If you experience an emergency situation, you have a number of support resources available to you. Prior to departure, you will be issued a GW Emergency Contact card, located in the GW Passport system. You should add these contacts into your phone and print and carry this card on you at all times while overseas. Your program provider or host institution may provide you with additional contact information, which you should add into your phone contacts and write on the back of the contact card. Prior to your arrival in the host country, familiarize yourself with the emergency contact information and resources so that you can quickly respond in an emergency situation.
In the event of an emergency during study abroad, your first contact should be to the person or office who can provide immediate help and solve the situation at hand. In most cases, this will be your contact at your host institution or program. In severe emergencies, this may also be the local emergency responders, equivalent to 911.
After you have received initial assistance, you should call other offices or personnel as appropriate.
Below are guidelines when reporting or responding to an emergency situation. The order in which you complete these steps may vary, depending on the nature of the emergency and your host country.
- Follow Emergency Contact Protocols of the host institution and/or program provider.
- Get immediate emergency assistance - Know the local equivalent of 911 (PDF) and where nearby hospitals and physicians are located. Use discretion when contacting law enforcement or emergency services if you have any concerns regarding the legality of the incident. Heed program advice regarding interactions with emergency service and law enforcement personnel and utilize your embassy contacts to seek legal advice, if appropriate. The emergency protocols of your host institution or program may provide additional information on what to do if you have questions or concerns about interacting with emergency assistance or law enforcement services.
- Notify your host institution or program’s designated emergency contact person – Your primary point of contact for emergencies while abroad should be your in-country host institution or provider’s designated contact. As onsite representatives, these individuals are better able to accompany and support you through any response procedures and provide guidance and assistance in accordance with local customs.
- Contact your international health insurance company - if the emergency is medical in nature. Students enrolled in GW’s GeoBlue Insurance policy should contact GeoBlue collect at +1 (610) 254-8771. Students covered by other policies should be familiar with their 24/7 emergency contact protocol – GW may not be able to communicate directly with your insurer (if you are not covered by GeoBlue) or receive updates on your case from your health insurance provider, so it is important that you know how to reach them if/when needed.
- Notify GW - During regular business hours (Monday - Friday from 9:00am to 5:00pm EST), you can reach the Office for Study Abroad at (202) 994-1649. For emergencies after office hours, please contact the University Police Department at (202) 994-6111. The person who takes your call will collect information from you and immediately notify a GW study abroad or international programs staff member who can assist. In some instances, your host institution or provider may also inform GW of your emergency.
- Notify and update family – GW, your health insurance provider, and your program provider or host institution, may be limited in what information we can share with your family or emergency contacts. In most instances, to ensure that your support network stays updated and informed, please communicate with them directly, as you are able, to provide details of the incident and response.
- Contact the nearest U.S. Embassy/Consulate - Consular personnel at U.S. Embassies abroad are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to provide emergency assistance to U.S. citizens, unless otherwise noted. Contact information for U.S. Embassies and Consulates appears on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website. Also note that the Office of Overseas Citizen Services in the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs may be reached at +1 (202) 501-4444. This Office can put you in touch with the necessary local consular personnel for assistance.
- Notify local law enforcement authorities, if advised – For some types of crime, such as theft, you may be required to report your losses to the local law enforcement authorities in order to obtain replacement items or file claim forms. For other types of crimes, such as assault, it is important to understand local laws and customs to determine the risks and requirements of filing a report or pressing charges. The US Embassy’s local consular personnel may be able to provide assistance in understanding local laws and potential reporting concerns.
When reporting an emergency, be sure you provide detailed, concise information to the responder. Being prepared to provide the following information can allow GW and our partners to assist you more quickly and efficiently in an emergency:
- Your name (if not the student, your name and relationship to student(s) involved)
- Student’s Name (if not the caller)
- Country and program of impacted student(s)
- Return contact information (telephone, email, etc.)
- Date and time of incident
- Description of incident
- Known action taken thus far
- Current location of student
For U.S. Citizens, please check the Lost and Stolen U.S. Passports Abroad section on the U.S. Department of State website for details on how to obtain a replacement passport.
For international students, please contact your local consulate for details on how to obtain a replacement passport. Additional action may be required in order to replace any US visa documentation.
Some incidents can be mitigated before they become emergencies. Please do not wait until a difficult situation overwhelms you before contacting GW and your program provider or host institution. Though you may feel more comfortable talking to a friend or family member first, your study abroad advising team and program administrators have experience in issues related to study abroad that your friends or parents may not. We cannot work with you to find solutions until we are informed of the issue.
From earthquakes to protests, many countries and regions experience large-scale instability from natural disasters and political unrest. Just as each incident will differ based on its scale and local conditions, so too will GW and the host institution or provider’s incident response. The following information is provided for students to gain a basic understanding of the ways an incident response may vary. This list is not exhaustive, but it is a good starting point.
Your primary point of contact while abroad should be your in-country host institution or provider. Though GW continues to monitor changing global situations and maintains regular communication with our partners in-country, we rely on our partners to provide you with the most up-to-date information and instructions for local and regional concerns. If your program is not providing you with the assistance and support you need while abroad, please contact your GW study abroad advisor.
Updates and Alerts
In addition to your program provider’s communications, students should sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (or your country of citizenship’s equivalent, if applicable) and GeoBlue News Alerts. Both messaging services provide information on changes in local safety conditions, such as road closures due to protests. Monitoring these messages can help students be aware of potential delays or disruptions and make alternative, safer choices during their daily activities.
GW may also send out an advisory for ongoing large-scale incidents, which would include basic information about the incident and reminders about how to access resources to learn more or seek assistance.
Some programs, especially for students directly enrolled in host institutions abroad, may expect students to stay up-to-date on local news and monitor institutional messaging in order to make alternative arrangements independently. If you become aware of an emerging situation and have questions or concerns about how to respond or adjust your activities appropriately, please reach out to your host institution’s designated contact for additional assistance and support. If the institutional contact is not providing you with the assistance and support you need while abroad, please contact your GW study abroad advisor.
During incidents in which students’ health or safety is in immediate jeopardy, GW and your host institution or program provider may conduct a welfare check, which will ask you to confirm that you are safe or if you need assistance. It is important to keep your phone charged and with you, monitor your messages, and alert your program and/or emergency contacts of any travel plans. If you do not confirm your status during a welfare check, GW and your program may reach out to your emergency contacts, State Department officials, friends and family, or social media channels, among others, in an attempt to confirm your safety.
Evacuation and Shelter in Place
When local conditions become unsafe for students to continue with their daily activities, you may be asked to evacuate or shelter in place.
In many instances, sheltering in place will be the first step, which allows the local government and host institution to assess the nature and extent of the risk and to check in with participants to confirm their safety and location.
Any decision to evacuate participants from a program site will be based on a variety of credible sources, such as advisories and warnings of the U.S. State Department, other US government sources, news media, local government, law enforcement agencies, GW experts, other universities with specific knowledge, GW’s risk assessment provider, and your host program.
Though it is natural for students to want to depart a location where they have concerns regarding increased instability, evacuation may not always be the safest option. If airports are closed, roadways are damaged, or other hazards are imminent, sheltering in place may be the best option until conditions change. All students should consider keeping an emergency supply of nonperishable food and water and a first aid kit in their accommodations in the event that a shelter in place emergency could occur.
Sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic and dating violence, and stalking can happen to people across gender identities anywhere in the world. Sexual assault is defined by the Title IX Sexual Harassment and Related Conduct Policy as any sexual act directed against another person, without the consent of the victim, including instances where the victim is incapable of giving consent.
In the event you, or someone you care about, experiences sexual assault, harassment, or other gender-based or relationship violence while abroad, it is important to know about procedures, resources and support available to you. These resources and support services are available to a student regardless of where the incident took place, or whether or not an individual chooses to formally report the incident.
For GW students, the Title IX Office’s website offers resources related to sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic and dating violence, and stalking. The Title IX Office provides information on reporting processes and options, GW policies, how to get help, and more.
GW takes allegations of sexual harassment seriously and has systems in place for reporting, investigating, providing services to students, and taking appropriate actions. Regardless of whether you wish to file a formal complaint and pursue formal resolution, supportive measures are available to students studying abroad. Please note, however, that you may also experience differences in local support and reporting laws.
If you have been sexually assaulted while abroad, get yourself to a safe place and consider reaching out to your support network and seeking medical attention.
It is your choice if you want to report the assault to local law enforcement or to your host institution, provider, or GW.
If you do choose to seek local support or report your assault, please be aware that cultural and societal attitudes toward sexual assault and harassment victims may vary greatly in different countries and parts of the world.
Prior to submitting any reports to local law enforcement, work with local support staff and your consulate to understand the repercussions of reporting. Laws in other countries may provide you with more or less decision-making power than you would have in the US.
Whether you decide to report to local authorities or not, you may decide to seek medical assistance. Be aware that some countries may require the attending physician to alert the police if they are informed that the sought medical assistance is due to a sexual assault.