Study abroad can be an exciting experience. It is also important to remember that you are a guest in the country of your program. You will need to consider what it takes to keep yourself safe while there.
Overall Tip: Be Aware of Your Surroundings
- Take note of out-of-the-ordinary people or events happening around you as you walk or ride to your various daily activities and other destinations.
- Make changes to your route to avoid a dangerous circumstance.
- Don't wear clothing that identifies you as an American such as "I Love NY" T-shirts, college sweatshirts, blue jeans, baseball hats and white athletic shoes.
- Learn what is acceptable to wear by the culture's standards. How formal is the day-to-day dress? Do locals generally wear bright or muted clothing? Do they wear shirts tucked in or hanging out? Is there an accessory that is worn or not worn (i.e., scarves and hats)?
- Don't speak loudly or obnoxiously.
- Speak the native language as much as possible.
- Limit visits to establishments often viewed as American, like McDonald's, Hard Rock Café, KFC, Starbucks, etc.
- Be aware of differences in table manners and actions that would make you stand out in a crowd.
Travel in Groups
- There is safety in numbers. Whenever possible, travel with a group.
- Tell someone where you are going, especially if traveling alone (but really try to stay with a group).
Locate the American Embassies and Consulates
- Know where the American embassies and consulates are.
- Know how to contact them.
- Carry the information with you at all times.
Photocopy Important Documents
- In case your wallet or backpack is lost or stolen, keep a copy of your passport, airplane tickets, health insurance card, driver's license, student ID, etc.
- Store this information in a safe place, preferably not in the same place as the original documents and do not keep them with you.
- You may also want to leave a copy for your parents or emergency contacts back in the States or Canada and e-mail important numbers (like your passport number) to yourself so can access it at any time.
Don't Flash Money
- It's also not a good idea to wear a wallet exposed (think neck pouches).
- Secure your backpack with a lock.
- Do not flaunt large quantities of cash.
Check Maps Before You Go Out
- Looking lost or confused can make you vulnerable.
- Plan where you are going before you leave.
Be Extra Cautious of Your Surroundings At Night
At night, stick to well-lit streets and avoid bus and train stations, subways and empty parks.
Just Say No
- Depending on the country, possession or transportation of drugs is a serious offense resulting in arrest and possible jail time.
- For this very reason, don't leave your baggage unattended under any circumstances.
Avoid Scam Artists
- Beware of strangers approaching you who are overly friendly, offer you bargains, or offer to be your guide.
- If in a confined area and you are being jostled by several people, elbow your way out and protect your valuables.
- Be aware that pickpockets tend to work in groups to try and distract you.
- Stay alert to your surroundings.
Stay Aware of Current Events, At Home and Abroad
- Be aware of current events, political hostility, and international affairs in your host country, as well as the United States.
- Avoid public demonstrations and other civil disturbances.
Special Advice for Women
Don't Wear Provocative Clothing or Flashy Jewelry
- Find out what is considered risqué clothing and avoid wearing it.
- Experiment wearing clothes like the locals and find what fits your style.
Look Confident and Walk with Assertiveness
- Ask your onsite director which neighborhoods are unsafe.
- If you must ask for help, ask an authority figure, a couple or another woman for help.
Research the Attitudes and Perceptions of Women in Your Country
- Many countries have hundreds of years of culture that may affect how men and other women treat you.
- If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, leave immediately.
These safety tips shouldn't deter you from studying abroad. Instead, they should remind you to be wise on your adventure.