Travel Safety & Security

Key Vanderbilt Resources

The safety and security of students, faculty, and staff are of primary concern to Vanderbilt University. This section describes resources offered by Vanderbilt and the Global Education Office (GEO), and also recommends select external resources.

Global Safety and Security Manager

GEO’s Global Safety and Security Manager supports the entire Vanderbilt community in their travel away from campus. The Safety and Security Manager works collaboratively with offices across campus, and can help travelers to make risk assessments, to connect with appropriate health care abroad, and can guide them in using Vanderbilt-issued insurance. Where appropriate, pre-departure training can also be arranged. Contact the Safety and Security Manager at geo@vanderbilt.edu, or at 615-343-3139.

VIRT

The Global Safety and Security Manager heads Vanderbilt Incident Response for Travel (VIRT), a team dedicated to providing round-the-clock safety-related guidance and assistance for members of the Vanderbilt community who are away on VU-related travel. VIRT works to implement cross-campus procedures to ensure an effective and consistent response to any VU travel emergency. VIRT can be reached any time of the day or night at +1 615-322-2745, or on a non-emergency basis at virt@vanderbilt.edu.

Learn more about VIRT

Study Abroad Risk Assessment Committee

The Study Abroad Risk Assessment Committee (SARAC) reviews travel when there is a significant health or safety concern. In order to travel to areas of concern, university members must apply for restricted travel destination exemption through SARAC.

Learn more about SARAC and how to apply

Health and Safety

All international travelers at Vanderbilt should make the following three health- and safety-related preparations before leaving Vanderbilt:

  1. Ensure you have coverage from Vanderbilt’s international health insurance;
  2. Arrange for a travel health consultation with a medical provider;
  3. Register your travel with Vanderbilt’s travel assistance partner. Faculty, staff, and students making flight arrangements through the university’s travel agency are automatically enrolled.

It is also highly recommended that you register with the embassy of your host country. US citizens will register with the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.

Students, including graduate and professional students, who are traveling abroad independently are required to register their travel, a process which includes purchasing Vanderbilt-approved international health insurance and registering travel with the university’s travel assistance partner. (Students studying abroad through the Global Education Office are automatically registered.)

International Health Insurance

The Office of Risk Management, in partnership with the Global Education Office and other offices on campus, has selected a robust, comprehensive, and low-cost international health insurance plan for Vanderbilt community members. This plan is available to any Vanderbilt traveler who goes outside of the United States for education-related purposes, and is required for all students (see policy).

Vanderbilt’s international health insurance plan is more comprehensive than most plans and includes coverage for mandatory evacuation, preexisting conditions, and mental health and substance abuse treatment. Unlike many international insurance plans, it also covers injuries that involve substance use. Very few US health insurance plans offer coverage overseas at this level. For coverage details, refer to the Description of Coverage, while the Member Guide provides an overview of services and how to access them.

This international health plan does not, however, cover any services within the United States, so travelers must maintain their stateside insurance.

Students who study abroad on Global Education Office programs, including Maymester Abroad courses, will be enrolled in Vanderbilt’s insurance for the duration of their abroad programs (i.e., between the posted start and end dates of the program). All other travelers will enroll themselves.

Instructions for self-enrollment

Travel Health Consultation

All Vanderbilt travelers should seek out a travel health consultation. Students as well as faculty and staff have low-cost options available on campus; see below. Students and faculty are also free to use their own clinicians.

Travel consultation appointments should be made at least 4-6 weeks in advance of the departure date, in order to allow any vaccinations time to take effect. Some vaccines may require a series of shots, so it is important to allow enough time for series completion.

We also recommend reading the Centers for Disease Control’s information and guidelines for the country you plan to study or visit. Search for a destination at the CDC website.

Students

The Vanderbilt Student Health Center provides students with Travel Consultation appointments to ensure that students understand health risks of their travel destination, as well as providing a physical and helping students to construct a care plan for managing health away from home. This appointment is a particularly good opportunity to discuss medication plans, including questions such as whether needed medications are available overseas, whether they can be carried with you, what their equivalents in other countries might be, and so on.

Students should plan to book their appointment at Student Health as soon as possible. Due to the high rate of study abroad at Vanderbilt, there is a rush on appointments toward the middle and latter part of each semester.

Staff and Faculty

Vanderbilt Occupational Health Clinic provides pre-travel consultations for faculty and staff. These visits help travelers prepare a customized health care plan, providing destination-specific vaccinations and prescription medications, a medical travel kit, and health and safety advice. Vanderbilt Occupational Health Clinic services are offered without cost to Vanderbilt faculty and staff traveling on Vanderbilt business. For those not traveling on Vanderbilt business, equivalent services are available through the Vanderbilt Travel Clinic.

Travel Assistance

Vanderbilt Incident Response for Travel (VIRT) is a 24/7 service that aids Vanderbilt community members who need health and safety assistance overseas. We have enlisted a global assistance partner to help us track our travelers, and to provide them with medical and security updates. This partner, International SOS, offers excellent safety information both on its Vanderbilt web portal and via email updates to registered travelers.

Faculty and staff who book travel with the University’s travel agency (as required by university policy) are automatically registered. Students who study abroad through the Global Education Office are also automatically registered. All other travelers must enroll themselves.

Enrolling yourself with International SOS (VU’s travel assistance partner)

Vanderbilt’s travel assistance partner can also help travelers with medical, personal, security, legal, or travel problems. Examples might include dealing with a lost passport, a critical missed airline connection, medical help, or other issues. Nevertheless, a traveler’s first call should be to VIRT, as ISOS provides these services on a fee-for-service basis (it is not a health or travel insurer). While Vanderbilt will likely cover the up-front charges in non-emergency circumstances, you may be billed for these services after the fact.

Study Abroad

Vanderbilt takes care to minimize the risks students face abroad and provide support through several measures:

  • Selecting responsible partners and organizations to provide educational opportunities abroad;
  • Providing program-specific training to help students identify and mitigate potential risks;
  • Providing access to on-site support staff and organizations trained to handle emergencies of all types;
  • Training on-campus personnel to respond to crises and provide support where possible;
  • Training students in preventive as well as remedial strategies to avoid trouble abroad;
  • Monitoring the safety and security of our programs abroad on a 24/7 basis;
  • Providing 24/7 support to students in crisis abroad through Vanderbilt Incident Response for Travel (VIRT). Students (and faculty leaders) can call +1 615.322.2745 to be connected with a team dedicated to providing safety-related guidance and assistance.
  • Ensuring access to the highest local standard of medical and security services abroad;
  • Via the Study Abroad Risk Assessment Committee, assessing risk mitigation plans and ensuring that travelers understand and are prepared for travel to locations of particular concern. SARAC forecloses travel if mitigation measures are insufficient.

We also recommend that students take their safety into their own hands. Students should take time to know the local laws and learn about behavioral norms and expectations. By attending their pre-departure orientation and reading the materials provided by Vanderbilt and its partners, students will get a view into what life looks like at the study abroad destination, including tips for staying safe.

Online Resources

There are many online resources of use to the international traveler. We have selected some of the most helpful:

US State Department Resources

Other Governmental Resources

Preparing for Safe and Healthy Travel Abroad

Securing Travel Visas

Companies that can assist you with visa information and applications include CIBTvisas and Travisa.

Photo: Manase, Savai’i, Samoa. Courtesy of Connie Tsai.