Health & Safety

KEI is committed to facilitating a safe and healthy experience abroad. We closely monitor the current world situation and receive regular updates from U.S. and local authorities. KEI programs include comprehensive medical and travel insurance, mobile phone, onsite support and 24/7 emergency assistance.

Is it safe to study abroad?

Safety is of utmost importance to us. KEI monitors current world events closely, especially news that can affect our program locations. If a situation does become dangerous KEI will act in such a way as to increase safety for our participants, and, if deemed necessary, suspend the program and make arrangements for students to return home. For more specific information about your program location, please read the program pre-departure guide.

Is there anti-American sentiment abroad?

In general, Americans are well liked by the local people on an individual basis. Most of our students find that people in the host country are eager to make friends and share their culture. While locals may demonstrate against U.S. policy and question U.S. politics, these protests and discussions are usually aimed at the U.S. government rather than the people. We believe that political discussions about international policy are a beneficial part of studying abroad, allowing our students to view the USA from an outsider’s perspective and better understand the role of the USA, and themselves, in the global community. Of course, every country, including the USA, has people who express strong anti-American views. Students are advised to avoid such people and refrain from participating in public demonstrations.

How does KEI monitor student safety abroad?

KEI relies on continued information and communication with several reliable sources, including our onsite staff, local authorities, U.S. Embassies, U.S. Department of State, NAFSA, SAFETI, WHO, and CDC. Students are informed of any known dangers by our program advisors and through the KEI literature. KEI also registers students with the U.S. Department of State prior to their departure.

The Onsite Director addresses health and safety issues during the orientation and holds meetings with students throughout the program. If traveling away from the site, students are required to notify the KEI staff about intended travel to leave their contact information.

All students receive a mobile phone from KEI for the duration of the program, which allows students to make calls at their convenience and make it easier for our onsite staff to contact students. Refer to the KEI policies for more information about mobile phones.

What happens if there is an emergency?

KEI developed an emergency response plan to deal with high-risk situations. The emergency response plan is utilized if the U.S. Department of State issues a level 3 or 4 Travel Advisory for the program location, or if KEI determines that the program location is not safe for students.

KEI protocols for program cancellation and student evacuation closely adhere to standards used by the study abroad industry. In most cases, KEI will suspend a program and give students the option to evacuate if the U.S. Department of State issues a level 3 or 4 Travel Advisory for the program location.

KEI Health & Safety Committee

  • Eduard Mandell – President and Managing Director
  • Julie Pollard – Director of Program Operations
  • Ray Bates – Director of Institutional Relations
  • Patrick Mulindi – Onsite Director, Kenya
  • Marina Rozina – Onsite Director, Russia

Emergency Response Plan (outline for public use)

  • The KEI Health and Safety Committee informs the KEI management team and onsite Staff of the upgraded Travel Advisory.
  • The onsite staff immediately contacts all students to ensure that they are accounted for and safe. Onsite staff endeavor to gather students together, give them a copy of the travel warning, discuss the warning, and urge students to call home.
    The onsite staff gathers information on the target of unrest, possible danger to U.S. citizens, impact, and intensity of the emergency.
  • This information is relayed to the Health and Safety Committee.
  • Sources of information include reports from local authorities, news, the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, and possibly other study abroad provider representatives in the country.
  • The Health and Safety Committee determines the best course of action after consulting with the onsite staff, host institution, U.S. Department of State and U.S. Embassy.
  • The Health and Safety Committee is also responsible for overseeing daily communication between the onsite staff, local authorities, U.S. Embassy, participants and emergency contacts.
  • KEI informs all participants, emergency contacts (usually parents) and home institutions via email (and forwards a copy of the travel warning) and/or telephone on the course of action.
  • The KEI’s executive team and the onsite staff work together to implement protocols decided on by the Health and Safety Committee.
  • Protocols include obtaining safe passage out of the country and finding safe shelter and food (if necessary) until evacuation is possible.

Things to Consider

Students should designate their parents or legal guardians as emergency contacts so that information regarding emergencies is automatically distributed to parents/legal guardians. Emergency contact information is requested at the time of application to the program. It is equally important for students to provide accurate and current contact information for themselves and their parents.

What is a Travel Advisory?

The U.S. Department of State issues a Travel Advisories to inform U.S. citizens regarding safety and security. There are four advisory levels.

  • Level 1 – Exercise Normal Precautions: This is the lowest advisory level for safety and security risk. There is some risk in any international travel. Conditions in other countries may differ from those in the United States and may change at any time.
  • Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution: Be aware of heightened risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.
  • Level 3 – Reconsider Travel: Avoid travel due to serious risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.
  • Level 4 – Do Not Travel: This is the highest advisory level due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. During an emergency, the U.S. government may have very limited ability to provide assistance. The Department of State advises that U.S. citizens not travel to the country or leave as soon as it is safe to do so. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.

KEI continually monitors U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories and Public Announcements. Visit the Department of State website,, for more information.

Is there a refund if KEI suspends a program?

KEI’s refund policy is in line with the industry standard. Please refer to KEI policies for information about refunds.

What happens if a student becomes sick or injured abroad?

Students are asked to inform the Onsite Director in the event of illness or injury. Whenever possible, our staff will assist students in obtaining medical care and prescription medication. In the event of serious illness or injury KEI will assist the student and his/her family in making arrangements to return home. KEI programs include medical and travel insurance. Students enrolled in multiple term programs are also covered during scheduled school breaks between consecutive terms.

What medical and travel insurance is provided by KEI?

KEI semester, quarter, academic year and summer programs1 include medical and travel insurance through the Atlas Insurance Policy. Atlas covers medical services, emergency dental, trip interruption, lost luggage, evacuation and reunion and many other services. Coverage is for $50,000 with no deductibles. The policy is administered by HCC Medical Insurance Services (HCCMIS). Programs in France (academic year), Turkey (academic year) and Japan also include the host-country’s national health insurance for visiting students.  Students enrolled in multiple term programs are  covered during scheduled breaks between consecutive terms.

This web page should not be used as a definitive reference of insurance policy coverage. Visit HCC Medical Insurance Services for the most current information. KEI reserves the right to change insurance policies and policy providers to improve coverage. We will inform students of any changes prior to departure.

1 Students participating in the KEI program in Italy who attend the State University of New York (SUNY) will be covered by HTH Insurance (not Atlas insurance). HTH offers comprehensive medical and travel insurance and mandated by SUNY Oneonta, the co-sponsor for the program. Please contact the study abroad office at SUNY Oneonta for more information about HTH insurance.

Students participating in the program in Costa Rica will be enrolled in GeoBlue international health insurance (not Atlas insurance). GeoBlue offers comprehensive medical and travel insurance and mandated by Northern Arizona University (NAU), the co-sponsor and manager of the program. Students will receive additional information (including policy details and coverage) in an email from GeoBlue after being enrolled.

What responsibilities do students have with regard to their own health and safety?

KEI takes great care in assessing risk abroad, preparing information, providing advice and facilitating a safe and healthy international experience. But it is up to individual students to exercise good judgment and act accordingly. Students are expected to follow the laws and rules of the host country and host institution, and conduct themselves as responsible participants.

What can students do to facilitate a safe experience abroad?

Using common sense and following basic rules about safety can greatly enhance the experience and help avoid potential problems. While we do everything we can to provide health and safety information, ultimately it is the student’s responsibility to follow our suggestions and guidelines. Below is a list of safety and health tips that we recommend students should follow.

Be informed & alert
It is always smart – no matter where you are (at home or abroad) – to take note of what is going on around you, including out-of-the-ordinary people and events. Be sensible. Make changes to your daily routines to avoid potentially dangerous situations. Be especially alert at night; stay on well-lit streets, avoid subways, buses, and train stations, do not walk in empty parks or areas, and travel with a friend or in a group!!

Travel wisely
Whenever possible, travel with a friend(s). There is safety in numbers. Make sure to tell someone where you are going, preferably the KEI Onsite Director. Review maps to determine the route you will take before you go out. Looking lost or confused, or fumbling with a map or guidebook can make you vulnerable. Plan where you are going before you leave.

Keep a low profile

  • Learn the customs of the host country, especially norms that dictate fashion, acceptable clothing, and proper behavior (which may be gender specific). Some questions to ask yourself:
  • Do people in this culture dress formally or informally?
  • What is considered appropriate clothing for this culture for a person of my gender and my age?
  • What are the general colors/style of clothing that are appropriate/typical?
  • On what occasions do people in this culture dress differently?

Be aware of differences in manners and actions that would make you stand out unnecessarily as a foreigner. Endeavor to learn some words in the native language as much as possible; most everyone appreciates it when foreigners do so. If you feel anti-American sentiment, avoid wearing clothing that identifies you as an American. This includes t-shirts with U.S. flags, college sweatshirts, baseball caps, etc. Try to stay away from U.S. establishments, including companies and food franchises. In general, keep a low profile.

Be aware of pickpockets & scam artists
Pickpockets tend to work in crowded places as a group. While one person distracts you, the other goes after your valuables. Be alert in public places, tourist locations and public transportation – a favorite with many pickpockets. Beware of strangers who approach you, are overly friendly, very loud, offer bargains, or offer to be your guide. If in a confined area, be assertive and elbow your way out. Protect your valuables by using a money belt and wearing your backpack in front of you rather than on your back.

Use a money belt
We cannot stress this enough. Wallets and purses are easy to steal for professional pickpockets. You will not even know it is gone until you need it. But a money belt worn around the waist underneath your clothes is virtually impossible to pickpocket without alerting you to the action. Most money belts have a pocket for your passport, documents and money. Use a money belt, and avoid unnecessary worries!

Keep important information with you
You should have the following information on your person at all times, preferably kept in your money belt.

  • Onsite Director contact information, including mobile telephone.
  • Address and direction card for the host university and your residence.
  • Address and contact information for the nearest embassy or consulate.
  • Personal identification, preferably not your passport (unless required by the laws of the host country). A student identification card usually works well.
  • KEI Emergency Contact information.
  • Health insurance card and information.

Say NO to drugs
In most countries, possession or transportation of drugs is a very serious offense (just as it is in the U.S.), often resulting in jail (and even execution). Do not, under any circumstances, use illegal drugs! You should also take care that you don’t leave your baggage unattended under any circumstances, lest someone put something in it; don’t allow others to use you as a scapegoat.

Make copies of important documents
Scan and save a copy of your passport, airplane tickets, health insurance card, student ID and other important documents. Make sure to keep the copies in a safe place, preferably not with the original documents. Do not keep them with you. Email a copy to the KEI New York office before your departure and a copy to yourself. If your wallet or backpack is lost or stolen, you will need this information, and you can simply print out a new copy. Remember, having copies of important documents will make their replacement much, much easier.

Keep Up with current events
Be aware of current events in your host and home countries. Political and international events may influence how people view and act towards you. Avoid public demonstrations and other civil disturbances.

Stay in contact
Make sure to check in regularly with your Onsite Director and your family and friends at home. Establish a way to contact your parents in case of an emergency.

Tips for female students
Many countries have very traditional customs and norms that govern how men and women interact. One common assumption is that American women are “easy.” Men in these countries will treat American women in ways that they would not dream of treating “their own” women. While you may not agree with local customs, you should learn to respect and follow the laws and social norms of the host country. In addition, you should…

  • Research the norms governing social behavior in the host country before the program.
  • Ask local women what the line between harassment and regular “machismo” action is, and how they usually handle catcalls or touching.
  • Unless you are particularly looking for an encounter, do not look males directly in the eye in certain countries.
  • Dress in clothes that blend in with the locals.
  • Don’t ask strangers for help. If you need help, ask an authority figure, a woman or a couple.
  • Look confident.
  • Avoid unsafe neighborhoods and places. Trust your gut about what is safe and unsafe.
  • Leave immediately if you find yourself in a dangerous situation.
  • Do not carry mace with you unless you are absolutely certain that it is necessary, and that carrying it is not in violation of the laws of the country in which you are traveling.

Practice safe sex
Although sex is not necessarily planned, safe sex should be. You should always be prepared for any eventuality. Therefore, even if you are not expecting to experience intimacy with anyone while overseas, bring a supply of condoms with you anyway. Keep in mind that American-made condoms are in general safer and more reliable than many of the ones you may purchase abroad. Do not be afraid of being perceived as promiscuous if you carry condoms, and do not expect male partners to always have their own. Most importantly, understand that this is not a joking matter: even one apparently insignificant episode could ruin and shorten the rest of your life – and often someone else’s.

All this said – be aware that in some countries, especially outside of Europe, males and females may be virgins until they get married. Likewise, sex may not be talked about publicly.

What can parents do to facilitate a safe experience abroad?

We encourage parents to take an active role in helping their children prepare for study abroad. Being involved in your child’s program will not only better prepare you in the event of an emergency, it will also alleviate some anxiety for both yourself and your child. Below are some helpful tips to get you started.

Become familiar
Become familiar with the program by reviewing program literature and KEI web site. Most of the literature can be downloaded from the web site or mailed to your home address. Contact our office if you have any questions or concerns. Research the host location. The U.S. Department of State and Centers for Disease Control web sites contain reliable information about each country, and general information about travel and safety.

Stay informed
Keep current on world events, especially as they relate to the program location. Watch the news. Read foreign press releases. Many foreign news organizations have an English web site.

Keep in mind, though, that the American and worldwide press often tend to inflate danger by focusing reports on “things that go wrong” instead of the overall picture. In addition, many foreign newspapers are owned by the government or by a certain political figure, and can be terribly skewed in perspective.

Discuss health & safety
You should discuss the following with your son or daughter.

  • Safety, health, insurance and emergency procedures
  • Behavior issues. Review and understand KEI policies regarding behavior and suspensions. Keep in mind that your child will be living under a different set of cultural norms, laws and social expectations.
  • Independent travel plans and activities
  • Sexual activity and alcohol use while abroad
  • Finances and spending habits

Be prepared
There are several things you can do to be prepared for the expected and unexpected.

  • Make sure you have a valid passport (in case of emergency requiring travel to the site, it will speed your travel abroad).
  • Make a copy of your child’s passport and legal documents. Keep them in a safe place.
  • Have your child’s flight itinerary handy.
  • Make sure you have the following contact information:
  • KEI office phone number and email.
  • Phone number for the U.S. embassy or consulate nearest the host university.
  • Your child’s email address.
  • Local contact information, including your child’s mobile telephone number, other local numbers and mailing address. Make sure your child provides you with this information when he/she arrives at the host location.
  • Make sure you are prepared to do any of the following on your child’s behalf: file taxes, request absentee ballot, renew license, pay bills, register for the following semester at school, register for housing, financial aid, etc.
  • Keep your child enrolled in your insurance policy. Insure any valuables (laptops, video camera, etc.) that your child is taking along, and try to encourage him or her to leave irreplaceable items at home.

Stay connected
Make sure KEI and your child has your contact information, including office and home phone numbers and email. You may also want to provide contact information for a neighbor, close relative, and/or good friend that will be able to reach you in case of emergency. Stay in touch with your child and KEI on a regular basis.

Give your child room to grow
Your child is studying abroad in part to expand horizons, grow as an individual and gain independence. As a parent, it is a natural tendency to want to protect your child, but ultimately, this is your child’s experience.

Before your child leaves, your support and encouragement are essential. You can participate by searching out materials for them to read and initiating discussions on the host country and culture. However, maintaining a certain distance is essential to your child’s growth. While abroad, this may be the first time your child will be on his or her own, and it’s important for them to fully understand this and take responsibility for their actions.

If you decide to visit your child while abroad, we strongly encourage you to go after the end of the term. If you visit while classes are in session, your child’s attention will be divided between visiting with you and their academic obligations. By the end of the term, your child will be more comfortable with the local language and transportation and will have free time to devote to showing you around.

When your child returns home after the program, expect a fair amount of reverse culture shock as he or she tries to internalize all the new experiences with life at home. Negative statements such as “Americans are so fat!” usually subside after a few weeks, giving way to a more permanent and mature understanding of the world’s realities. Again, your support is essential – even when your child says no one can understand what they’ve been through.