Your student's health and safety

As part of the lesson of studying abroad is independence we provide detailed information on health and safety to your student and give you some general information below. We suggest that you speak with him or her if you would like more information.

Health and medical insurance

Students are required to have medical insurance to cover any costs that arise while they are abroad. IESP will enroll students in this policy, charge the students for the time that they are abroad, and provide a policy brochure and card.

Health, safety and cultural difference

As part of their preparation to study abroad, students are advised to learn about the host culture and about cultural differences in relation to alcohol and drug use, gender and sexuality, dating, body image, sense of time, food culture and other issues. Students may encounter significant cultural differences in these areas, and we advise students always to be careful to obey the local laws, observe cultural rules, and protect themselves with regard to personal safety as well as personal health. You may read more detailed information on culture shock and on understanding your student's experience abroad.

While on a UW-Madison study abroad program, participants are responsible for obeying all local laws. Law breaking has serious consequences. If IESP hears reports that a participant is breaking local laws, the student will be confronted with the issue and may be asked to leave the program. And if a student is arrested, he or she is subject to the host country's laws, and neither UW-Madison nor the U.S. government can protect U.S. citizens abroad from local legal consequences. As a parent of a student going abroad, you too should learn about the local culture and talk with your student about his or her preparation for personal safety.

Safety and security abroad

IESP is dedicated to maintaining the personal safety and security for each of its study abroad participants. The office is on call at all times in case of any events abroad, remains in close contact with overseas partners, and will work with them in case of an emergency. Please contact us if you are concerned about your student's safety or welfare. Our office phone number is (608) 263-2191. Our after-hours number is (608) 516-1367.

Events in the news, including the U.S. State Department's Worldwide Cautions and Public Announcements for various locations around the world, may have raised some concerns about going overseas. Please be aware that the State Department has been issuing public announcements and travel warnings of various sorts regularly for many years.

While the information is certainly to be taken seriously, it is helpful to realize that these cautions are not necessarily a recent phenomenon, nor have they prevented thousands of U.S. students from studying safely overseas. As you read these alerts, please remember that while various governmental agencies have issued warnings related to locations abroad, alerts also have been issued for locations within the U.S.

Similarly, media coverage of world events can seem alarming, but be sure to inform yourself about the exact nature and location of the events and whether your student is affected.

Some of you may also be concerned that an identifiable group of Americans may be targeted in some way. Our assessment is that students can reasonably expect to avoid danger if they follow safety instructions given to them during orientations in Madison and by local staff while abroad. We are in communication with our overseas partners and instruct them to make assessments and adjustments to enhance safety.

We provide elsewhere a more extensive list of travel and information resources on the web. Here, we list a few resources provided by the U.S. State Department and its Bureau of Consular Affairs (Travel.State.Gov), including:

  • State Department Travel Resources
  • Country-Specific Information Sheets are available for every country of the world and are given to all study abroad participants prior to departure. They include such information as location of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the subject country, unusual immigration practices, health conditions, Travel Alerts, unusual currency and entry regulations, crime and security information, and drug penalties. If an unstable condition exists in a country that is not severe enough to warrant a Travel Warning, a description of the condition(s) may be included under an optional section titled "Safety/Security." Consular Information Sheets do not include advice, but present information in a factual manner to allow informed decisions.
  • Travel Alerts are a means to disseminate information about threats and other relatively short-term and/or transnational conditions posing significant risks to the security of American travelers. They are issued anytime there is a perceived threat and usually have Americans as a particular target group. In the past, Public Announcements have been issued to deal with demonstrations, conferences, and violence by terrorists.
  • Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department decides based on all relevant information, to recommend that Americans avoid travel to a certain country.

UW-Madison policy limitations on the safety and welfare of participants

While IESP provides extensive information for program participants, the office:

  • Cannot guarantee or assure the safety of participants or eliminate all risks from the study abroad environments.
  • Cannot monitor or control all of the daily personal decisions, choices, and activities of individual participants.
  • Cannot assure that U.S. standards of due process apply in overseas legal proceedings or provide or pay for legal representation for participants.
  • Cannot assume responsibility for the actions of persons not employed or otherwise engaged by the program sponsor for events that are not part of the program or that are beyond the control of the sponsor, or for situations that may arise due to the failure of a participant to disclose pertinent information.
  • Cannot assure that home-country cultural values and norms will apply in the host country.


The U.S. government's Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) requires that UW-Madison keep student academic records confidential.
Students have the right to inspect and review most educational records maintained about them by the UW-Madison and, in many cases, decide if a third person can obtain information from them. Students may challenge information in their records that they believe to be inaccurate, misleading, or inappropriate.

The International Engineering staff cannot discuss various aspects of a student's participation unless the student has given us permission in writing. As a rule, we do not ask for written permission.

Additional information on the level of access to student records can be found on the UW-Madison Registrar's Office website. Information sheets are available for parents and students.