These guidelines have been developed to provide useful safety information for students studying abroad. Although no set of guidelines can guarantee the health and safety of each individual going on a study abroad program, these guidelines address issues that merit attention and thoughtful judgment.
- Know the basic help phrases in the local language.
- If you go out alone, always tell someone where you are going, and report all travel plans to your resident director.
- If you think someone is making bad decisions about safety issues, share your concerns with the person or with the resident director.
- Do not give your home phone number or address to someone you have just met, and do not make arrangements to meet new acquaintances alone. Meet in a public place.
- Do not hitchhike, and use only reputable taxis. When using public transportation, avoid deserted trains, buses, metros and streets.
- Choose clothing that will not draw attention to you. Avoid camouflage clothing and T-shirts with slogans and/or words that might be offensive to the host culture.
- Do not stand out as a group or individual. Try to blend with your surroundings the best you can.
- Adopt an attitude of watchfulness. If someone seems to be following you, vary your route. Go to a store or a populated place or flag down a taxi.
- Avoid crowds, protest groups or other potentially volatile situations.
- Watch your alcohol consumption. Excessive drinking is neither appropriate nor safe in another culture and in unfamiliar surroundings. If you drink, know your limit.
- If you are sexually active, take proper precautions to avoid HIV, other sexually transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancies.
Especially for women:
- Educate yourself beforehand about gender roles in the country you will be visiting.
- Dress conservatively. Clothing that is acceptable in the United States may be perceived as provocative in another country or disrespectful in a specific context (e.g., visiting a religious site).
Protect your possessions:
- Wear a concealed money belt or neck pouch, and keep your money in two places.
- Do not leave luggage unattended or accept packages from strangers.
- Leave copies of all important documents in more than one place (e.g., at home in the U.S. as well as in your bags or room in-country).
- Leave your passport and other valuables in your room or in a hotel safe. You do not need to carry your passport on a daily basis, unless you are going to cash traveler's checks.
- Have any valuable items (laptop, iPod, camera, etc.) insured.
It is also important to educate yourself about current political and social issues of your host country, as well as the political and economic relationships between your host country and the United States. You will discover that people in other countries are often very knowledgeable about U.S. issues and may approach you to ask questions or discuss opinions.
It is possible that the political situation will be unstable in some countries you may visit during your study abroad experience. It is extremely unwise to become involved in any sort of political demonstration or activity while you are abroad, no matter how strongly you may feel about the issue. While overseas, you may also encounter political demonstrations that are specifically anti-American. Try not to take the criticism of U.S. politics personally. You do not have to agree with the critics, but listening to their point of view may be a great learning experience. Even if you agree with the demonstrators, you must remember that you are in another country and should refrain from any action that may jeopardize your status in your host country.
Above all, know and obey the laws of the host country because no matter what your country of citizenship is, you are subject to the laws of your host country.