Health and safety

Your health and safety while studying abroad are a top priority at Northwestern. The college’s Risk Assessment Team is an active, ongoing committee of NWC faculty and staff who approve all off-campus activities and program locations. The Risk Assessment Team gives serious consideration to all State Department travel warnings and alerts, maintains communication with the Global Education Center (GEC), and regularly monitors U.S. Embassy/Consulate sites in each country for immediate country-specific information regarding safety and security issues. In the event of a crisis in your host country, the team is available to assess risk, communicate with the GEC program staff, organize logistics, and provide leadership in making program decisions and returning you safely to campus.

In order to participate in a study abroad program, you’ll need a passport valid for the duration of your program and time overseas. Obtaining a passport is your responsibility. Visit or for passport information and forms. The Global Education Center will assist you in obtaining a visa when necessary.

If you don’t already have a passport:
Apply now! Passports generally take 6 weeks from the date of application to receive, but they can take longer. Apply as early as possible to ensure that you have your passport in time for your program. Also, if a visa is required for entry into your destination country, you will need to have your passport in order to start the visa process.

If you have a passport but it is expired or will expire while you are overseas:
Renew now! You will need to renew your passport so it is valid for your complete time abroad. Some countries even require that your passport be valid for up to 6 months after your exit from the country. Renewing your passport can also take several weeks, so start the process as early as possible to ensure you have your passport in time for your program.

If you aren’t a U.S. citizen:
Your entry requirements may be different. You will need to find out the entry requirements that pertain to you. Check with your home country’s state department or other government agency to find out the entry requirements for the country you wish to visit, and keep your faculty leader and the Global Education Center staff informed.

In order to participate in a study abroad program, you are required to purchase international insurance that provides basic health as well as medical evacuation and repatriation benefits. Northwestern’s Global Education Center has partnered with Insurance Services of America and iNext and will enroll you in the appropriate insurance plan upon your acceptance into the program.

Note that this insurance is secondary to your main insurance, and that in many instances, you need to be ready to pay upfront if you need to see a doctor or are admitted to a hospital. Claims need to be filed within 60 days after the end of the program. It’s important that you keep and provide copies of all receipts, prescriptions and necessary documentation when you file a claim. You’ll receive a Schedule of Benefits and complete policy details—as well as an insurance card—prior to your departure. In addition, we strongly recommend that you maintain your U.S.-based health insurance for the entire duration of your program.

Additionally, the GEC can issue you an International Student Identity Card (ISIC). The ISIC provides numerous discounts at various locations at home and abroad and includes supplemental insurance coverage. If you’re participating in a Northwestern partner program, you should consult with the respective study abroad office regarding their insurance and health and safety requirements.

Program directors of Northwestern short-term and semester study abroad programs are provided with international cell phones so they are accessible in case of an emergency and so they have a means of communication at all times. In addition, faculty leaders maintain contact with NWC during the program on at least a weekly basis.

Northwestern’s semester programs include in the program fee the cost for a student cell phone. If you’re studying abroad for a semester, you’ll receive a prepaid cell phone at the start of the semester. Some short-term summer program directors may also choose to build the cost of a student cell phone into the program fee. Should you choose to purchase or rent a cell phone, please check with your program leader about his or her cell phone policy first before ordering a phone of your own.