Choosing a Destination

Woman looking at a map

The Office for Study Abroad is committed to offering high quality study abroad opportunities and engages in an active process of reviewing and evaluating offered programs. Though all approved programs are assessed for health and safety standards, there are risks inherent in all travel, and these risks will vary by program and by person. When choosing a destination to study abroad, students should consider various factors beyond academics, such as their personal health and safety needs, risk tolerance levels, expected level of onsite support, and destination-specific differences. These factors all contribute to the quality of a study abroad experience. 

The US Department of State, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and GW’s health insurer GeoBlue all offer country-specific health and safety information that can provide students a starting point to determine if a country is right for them. For more information on how to access these resources, please visit the Travel Advisories & Risk Ratings page on the GW Global website.

Please review the following categories for examples of health and safety considerations to make when selecting a destination:

Pre-Existing Conditions
  • If you have a pre-existing condition that is exacerbated by certain environmental factors, you should research whether these factors may be more prevalent in your prospective destination(s). For instance, if you have asthma, you may want to confirm your destination’s clean air rating.
  • If you take a controlled medication, such as Adderall, Ritalin, or a steroidal inhaler, you will want to confirm that your medication is legal in the destination and in what quantity.
  • If you have a pre-existing physical or mental health condition, you should determine if your destination has qualified, readily available professionals and support services that could assist you, as needed.
Disability Support
  • If you currently receive any disability accommodations, you should work with GW’s Disability Support Services and your program provider to determine whether you can receive comparable accommodations abroad.
  • If you have mobility concerns, understand what mobility support and infrastructure is available in your host country. Not all countries have the same accommodations nor do they necessarily comply with ADA regulations. Most countries have their own rules and regulations.
  • If you require additional support or special accommodations in the classroom, you will want to determine which programs are able to provide such assistance.
Dietary Restrictions

If you have dietary restrictions, you may want to research the availability of food that meets your needs in your prospective host destination and through your prospective programs’ meal plan, if applicable.


Please see the Identity Considerations page for more information.

Risk Tolerance

All destinations have some level of risk, but the types of risks will vary by location. You should review the risk factors outlined by the Department of State, GeoBlue, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to learn more about the types of risks, and responses to them, in your prospective destination.  Some examples of risks could include insect-borne illnesses, food and water safety, higher crime rates, unsafe public transportation, counter-government censorship laws, natural disasters, terrorism, and more.

Political Engagement
  • If you have openly spoken out against your destination’s politics or leadership, you will want to confirm if free speech is allowed and if there are censorship laws that could hold you accountable for such speech or associated action.
  • If you are planning to research or study a sensitive topic, you should determine if your destination allows for academic freedom or if your intended research would increase your risk of detention or deportation.