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Health and Safety
Studying abroad can take quite a toll on your body with the constant changes to your routine and with the intake of so many foreign foods. To avoid hitting rock bottom in the middle of a weekend getaway or worse, in the middle of class- make sure you take some time to simply relax and enjoy the scenery!
Insurance-We've Got You Covered
Stay informed on what to do when you get sick! Trust us, after all the traveling you'll be doing, it's bound to catch up with you!
Always ask before you eat!
Working On Your Fitness
Thought the Freshman 15 were bad? Wait until the Study Abroad 20!
Avoid Scams, Click Here!
Street smarts for the savvy traveler!
Dietary restrictions and food allergies are a current issue in the United States! Supermarkets everywhere are developing specialty sections to serve the needs of their consumers. While this food revolution may not be taking place all over the world, it is certainly manageable during your time abroad.
Allergies, Always Ask Before you Eat!
No matter where in the world you are, allergies can pose a serious problem in deciding what to eat. The more foreign a cuisine is, the more cautious you should be when ordering a meal. Never assume anything about food based off of its visual apprearance. ALWAYS ask your server if the food you order contains foods you are allergic to.
Some tips to keep in mind:
- Learn the foreign word for the food(s) you are allergic to so you can easily spot it on a menu.
- Learn how to say, "I am allergic to..." or "Does this have any.." in the local language.
- If you are nervous about speaking in the local language, have the phrases listed above written out on an index card stating your allergies. (This is a great thing to carry around in your wallet!)
- Research popular local cuisine before your departure.
- Halal and Kosher Diets
More and more European cities are facing an influx of immigrants, which brings a new diversity to the local food scene. If you have any dietary restrictions that require you to eat kosher or halal, the best places to find these foods are at local markets or neighborhoods with a strong immigrant presence. Check out the "STJ Destinations" section for recommendations on where to look in each city.
Preparing to be a Vegetarian or Vegan Abroad
If everyone in the world was vegetarian, this wouldn't be a problem... but in a foreign country this can be a challenge. As a vegetarian, you are used to being cautious when ordering food. Not only is this task sometimes difficult in the United States, now imagine having to do it in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language! The best way to avoid accidently eating meat or fish is to be prepared. Prior to traveling, learn how to say “I’m a vegetarian” or, “ Is there meat in this?” Knowing just a few phrases will be a huge help when deciding what to eat. In addition, you should also be aware that no matter how much you try to avoid eating meat, based on the experience of other world traveling vegetarians, there is a 99% chance that you will accidently eat meat at least once during your travels.
"Accidentally eating meat was definitely not on my to do list while I was abroad, but as I sat on a bathroom floor in Poland crying for thirty minutes I realized that although I couldn’t take it back, at least I could say it happened in Poland. " - Katie, Rome Semester
Want to find Vegetarian Restaurants around the Globe?
Take a look at Happy Cow!
Global Views of Vegetarians and Vegans
Depending on the country that you are in, various cultures will have different perceptions on what it means to be a vegetarian. Some cultures may not even have a word for "vegetarian" and an explanation is often required. Learning to say, "I don't eat meat" and "I don't eat fish" is extremly useful in these situtations. Cultures where the majority of the cuisine is based around meat can often be frustrating as well as decieving. An example of this can be seen in many Eastern and Central European countries, where meat is a staple part of their diet. If you order something such as spatzel (A soft egg noodle) in Germany, it often comes drenched in beef stock, which isnt always mentioned on the menu. Cultures that are not as familiar with vegetarianism and veganism may not consider meat broths a form of meat, so always double check before digging in!
What are the Vegetarian Staples Abroad?
Okay, so now that you've been warned about how easy it is to eat meat, what are the "safe foods" that you can depend on that are still delicous? We've got you covered!
In Paris, try out the...
Delicious falafel sandwiches at L'As du Fallafel on Rue de Rosiers.
Cheese or sweet crêpes
Fresh baguettes with cheese and fresh veggies
In Rome, sink your teeth into...
Rice balls-- especially the spinach and cheese ones
Veggie pizzas: there are too many toppings to choose from
In Seville, snack on...
Tortilla de patatas, a Spanish omlette with egg and potatoes
Escalivada, a grilled vegetable salad
Churro: the best fried dough you'll ever try (eat with hot chocolate!)
Don't worry! Since you are lucky enough to be participating on a St. John's University Office of Global Studies study abroad program, we really do you have you covered.
All participants on St. John’s study abroad programs have health insurance for the duration of their time studying abroad through Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI). For information on this health plan please visit the Accepted Students page for your particular program.
What does this coverage include?
CISI provides 24/7 assistance. If you are feeling sick, are lost, no matter your situation, whatever your location may be, there is an English speaking representative waiting to help you.
Take advantage of this coverage. Do not wait until you are bed ridden and in severe pain to call a doctor. React the same way you would in the United States! The whole purpose of this coverage is to ensure things go smoothly for the duration of your time abroad, whether you think you have allergies or swine flu.
What about the St. John's staff abroad?
If you are studying abroad in Paris, Rome, or Seville do not hesitate to ask our on-site staff abroad for help. They are you first point-of-contact for any issues you face while abroad!
For all other Study Abroad programs, contact your Program Leader. They are there for you and can assist you with any concerns!
What about visiting the pharmacy?
International pharmacies act differently than the U.S. pharmacies we are used to. For example, in most European pharmacies the pharmacist can actually prescribe medication we would need prescriptions for in the U.S. Pharmacies are excellent resources for the common cold, sore throat, and sniffles.
Keeping up with a workout schedule while in Queens is tough. Keeping up with a workout schedule while living abroad will be even harder. The best way to stay in shape while living “La dolce vita” is to start early and make it a habit you just can’t kick!
Joining a Gym
Depending on where you are studying abroad, the affordability of joining a gym will vary drastically. Gym memberships in Europe tend to be more expensive then gym costs here in New York, especially when you take the exchange rate into consideration. Finding a gym may also be difficult because certain cultures do not put as much emphasis on going to the gym as Americans tend to. The best recommendation we can make is to bring the gym to you! Check out our helpful tips and tricks for maintaining your pre-study abroad physique.
Things to Bring With You From Home
- Elastic Bands
- Work-Out DVDs
- Jump Rope
- Inflatable Swiss Ball
- Deck of Cards
- DIY Workouts
While some of our suggestions may sound silly and absurd, they actually do work!
DIY Hand Weights
Collect empty water bottles and detergent bottles and head outside to collect small rocks that will fit into the mouth of the bottle. Fill the bottles with as many rocks as you can and once space runs out, fill the remaining space with water to increase the weight. Make sure you seal the bottles with tape so you don’t have any accidental spills, and voila! You have yourself some hand weights!
Want to add some intensity to your squats workout? Empty your backpack and fill it with as many of the handmade weights as you can fit. Don’t have enough weights?! Not a problem! Not only are cans of beans high in protein, they are also great for adding weight to your work out! Once the backpack is filled, throw it on your back and you just added intensity to your workout!
Deck of Cards Workout
Break out your deck of cards and assign each suit a different exercise. For example, hearts are sit-ups, spades are pushups, diamonds are squats, clubs are lunges and face cards are jumping rope for a minute. Once every suit is assigned, begin your workout by pulling the first card from the deck until you've gone through all 52 cards.
Run, Forrest Run!
Take Jenny's advice. Running is the best way to keep off the pounds while still shoveling in the irresistible foods you're guaranteed to encounter. Depending on the country you are in, such as France or Italy, locals find it odd to see people running on the sidewalks or in the street. To avoid looking like the foreigner that you are, run in a local park instead. Parks like Villa Borghese and the Luxembourg Gardens are sure to give Central Park a "run" for its money! Pun intended.
Going to school in New York City, you probably think you know everything there is to know about avoiding scams. You also probably know how to spot a tourist from 5 blocks away. With that in mind, it's time to accept that, soon, YOU will be the tourist!
The Most Common Scams
Train stations tend to attract some shady characters, so always stay alert whenever you are in or near one. One of the most important things to remember is that if someone approaches you for a favor or proposes a nice gesture, there is probably something fishy about the situation.
As stated above, there is no such thing as a "favor" from a stranger in a train station. If you are purchasing a ticket at a machine and someone approaches you claiming that they bought too many tickets or have an extra one, do not agree to exchange the ticket for money. In fact, even if they are willing to give it to you free of charge, do not take it! Simple scams like these occur constantly! In addition, if someone approaches you trying to help you buy your train ticket by pressing a ton of buttons on the screen, kindly thank them for their help but let them know that it's not necessary. The English option is there for a reason! If you ever need help purchasing a ticket, always ask a uniformed employee or head to the customer service desk!
“The Ring Trick”
In this situation, someone will walk towards you and bend down to “pick up” a gold ring. He/she will ask you if the ring is yours (or insist that it is) and if you take it, he/she will let you walk away for a few seconds before he/she chases after you and demand some kind of reward for “finding” your lost ring
“The Bracelet Trick”
Similar to the ring trick. In this situation, someone will approach you and offer to make you a bracelet. He/she will then tie strings to your finger and use it to make a campy friendship bracelet. After the person is finished, he/she will demand payment for the bracelet, putting you in an awkward situation because you will be literally tied to him/her by your finger.
As you should already know from our "Train Travel" section, validating your ticket is mandatory! However, if you happen to forget to validate your ticket you will be fined. Recently, there has been a new scam occurring mainly in Eastern Europe where people will dress in similar attire to the train operators and will approach tourists asking for their tickets. These individuals will either claim that you didn't validate your ticket correctly, or if you did actually forget to validate your ticket, they will say that you are being fined and you must pay them a certain amount of money. If you are ever put in this situation, make sure that you're sure they are an actual employee of the train company. You can do this by observing their uniform and looking for their official ID.
NEVER accept a taxi ride from someone that approaches you. You should always head to a taxi stand or hail one from the street. Before you get in the car, make sure that the side of the car displays the designated logo for cabs in that city. Cab drivers that approach you are usually not licensed and will charge you €50 for what is normally a €15 cab ride.
Pick-Pocketing and "Purse-Pocketing"
Gentlemen, hopefully you already know that keeping your wallet in your back pocket is a big no no! Instead, you should be keeping it in either a front pocket or tucked into the inner pocket of your jacket. Ladies, we all know how much we love purses. That being said, now is the perfect excuse for you to go buy more! This time, opt for purchasing cross over bags with a zipper to prevent being a victim of purse-pocketing
Keep Your Camera to Yourself
By looking at any college student's Facebook, it's pretty easy to determine that we love taking pictures of ourselves. So staying smart about who you give your camera to is something you should seriously consider before handing it over. A good rule of thumb to follow is to only ask other tourists to take your picture rather than random locals on the street. In addition, if a random person approaches you asking if you want your picture taken, 50% of the time it will be an honest question, while the other 50% of the time you will find yourself running after the person who just stole your camera.
Bank Card Information
Realizing that your wallet was stolen with all of your bank cards can put a serious damper on your day. However, realizing that the number to your bank was on the back of the card, in your stolen wallet, will only make you feel worse. Make sure that you write down the information on the back of your card and store it in a safe place.
Recovering from a Scam
Make photocopies of EVERYTHING! Your passport, visa, health insurance card, etc. Remember to keep the copies separate from the originals. This will make things easier if you have to replace your passport if it is stolen. As soon as you realize that something has been stolen, begin calling your banks and notify the on-site staff if your passport has been taken.