UWF is committed to developing a wide variety of international study, research and work opportunities for its students. At the same time, we recognize that there are times and places where personal security issues may outweigh the advantages of exposure to international experiences; therefore, we have developed a very considered approach to the safety of our students.
Our approach to safety includes careful monitoring of U.S. Department of State travel warnings and travel alerts. It calls for working with international contacts as well as Programs for Study Abroad, the Associate Vice President of International Programs, the Dean of Students' Office, and ultimately the Provost and President of the University of West Florida.
U.S. Government Advice
The United States Department of State has developed a set of reports designed to inform travelers of potential risks (click here for details).
Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department decides based on all relevant information, to recommend that Americans avoid travel to a certain country. Countries where avoidance of travel is recommended will have Travel Warnings as well as Country Specific Information Sheets and cannot be approved for study.
Travel Warnings are issued to describe long-term, protracted conditions that make a country dangerous or unstable. A Travel Warning is also issued when the U.S. Government's ability to assist American citizens is constrained due to the closure of an embassy or consulate or because of a drawdown of its staff.
Travel Alerts are issued to disseminate information about short-term conditions, generally within a particular country, that pose imminent risks to the security of U.S. citizens. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, coups, anniversaries of terrorist events, election-related demonstrations or violence, and high-profile events such as international conferences or regional sports events are other examples of conditions that might generate a Travel Alert. Students will be alerted of any changes in country condition by the Study Abroad Office.
Country Specific Information is available for every country of the world. They include such information as the location of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the subject country, immigration practices, health conditions, minor political disturbances, currency and entry regulations, crime and security information, and drug penalties. If an unstable condition exists in a country that is not severe enough to warrant a Travel Warning, a description of the condition(s) may be included under an optional section entitled "Areas of Instability." On limited occasions, they also restate in this section any U.S. Embassy advice given to official employees. Country Specific Information Sheets generally do not include advice but present information in a factual manner so the traveler can make his or her own decisions concerning travel to a particular country.
How UWF Uses Government Advice
At a minimum the following always applies: the Study Abroad Office will not send students to any country for which a U.S. Department of State "travel warning" has been issued. This includes study abroad programs led by UWF faculty members. The Study Abroad Office will carefully review any "travel alerts" issued by the U.S. Department of State for specific regions of countries where security issues are a concern. Decisions about sending or withdrawing students from areas with "travel alerts" will be made in the context of current world situations and after consulting with responsible officials of foreign host universities or overseas providers, the U.S. Department of State, UWF administrators, and other experts who are well-informed on issues related to the region in question.
Note: "Travel alerts" generally indicate that a specific threat has been received by the embassy or that the department has concluded that there might be a threat to U.S. citizens because of recent events in that country or the U.S. In most cases these threats are not realized, and most importantly, are not likely to cause difficulties for our students and faculty if they exercise reasonable caution. Such announcements are communicated to students, faculty, and staff who are in the specified country or expected to travel there.
The Study Abroad Office also reserves the right to cancel any program when we believe that the security of our students may be threatened, even if the United States Department of State has not yet issued a travel warning or a travel alert. UWF will not assume any financial responsibility for such withdrawal.
The following information is provided to participants and their parents regarding the range of aspects of participants' international experiences that are beyond UWF's control. UWF:
Agreement, Waiver and Release Form
All UWF students studying abroad are required to sign the Agreement, Waiver and Release Form prior to departure.
Study Abroad Safety Tips
The Study Abroad Office emphasizes safety to all of our students traveling abroad. We try very hard to stay abreast of conditions at our program sites before and after students’ study abroad experience. We try to provide pertinent safety information they need to know as they prepare to travel abroad. Our efforts to keep students informed about safety abroad focus on two major strategies—repeat the information early and often.
Safety issues are addressed in the Study Abroad Orientation before students leave campus. Safety is reiterated each time we meet with students to respond to their specific questions, when the students first arrive on-site at the host institution and in any published materials that we disseminate. Once on-site at their host institution, we strongly recommend that students try not to draw unnecessary attention to themselves as Americans (e.g. constantly wear UWF t-shirts or other university-specific clothes), and always travel with a partner but not in a pack.
Equally important about safety abroad is that students follow all the laws and rules of their host-university and country. The use of alcohol and traffic-related accidents and injuries present the same potential risks as they do in the U.S. Be aware that laws concerning consumption of alcohol and driving may be significantly different abroad, and all students should learn as quickly as possible what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. We discourage students from renting cars or using other people’s transportation. Typically, public transportation, such as trains and buses, in other countries is superior in terms of reliability and safety compared to what is offered in the United States. Although we cannot regulate or prohibit students’ consumption of alcohol, we strongly encourage students to observe and respect the local customs of alcohol use.