Health, Safety and Security

Hope College is committed to the health, safety and security of all students who participate in our programs.

A safe and successful off-campus experience does not just occur — it requires careful planning and preparation.  


Safety of all our students and faculty is given careful attention. We know that there are risks involved in travel. Therefore it is important to prepare for both the known and unknown circumstances. The goal is to “manage risk” to the greatest extent possible and to communicate this to students in all material given to them. 

During the excitement of travel and the newness of the environment, you can become easily distracted and less aware of your surroundings. The following suggestions offer a guideline to good common sense. The idea is to be aware of where you are and what is going on around you at all times.

  1. Obey the law and respect the customs of the host country.
  2. Dress conservatively and appropriately on all occasions, particularly when you visit places of worship. Short skits and tank tops may be comfortable, but they may also encourage unwanted attention. Remember that in some areas how you dress may send signals you do not intend to convey.
  3. Never leave your baggage unattended! A thief will take advantage of even a few seconds of your inattention.
  4. Protect your valuable documents. Carry these in a safe place at all times.
  5. Don’t forget you are a foreigner in the host country and, as such, should be wary of the opportunities otherwise available to a national. For example, it is unwise for you to get involved in a political demonstration. Be wary of strangers selling merchandise at discount prices, they may be selling stolen goods.
  6. Plan where you are going and use the buddy system. Be aware of your surroundings. You know what feels comfortable and what doesn’t. Do not agree to meet a person whom you do not know in a secluded place. If your instincts tell you a situation is uncomfortable or dangerous, trust them and move along. If you become lost, ask directions if possible from individuals in authority. 
  7. Use banks and authorized money exchanges. Do not exchange on the black market or on the streets. Learn currency prior to your arrival in a country. This will keep you from being a target as you use money.

Preparation is the key!  

  • See your physician for a physical and the necessary immunizations (if any). This must be done at least one month in advance of departure to allow time for immunizations to take effect.
  • Make copies of all important records (immunizations, prescriptions, etc.) and take them with you. Make sure all prescriptions are written in generic as well as brand names.
  • Take a medical kit along with you (band-aids, aspirin, gauze, sterile  cleaners, a small tube of antibiotic cream, Pepto-Bismol, etc.)
  • See your dentist and complete all needed work before departure.
Additional Health Tips
  • If you are suffering from a health condition that is not easily detected or quickly recognizable, you should secure a medic alert emblem to wear. Contact the Medic Alert Foundation or by calling 800-432-5378.
  • For both faculty and students, going abroad is not a magic “geographic cure” for concerns and problems at home. Both physical and emotional health issues will follow up wherever you go. In particular, if you have a concern, medical or emotional, you should address it honestly before making plans to travel.

Hope College believes that the entire campus community is best-served when every student is immunized. The Ottawa County Health Department fully supports the policy of Hope College that requires immunization of all students prior to foreign travel. Being fully immunized is the best way to ensure the health and medical safety of the student during travel, as well as the safety of local residents upon the student’s return. 

Check with the Health Center to see what shots or precautions are recommended for your program. Check early (at least one month in advance) to allow time for vaccinations. In addition, check the Center for Disease Control website specifically for travelers. Contact the Health Center for an individualized travel clinic tailored to your program.

You may also call the International Traveler’s Hotline, developed by the Center for Disease Control, at 877.394.8747 for more detailed information on vaccinations, food and water and diseases of specific areas of the world, etc.


It is a good time to update your health records, eyeglass and contact lens prescriptions, and prescriptions for any medications you routinely take. 

  • Carry your prescription medications in their original containers and carry written prescriptions using generic names to facilitate getting them filled overseas, should this be necessary. 
  • Prescriptions should be accompanied by a letter from your physician. This letter should include a description of the problem, the dosage of prescribed medications to assist medical authorities during an emergency and the generic name of any medicine listed.
Eat, Drinking and Sleeping

An important part of maintaining good health abroad is eating and drinking properly — stay hydrated!  Remember that in addition to the cultural and emotional adjustments, your body will be adjusting to a new climate, new time zone, new food, etc. Eating right, exercising and getting rest will help ease that adjustment.

Food overseas may be quite different from what you are used to at home. It may be “healthier” in some instances (more vegetables and fruits) or “less healthy” in others (more fried foods than you may usually eat), but most often it will be just different from what you are used to. Eat nutritiously, which may mean trying some foods you are not accustomed to. Make sure to take special dietary needs into account and make arrangements in advance.

Despite the change in your environment, you can still keep some of your daily routines from home. Get enough rest, especially the first few days. Get plenty of exercise to keep your mind and body working. This is an essential part of any overseas experience and, more importantly, your emotional wellbeing.

Jet lag can produce conditions such as exhaustion, irritability and difficulty in making decisions. Here are some suggestions for fighting jet lag:

  1. When traveling eastbound, sleep on the plane until your destination’s breakfast time.
  2. When you wake up, eat a high-protein breakfast and try to stay awake and active during the daylight hours.
  3. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages until your body has had time to adjust to the new schedule.
  4. Melatonin is useful in falling asleep for the first three nights when traveling east.
Alcohol and Drugs

The consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited at all Hope College sponsored functions, not matter where they are located. Faculty members accompanying groups of students on off-campus study programs will discuss the guidelines for responsible use of alcohol with the students in their group prior to departing on the program.

Responsible use of alcohol occurs when:

  • A student abides by the laws of the country or state in which they are living.
  • A student does not miss any scheduled event because of the effects of alcohol consumption.
  • A student does not become ill due to the effects of alcohol consumption.
  • A student does not engage in inappropriate behavior toward other individuals that is the result of alcohol consumption.
  • A student does not engage in destructive behavior toward property that is the result of alcohol consumption.
  • A student does not engage in behavior that causes embarrassment to the other members of the group, the faculty member(s), or the in-country host(s) as a result of alcohol consumption.
  • Students in a group do not facilitate or encourage or ignore a fellow student who is abusing alcohol. Providing alcohol to persons under the legal drinking are is illegal and against the Hope College policy.
  • Transporting quantities of alcohol to program sites with the intent of sharing the alcohol with members of the group is considered to be an irresponsible use of alcohol and a violation of the substance abuse policy.

Students are encouraged to use good judgment if consuming alcohol during non-program hours. Students living in accommodations provided by Hope College will be considered the same as residence halls on the Hope College campus. Therefore, they will be under the same alcohol policy.

If a student becomes incapacitated due to alcohol overuse, or if they are in need of medical attention, students are encouraged to contact the faculty member immediately, in order to protect the health and wellbeing of the affected student. Students are encouraged to make the responsible choice to notify faculty or emergency personnel quickly.


All U.S. legal restrictions on use of drugs apply to all Hope College programs.

American visitors abroad are particularly vulnerable when it concerns violations, intentional or unintentional, of local rules and regulations concerning alcohol, and in particular, drugs. The process of law and punishment is far more arbitrary than within the United States and more often than not may lead to prolonged imprisonment under substandard conditions. It is of utmost importance for the welfare of the student to use extreme caution when it concerns these matters.

The use, purchase or sale of illegal drugs (hallucinogens, narcotics, stimulants or depressants) is a critical issue. Any student who uses, buys or sells illegal drugs will be expelled from the program and immediately returned to the United States at his/her own expense. One violation will be cause for removal from the program. Separation from the program will results in loss of academic credit.  The costs of legal advice, fines and return travel must be borne by the violator. Hope College prohibits the unlawful possession, distribution or use of illicit drugs and/or controlled substances on any property owned or rented by the college or any program or activity sponsored by the college in any location.

Anyone violating policy regarding illicit drugs and/or controlled substances will be subject to disciplinary action and they may face additional actions by the courts.

Traveling in high altitudes
“High altitude” generally describes locations 8,000 feet above sea level and higher; however, altitude sickness can impact anyone traveling from one altitude to a notably higher one. Awareness is necessary because at this elevation oxygen levels are lower and can cause difficulties for travelers. Many higher altitude tourist destinations, particularly those for trekking and adventure sports, are remote and may lack access to medical care. For more information, read a Report on Traveling in High Altitudes from the U.S. Department of State.
Travel insurance

All students participating in international off-campus programs are required to purchase travel insurance through the college. For most programs this cost is included in the program fee. Questions regarding travel insurance can be directed to Kevin Kraay, Business Services, 616.395.7810.

Student travel insurance includes:

  • Emergency Medical Assistance*
  • Emergency Travel Assistance
  • Security Assistance
  • Emergency evacuation or repatriation
 Additional benefits
  • Emergency reunion benefit
  • Lost baggage benefit (deductible $25, max benefit $500)
  • Trip cancellation benefit (max benefit $2,500)**
  • Trip interruption benefit (max benefit $1,000)
  • Accidental death and dismemberment benefit

Travel Assistance Program InformationTravel Assistance Summary with ID CardTravel Assistance – Full Policy* Medical emergency is defined as a Condition of injury or sickness that manifest itself of sufficient severity that failure to receive immediate medical attention would place the health of the person in serious jeopardy.

Trip cancellation is defined as reimbursement for non-refundable covered expenses in the event of: injury, sickness or death of a covered person, life-threatening injury or sickness of a family member or because the family member requires the covered persons care, or death of a family member within 30 days of departure.