GESI is deeply committed to student health, safety and well-being. Our experience in risk assessment and emergency response has enabled us to maximize safety and security for GESI students. We arrange medical insurance with full coverage abroad and emergency evacuation services, and we actively monitor international events that may affect students. We work in cooperation with a team of risk management and legal professionals to ensure comprehensive measures address potential health and safety issues while providing students with 24/7 in-country support.

Health

As a GESI participant, it is your full responsibility to identify and take all necessary health precautions prior to, during, and following the program. Please start your health preparations early, as some vaccinations must be taken as far as eight weeks or more before departure. Providing detailed medical advice is beyond the expertise of GESI so it is very important to consult the resources below as well as medical professionals such as your doctor or local travel health clinic.

The Office of Global Safety and Security (OGSS) has extremely valuable information for GESI students. Please take advantage of these resources.

Health Considerations

  • Prior to Departure
  • In-Country

Each GESI student is required to meet with a healthcare provider before Pre-Departure Coursework begins. In preparation for their time abroad, students should contact their primary care physician first to see if they are able to provide all necessary vaccinations. If not, consult a travel medical clinic for necessary care and consultation. Also, review information from the Center for Disease Control and the US State Department for the latest health requirements and advice to bring with you to a travel health appointment. The country-specific pre-departure guides are a resource for information on necessary vaccinations, medications, and on-the-ground medical care for each country. You can find Chicago area health resources here and national resources here. Additional health resources can be found below:

Plan in advance to manage pre-existing conditions abroad and/or determine if any of the prescriptions you are currently taking are restricted in your GESI location. For specific inquiries, please email GeoBlue, and indicate that you are planning to go abroad through a Northwestern University program. Please note: Enrolled GESI students will get an email from GeoBlue with more information, including their individual policy number.

Stay in contact with GESI staff. We are not medical professionals trained to assist in specific health concerns, however, we are able to work with our partners on-the-ground, GeoBlue, and you to coordinate a safe, accessible, and well-planned experience. We encourage you to share any pre-existing conditions with us in order to make your GESI experience possible, safe, and well-coordinated, and so we can help you choose the best GESI location to fit your needs. Please note: students managing pre-existing mental health conditions can obtain direct in-person access to mental health providers in Bolivia, India, and Uganda through GeoBlue. GESI has supported students to make a variety of arrangements in other locations; contact GESI staff for more information.

If you are a first-time traveler who will be traveling abroad for the first time, consult closely with the GESI staff about important deadlines and tasks that must be met and completed before traveling abroad.

Proof of immunization may be required at multiple GESI sites. In such cases, you must carry an official record of immunization and present it upon entry into the country. Check the US State Department and the Center for Disease Control websites for the most updated information on what vaccinations are necessary for your host country.

GeoBlue health insurance is required for all students studying abroad on Northwestern University affiliated programs, including GESI. Students must keep their GeoBlue health insurance coverage card on their person for the entire period of time they are studying and traveling abroad, regardless of any other coverage they might have from their parents or their home institution (including Northwestern). All GESI students will automatically be enrolled in GeoBlue Insurance coverage and provided with their GeoBlue card by GESI staff.

There is a lot students can do to pro-actively think and act on their health while abroad. This Staying Healthy Abroad article provides important advice for students to consider.

In the case of illness or injury abroad, GeoBlue has collaborated with our on-the-ground partners to identify private healthcare providers (doctors, clinics, hospitals) within each community. These providers have been chosen for their knowledge of student health issues and safe provision of care with past interns. Should any health issues arise, students should immediately notify their FSD/SEC/Amizade site team, who will ensure that they receive the proper medical attention. A good resource is the Northwestern Office of Global Safety and Security (OGSS), and Mental Health Abroad.

While traveling is exciting, it can also be stressful and sometimes overwhelming. Find more resources on culture shock, along with tips, advice, and further support through the Travel Stress article created by the OGSS.

All GESI students will be provided with emergency contact sheets with all necessary information, which must be kept on their person at all times. GeoBlue coverage reimburses students for the vast majority of care provided abroad (orthodontic care excluded); students can coordinate direct billing through specified clinics, or can file a claim upon return home. Learn more about filing claims and reimbursements here.

Safety

All sites have undergone a vigorous approval process by Northwestern University, GESI, and our on-the-ground partners: Foundation for Sustainable Development, Social Entrepreneur Corps, and Amizade.

In cooperation with Northwestern’s International Programs Risk Assessment Committee and the University’s Study Abroad Office, GESI rigorously monitors international events that might affect students.

Our in-country partners provide a mandatory onsite training program upon arrival, and together we have developed comprehensive measures to address health and safety issues that may arise.

GESI participants live in carefully selected homestays with local families who have typically been hosting our students for years and care about students’ well-being.

Students will receive in-country emergency contact information prior to going abroad; students can then share this contact information with their families.

Communication

GESI encourages students and parents to discuss how, and how often, they will communicate prior to the start of the program. Depending on the site, GESI participants will either receive a cell phone upon arriving in-country or have the option to purchase a low-cost phone or sim card which can be used in their US cell phone. These phones can be called from the US or can be loaded with money to call the US, at the students’ cost. Alums recommend predetermining a time to call home or to receive a call.

Emails are also effective means of communication if students have Internet access; Internet availability varies from site to site. Pre-departure packets will highlight the amount of internet access you can expect abroad.