Thorough preparation and planning are essential for a safe, fulfilling, and meaningful global health learning experience. Regardless of whether you view yourself as an experienced or novice traveler, reviewing travel basics, planning ahead for safety, and anticipating extraordinary events in advance will promote a safer, smoother, and more enjoyable experience. Remember, problems can occur despite the most well-planned travel or to the most well-seasoned traveler.
All students—graduate, undergraduate, and professional—are required to register any travel that is Vanderbilt-sponsored. A full definition of “sponsored travel” can be found in the Student International Travel Policy, but briefly: You need to register your travel if your travel advances your degree, if it is organized by or on behalf of a Vanderbilt group (student organization, athletics, etc.), or if it is funded or paid for by or through Vanderbilt. Registration includes completing the steps below at least two weeks prior to departure.
For more information as well as safety and security protocols for Vanderbilt student travelers, visit Vanderbilt’s Global Education Office (GEO).
In the event of an emergency, immediately contact Vanderbilt’s Incidence Response for Travel at +1 615-322-2745. They will connect you with your program contact and provide support for health and safety issues.
1. Register with International SOS
The Vanderbilt University Travel Registration Program provides university and medical center students, faculty, and staff with emergency medical, security, and travel assistance while abroad, managed and administered by International SOS (ISOS). International SOS is the world’s largest medical and security assistance company. Operating in over 70 countries, ISOS assists Vanderbilt in managing the health and safety risks that could face VU travelers. Prior to embarking on an international trip, all VU travelers should complete the Personal Traveler Locator. Registration is required for students. This ensures coverage and provides the contact information needed by ISOS and Vanderbilt to locate the traveler in the event of an emergency.
- Registration link (click on “My Trips” on the right side) – Vanderbilt ISOS membership number: 11BSGM000066
- Membership Benefits
- In addition to registering your trip, we encourage students to add an ISOS Emergency Record, which allows you to store and access vital health, contact, and vaccination information and important documents and images on a secure, easy-to-use website. The ISOS Emergency Record is accessible in emergencies and can be used to determine the best care for you.
- You must keep the ISOS card on you at all times while abroad.
ISOS offers excellent email alerts, country guides, and safety information in the top left corner of the website (use this link to enter as a VU student).
2. Register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. STEP allows you to enter information about your upcoming trip abroad so that the Department of State can better assist you in an emergency. STEP also allows Americans residing abroad to get routine information from the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Non-US citizens should contact their embassy in the host country.
3. Obtain International Health Insurance
Please refer to the Travel Health Resources page for information on health insurance.
4. Sign and Return Student Liability Release Form
5. Check if the Country has a Travel Warning
All undergraduate and graduate students traveling to a country with a US State Department travel warning must contact GSS, as your trip will need prior approval from the Study Abroad Risk Assessment Committee (SARAC) that includes submitting “Request for Exception to Travel” for review. VIGH can offer guidance in the approval process.
SARAC is responsible for authorizing an education or service abroad opportunity that is sponsored by the University or involves University programs when there are significant health or safety concerns. These concerns include but are not limited to U.S. State Department travel warnings, travel warnings from governmental health organizations, natural disasters, and on-site reports. *Note: students traveling to Lwala, Kenya or Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras have a different ‘fast-track’ process for approval. Please speak with your VIGH contact for more information.
6. Passport and Visa Requirements
Ensure that your passport is valid for at least six (6) months after your proposed return to the US. You may not be allowed to leave the US if your passport will expire within six months of your proposed return date. Visa requirements can be found online and vary in when and where they can be applied for and purchased.
7. Recommended Apps
- ISOS This app from ISOS (see above) provides helpful safety information and can link to your emergency evacuation card.
- Smart Traveler This app is the official State Department app for U.S. travelers. It provides easy access to frequently updated official country information, travel alerts, travel warnings, maps, U.S. embassy locations, and more.
- Communicating: WhatsApp, Viber, Skype, Facebook messenger, & Google chat all provide free text messaging and calls when using Wi-Fi.
8. Useful Websites
- Visit travel.state.gov for security advisories and other travel guidance
- U.S. Department of State Students Abroad website
- Country Specific Information – Information regarding the location of the U.S. embassy and any consular offices, whether you need a visa, crime and security, health and medical conditions, drug penalties, etc.
- U.S. Department of State’s role in a crisis
- ISOS offers excellent email alerts, country guides, and safety information in the top left corner of their website (use this link to enter as a VU student).
- The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) was created to promote security cooperation between American private sector interests worldwide and the U.S. Department of State.