Study Abroad Advisory of Student Risk
Participation in a UC Davis Study Abroad program (“the Program”) requires travel to and extended living in a foreign location(s) abroad. UC Davis Study Abroad endeavors to reduce and mitigate risk wherever possible. However, the environments and risks associated with living in these locations are substantially different than those found during a regular course of study at UC Davis. Participation in the Program and assumption of these risks is entirely voluntary and is not required in order for students to graduate or fulfill requirements at UC Davis.
General Travel Risk
Travel to any part of the world, including within the United States, includes risk of natural disaster, terrorism, severe weather, criminal activity, disease, accident and injury. However, travel to/residency in a location abroad, even as part of a study abroad program, may include additional risk of distress, property damage, injury or death that some travelers may not anticipate. While UC Davis Study Abroad will orient students to these situations and mitigate risk where possible, it is impossible to anticipate, warn, or protect against every scenario abroad. Examples of these risks include but are not limited to:
- Third-party air, marine and/or surface travel to and within a location abroad;
- Different or lower standards for construction, maintenance and safety of buildings, public transportation, conveyance, and public spaces than found in the U.S. In particular this may include significantly lower standards for fire or earthquake safety, limited or no access for certain disabilities or body size, different or lower standards for privacy, no alternatives to foot travel;
- Different or lower standards for safe food handling and clean drinking water, and/or heightened risk for illness related to consumption of food and beverage;
- Different standards, practices, training and/or access to medical care than found in the U.S.;
- Different regulations governing hotels/accommodation and unusual living conditions (e.g. shared accommodations, non-traditional restroom facilities, no air conditioning or heating, frequent moves, tents, hostels, limited privacy, etc.);
- Different teaching environments (e.g. public and/or outdoor spaces, rural/wilderness environments, personal homes, offices of business, clinics, art spaces, etc.);
- Use of non-traditional forms of public transportation they may have minimal or no regulation (e.g. mopeds/motorcycles, bicycles, private vehicles-for-hire, boats, horses/mules);
- Different regulations governing environmental health and urban environments which may lead to increased exposure to pollution or communicable diseases;
- Political, economic or social movements that may cause distress or injury;
- Religious observances, beliefs, social norms and gender/sexual/racial discrimination that may cause offense or injury;
- Increased risk of petty theft, crime, and sexual harassment/assault
- Increased risk of exposure to dangerous, poisonous or disease carrying insects or animals;
- Elective and unsupervised activities outside of program hours which may not be covered by medical insurance such as tours, nightlife, independent travel and sports/watersports/”adventure” sports (rafting, climbing, snorkeling, etc.).
Program participants are responsible for determining their own willingness to accept the risks involved with study abroad. Participants are responsible for reviewing risk assessments issued by the U.S. Department of State and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in order to make an informed decision about participation in the program.
Third Party Agreements
In some cases, UC Davis Study Abroad will contract with one or more vendors at the program site to secure accommodation, transportation, host families, passes for cultural events/activities, or other services on behalf of students in advance. This is done as a convenience to Program participants. The legal and regulatory environment within which these vendors operate may be substantially different from the United States, and all services and accommodations are subject to the laws of the country in which they are provided. UC Davis Study Abroad has exercised reasonable efforts to reduce or mitigate the inherent risk to participants, but UC Davis Study Abroad in no way represents, acts as an agent for, and cannot control the acts or omissions of, any the host institution, host family, transportation carrier, tour organizer, or other vendor contracted to provide goods or services for the Program.
Participants are advised that they will not be supervised at all times. While on a Program, participants will have the opportunity to travel independently, participate in elective tours, purchase services, and engage in physical activities (boat tours, snorkeling, hiking, swimming, biking, climbing, etc.). These activities may pose substantially more risk than any formal part of the Program and participants may not be advised of these risks before engaging in elective activities. The availability of these activities does not imply affiliation with formal UC Davis Study Abroad Program, nor that they have been deemed “safe.” During any kind of independent activity, participants will be responsible for their own safety and cannot hold UC Davis Study Abroad liable for any injury or loss of property.
Strikes, Demonstrations, or Civil Unrest
The Global Learning Hub recommends that you exercise extreme caution if choosing to engage in any political demonstrations while abroad. Participation may be tempting, given that you are interested in learning about the political processes taking place in your host country, but these events have the potential to escalate from peaceful gatherings to violent clashes with police and government forces. While the United States offers broad legal protections for speech and political demonstrations, other countries may not offer the same level of protection. Moreover, as a non-citizen, your participation in political demonstrations may also be illegal and can carry severe consequences including deportation or jail. If you know of a scheduled rally or demonstration, consider avoiding the affected area of the city. If a protest erupts nearby, consider leaving the area immediately. Identify safe havens where you can seek assistance if necessary. Watch and read the local, national and international press to stay informed about local events in your host country and international events and perspectives. Be sure to communicate and consult with your program leaders. Please note that if you are actively involved with a riot or insurrection, UC’s insurance policy may not provide coverage.
COVID-19 Vaccination Policy and COVID-19 Risk
According to the University of California COVID-19 vaccination program, as a condition of physical presence at a location or in a UC university program, all students, faculty, and staff must provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or submit a request for exception or deferral. As a UC Davis student (anyone enrolled in a UC Davis Quarter, Summer Abroad, or Summer Internship program), you will be required to adhere to this policy and show proof of vaccination prior to your physical arrival in a program location.
Requiring that all students show proof of COVID-19 vaccination prior to departure means that one of the most critical risk mitigation measures will be in place. However, it is important that you understand that even with precautions in place, as a result of traveling, you may be exposed to COVID-19, may contract the disease, and may transmit the disease to others. You may experience COVID-19 symptoms, and may require isolation, quarantine, and in rare instances hospitalization. We understand not all travelers will be comfortable with this degree of risk tolerance and may need to reconsider travel at this time.
Alcohol and Drugs
The overwhelming majority of accidents and injury that occur on study abroad programs are related to the legal or illegal use of alcohol or drugs, or the decisions made while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Alcohol and drug use impairs judgement and coordination, substantially increases the risk of injury or death for many activities, even when proper safety precautions are in place. It is therefore impossible for UC Davis Study Abroad to mitigate against the heightened risks associated with students' consumption of alcohol and/or drugs abroad.
The legal drinking age may be lower abroad and/or not as heavily enforced as in the U.S. Participants are responsible for their own safety if they choose to consume alcohol abroad, regardless of whether alcohol was obtained legally or illegally, and are strongly discourage from drinking to intoxication, even when legal. UC and UC Davis Study Abroad strictly prohibits the use of illicit drugs, and misuse of legal drugs while on the Program. Drug use and/or alcohol abuse are grounds for immediate dismissal from the Program.
Sexual Harassment and Discrimination
Cultural norms in other countries may be significantly different in the U.S. In particular, some behavior that is offensive or even illegal in the U.S. may be condoned or socially acceptable abroad. Moreover, there may be little or no recourse for students who are exposed to such behavior (legal remedies, support programs, etc.). Students who travel abroad are at an increased risk of harassment or discrimination related to: race, religious beliefs, gender, sexual orientation/expression, language, age, political affiliation, artistic or verbal expression, clothing, etc.
With respect to sexual harassment, many cultures around the world view unwanted comments or advances as acceptable; those who object may even find themselves subject to further harassment. Unfortunately, women travelers may also encounter a greater risk of assault abroad. Because of this, women travelers should exercise increased caution, avoid travelling alone whenever possible, and consult U.S. Department of State resources for women travelers.
Some countries abroad have a strong and accepted intolerance for both sexual expression (of any orientation) and sexual identity (LGBTQIA+ travelers). Travelers who have or express these identities may be subject to harassment or threats; in some locations the risk of assault can be great and/or these identities may be criminalized and subject to local punishment. Travelers are highly encouraged to consult U.S. Department of State resources.
Insect/Wildlife Transmitted Diseases
International travel may expose students to insect/wildlife transmitted diseases found and/or not commonly found in the US. Spending time outdoors elevates the risk of catching insect/wildlife transmitted diseases. Before students travel abroad they should make sure to visit the U.S. Department of State website and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for country-specific travel information regarding their destination and any specific travel advisories recently issued. When appropriate, students should follow recommendations on treating clothing and gear with recommended insect repellents/avoiding areas where wildlife transmitted diseases are prevalent. Upon their return if a student is feeling ill, they should discuss any post-return symptoms with their doctor, including stating travel/exposure from study abroad.
Acknowledgement and Understanding
By participating in in a UC Davis Study Abroad Program, participants voluntarily assume these additional risks—both known and unknown—and give up substantial rights, including the right to sue in some cases. Participants who have questions or concerns about any of these risks are highly encouraged to speak with UC Davis Study Abroad prior to departure.