The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Global Adventures

    You are riding in a South African taxi and a man starts to walk in front of it. The taxi driver honks at the man, but he doesn’t move quickly enough and is nearly hit. Naturally, the man is mad, but he takes his anger one step further. He reaches into the taxi with his knife and tries to stab the driver.

    As crazy as this sounds, this is a true story, and senior Alex Galston, who recently returned from studying abroad in South Africa this semester, was one of the people in the taxi.

    But this wasn’t his only run-in with danger while abroad.

    “There was a bar behind my house, and my first month there (my) co-worker got stabbed in the back at the bar,” Galston said. “Then (the bar) was robbed at gunpoint while I was coming home one night.”

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    These types of situations won’t be found in every location abroad. However, to stay safe and healthy while traveling outside of the United States, people need to take extra precautions and do a lot of research, said Jayne Bielecki, a UW-Eau Claire clinical instructor in the nursing program who also traveled to Africa.

    “I would encourage people to take time and study the culture before they go,” Bielecki said. “Americans need to keep in mind that when we go to other countries, it’s not going to be like America, and we can’t expect it to be.”

    Bielecki said the most dangerous countries, health and safety-wise, to visit abroad are ones at war, but also countries that are economically and politically unstable.

    Developing countries, she said, tend to be the most challenging due to the lack of sanitation and maintenance.

    However, no matter what country people plan to visit and no matter how developed it is, health insurance, vaccinations, medications and safety tips need to be extensively planned out before the trip, Bielecki said.

    Study abroad coordinator Colleen Marchwick said the best thing a person can do before going abroad is to get a physical, eye exam and dental check-up to “find out about any kind of potential health issue you have before you go.”

    Marchwick also said making sure people have enough medication to cover their time abroad is extremely important. Bielecki said travelers should even take extra medication with them.

    “Not all countries have the same kinds of medications, so they may not be able to find what they are taking over there,” Bielecki said, adding that people should always take an official signed letter from their doctor with a list of current medications on it. “Sometimes, medications can be mistaken for illegal medications.”

    Making sure that people are covered by their health insurance while abroad is also important, Bielecki said, and if they are not covered abroad, travelers’ health insurance needs to be bought, which costs roughly a couple hundred dollars for a two to three week trip.

    Before people go abroad, they should have some idea of the health care system in that country, Bielecki said, and they should find out what health care facilities are acceptable.

    “Just like here in the U.S., we’ve got a wide range of what might be a good hospital to go to,” she said.

    For people traveling to developing countries, an extra precaution should be to get medical evacuation insurance, Bielecki said, which means that if people are so sick they can’t be treated where they are, they are covered to fly to a country with better medical facilities.

    “For example, when I did Peace Corps in Africa, they would fly us out to Germany,” Bielecki said.

    As far as what to take on the trip, Bielecki suggested items such as bug repellent and sunscreen, adding that people don’t need to take their own food and water since every country has bottled water. However, picking a well-known brand is key.

    “The general rule of thumb for food precautions is to peel it, cook it or boil it,” Bielecki said. “And the other thing is always picking the right restaurant: use the travel guides, ask other travelers where they’ve eaten and how it was and look at the general appearance of the restaurant and wait staff.”

    People should also stay away from frozen products such as ice, Bielecki said.

    “Freezing doesn’t kill the organisms, it just freezes them. If it melts those organisms come back to life,” she said. “If people have ice in a Coca-Cola and it’s untreated water, it can get in their drink and they’ll get sick.”

    This is something sophomore Meghan Mortenson said she thinks may have happened to her in Mexico.

    “Apparently I ingested some water somewhere and it didn’t work well with my system,”

    said Mortenson, who plans to study abroad in Spain next semester.

    But this incident isn’t making her nervous to leave the United States again.

    “I feel pretty safe. I’m not really worried about anything,” Mortenson said.

    Alcohol is another thing that can get people into serious trouble in some locations, Bielecki said, because they tend to be at high risk for crime.

    “When I was in Zanzibar (Africa) . there were some people that stayed out … until four in the morning, and I would say that 50 percent that stayed out that late were mugged,” Bielecki said. “They lost passports, money, tickets, everything . Hopefully they had photocopies of those papers in their hotel rooms so they could get that stuff replaced.”

    Galston said no matter where people are they should use the same type of common sense used in the United States to stay safe.

    “Keeping a good head about you will keep you safe for the most part.”

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