Participating in a Study Abroad program can be both a rewarding and exciting opportunity in a student's life. It is a wonderful chance to experience and learn from another culture by being engrossed in the day-to-day activities of the destination. In many cases, it also offers the student a unique opportunity to travel to other countries and cities near the study abroad placement. With all of these exciting opportunities awaiting the student, it is important to observe safety and security concerns while abroad, to ensure a positive experience full of cheerful memories. This guide will help both students and parents prepare for safety in the months ahead.
Prepare for Travel
Being prepared can help ease the transition to studying abroad, and as a result, increase the safety of the student traveling. The study abroad advisor at the student's home college or university will be the number one asset when preparing to embark on the study abroad adventure. Be sure to have all necessary paperwork filled out, as well as all necessary travel documents ready to go well in advance of departure. Make a list of which documents will be important and be sure to check it twice. Leave a copy of these documents with a parent/guardian. Consulting with students that have already completed a period of study abroad is a great way to learn about what to expect and how to pack for the trip. Seeking the advice of students that have studied in the same city will also help the student gain an insiders knowledge on important safety and security tips of the area. Another way to avoid anxiety and panic upon arrival is to have a plan in place for getting from the airport to the lodgings. Having a small amount of the native currency on hand is important to have in case of emergency. Prior to departure, the student should make an appointment with his/her doctor for a check-up. Going to a new country could mean exposure to foreign diseases or illnesses, and students should be up to date on all vaccinations.
Research Your Surroundings
Upon arrival to the study abroad destination, it is important for the student to be aware of his/her surroundings. It is also important to try and blend in with the culture of the host country. Tourists are easy targets for pickpockets and thieves. Students should avoid wearing clothing that identifies them as foreigners. Take fashion and social queues from the local population. Avoid talking too loudly and use the native language as often as possible. Students should also acquaint themselves with the maps of the city. Constantly checking maps can make one appear lost, which in turn makes him/her more vulnerable to danger. Knowing ones way around is a great way to stay safe in a foreign city. Learning several routes back to his/her lodgings will help the student be able to safely get home should any trouble arise on the usual route. It is extremely important for students to be cautious when walking around at night, especially in large cities. Be cautious of people in tight spaces, there may be pickpockets, using the opportunity to jostle and reach into personal belongings. Scam artists who target tourists with false offers of discounts and deals on local attractions should also be avoided. Many of these people work in pairs or groups to better distract tourists.
Safety in Numbers
As with many things, there is safety in numbers. Students should often employ the use of the buddy system. Traveling in groups, especially at night will deter unwanted attention. It is always a good idea to make other people aware of travel plans, especially when traveling to another country. Students should confide in friends and family when making a trip to another destination. E-mailing travel itineraries to a third party helps to keep a record of the student's whereabouts should any problems arise. For local travel around the study abroad city, it is also a good idea to let a roommate or friend in on daily plans. It is also a good idea to register with the embassy of your home country when staying in a foreign location for an extended period of time. Students should be aware of the location of their country's embassy or consulate and how to contact them should a problem arise.
Protect Important Documents/Money
While abroad, a student's passport is one of the most important documents to keep safe. It is important to have photocopies of important documents in case of theft or loss. Students should be sure to have a photocopy of his/her passport, driver's license, student ID, health insurance cards, and any travel tickets. It is a good idea to have multiple copies of government issued ID's stored in a secure place or on file with a designated trusted person. Leave a copy with parents/guardians at home so that they may be faxed or mailed should the spare copies go missing. Keeping money stored in a safe and secure place is another important safety tip. Students should not be flashy with money for it can invite thieves and pickpockets to target them. Never carry wallets in back pockets or easily accessible areas. Girls carrying handbags should make sure the bags have zippers. When carrying backpacks, students should fit them with small locks.
Be Aware of Current Events
It is extremely important for students to be aware of current events both home and abroad while studying in a foreign country. Staying current on the political climate will help ensure safety by keeping the student aware of how his/her home country is being represented. Students should be cautious of the reception his/her nationality receives in the host country. It is wise to avoid situations involving public demonstrations, protestors, and civil unrest. Staying in the know will help students avoid accidentally causing offensive behavior or scenes of an unwelcome nature.