the duration of their program abroad. The University provides international accident and sickness coverage from GeoBlue.

In addition to providing comprehensive sickness and accident insurance, the GeoBlue policy provides emergency travel medical insurance, including coverage for medical evacuation and repatriation of remains, which generally is not provided by domestic insurance policies. GeoBlue also has identified a network of doctors worldwide who will provide treatment and file claims on your behalf without requiring payment at the time of treatment. Prior to departure for study abroad, GeoBlue assists students in establishing treatment for ongoing medical conditions while abroad (including doctor visits and continuing medications). For a brief summary of the features and benefits of this plan, please see the policy brochure.

After you have been enrolled in GeoBlue insurance and have received your medical insurance ID card from GeoBlue, you should go to the GeoBlue student website. Using the certificate number of the front of the card, sign in to the site to obtain comprehensive information relating to this plan, including a doctor locator, city health profiles and translations of medical terms and phrases. Your family can access this same information by logging in to the GeoBlue parent website. Your family will need your insurance ID card number or your email address to sign in.

While GeoBlue insurance is valid anywhere internationally, it is not valid in the United States. Therefore, you will need to maintain some type of domestic insurance coverage while you are abroad, whether it’s your UNC StudentBlue policy or your parents’ policy. Domestic insurance is necessary not only for your return to the US at the end of your program, but also in case an emergency situation causes you to come home before the end of your program.

Semester “exchange” students will automatically be enrolled in StudentBlue as they would in a typical semester and can take action to waive StudentBlue if they have an equivalent insurance policy.

Semester “non-exchange, study abroad, direct enroll” students are not automatically enrolled in StudentBlue and may need to take action to purchase this to maintain domestic coverage. Please contact Vicki Warwick in Campus Health ( or your Study Abroad Advisor for guidance on enrolling in StudentBlue.