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Health and Safety

Accident and Sickness Coverage (ASPE)

All CLS participants are strongly encouraged to have primary health coverage. Your regular health coverage will be supplemented by limited emergency and accident medical coverage from the Accident and Sickness Program for Exchanges (ASPE) provided by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. ASPE works primarily on a reimbursement basis. Participants should be prepared to pay up to approximately $500 for medical treatment out of pocket.

Leaving your CLS country during the program is prohibited, and if you do leave, all ASPE benefits cease. In addition, ASPE coverage is only provided during the period of the program. If you plan to do independent travel after finishing the program, you are responsible for purchasing your own medical coverage. Please also note that ASPE is only valid in your host country; it does not cover participants during the PDO in Washington, DC. CLS staff will send you more information about ASPE in the spring.

Your health coverage during the CLS Program does not include a dental plan. We recommend that you visit your dentist before leaving for the CLS Program.

Vaccines and Prescription Medications

It’s important to visit the travel web site of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Here you will find health recommendations and warnings. Before going abroad, consult with your physician about vaccinations. It is important that your immunizations for common diseases are up to date.

If you take prescription medicine, you must make arrangements to bring a complete supply for your entire stay abroad, including a little extra in case you lose some. Here are some tips:

Prescription medicine should be kept in the original packaging labeled with your name and prescription information. Look up the generic name of the medicine if it has one and keep that information with you. Do not repackage prescription or over-the-counter medication to save space. Customs officials may question you about any medication that you are carrying, prescription or over-the-counter. Also note the following:

  • Ask your doctor for a letter that explains that you have a prescription for this medicine.
  • Doctors may be unable to write prescriptions for large supplies of certain medications. If you cannot obtain a sufficient supply of your prescription, contact American Councils immediately, and well before your program begins.
  • It is your responsibility to bring all necessary medications on the CLS Program. American Councils cannot deliver medications to you during the CLS Program and certain medications may not be allowed into your host country by mail. If you leave without a sufficient supply of necessary medication and are unable to obtain it abroad, you may need to return to the United States to obtain the medication, resulting in the termination of your scholarship.

Allergies and Specific Diets

If there are foods you absolutely cannot eat or prefer not to eat, the most important thing to do is explain your specific needs in your medical and housing forms, which you will be required to complete using the Accepted Student Portal once you have accepted your CLS award. This will help the in-country staff prepare for your arrival and match you with a host family. It is also important to let your Resident Director and hosts know about any dietary restrictions when you first arrive. If you are a vegetarian and are offered meat, you can explain to your hosts that for health reasons you do not eat meat.


If you report a severe allergy to CLS staff, you will receive an allergy card that explains your allergy in the target language. You should carry the card with you throughout the program.

If you are allergic to a specific food, such as nuts or dairy, you should explain that eating this food could cause serious illness or a medical emergency. Many people in your host community are likely unfamiliar with certain food allergies, so you will need to clearly state that it is a medical condition and not simply a preference.

Special Diets

You may find that sometimes people are unclear about what exactly it means to be vegetarian, kosher, or to require a low-sodium diet. Although the restrictions may be obvious to you, they may not be to your host, so be prepared to explain any dietary restrictions.

HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections

The decision to engage in sexual activity while abroad entails certain risks, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs). In some countries, the level of public awareness about STIs and their symptoms and transmission may be low, and the real HIV figures may be much higher than what the local government reports.

If you choose to engage in sexual activity abroad, you should plan ahead to review options for contraceptives. You should bring any prescription contraceptives with you from the United States and might consider bringing condoms with you.

Mental Health & Emotional Well-being

Staying mentally and emotionally healthy while you’re abroad is key to having a successful CLS experience. You should note that mental healthcare resources in your host country may differ significantly from mental healthcare resources in the United States. Mental health specialists, and counselors may not be available, and providers who are available may not have adequate English language skills to meet your needs or may approach assessment and treatment for mental healthcare in ways that differ from your current care. If you have a pre-existing condition, you should talk to your healthcare provider and make a plan for wellness during the summer.

The Alumni Support Network can be a great resource for tips about reducing stress, eating healthy, getting exercise, and other activities that may help you stay healthy in your host site. CLS and institute staff will seek to foster a supportive and encouraging environment for you throughout the program, and we are here to help. However, please remember that the CLS staff are not trained medical or mental healthcare providers.