One of the most exciting times in any young person’s life comes at an opportunity to study abroad. Students are able to expand their horizons by immersing themselves in a completely different culture while furthering their education. A young man or young woman who attends school in a foreign culture gains boundless advantages from the life experience and exposure to new people, languages and customs. However, it is important that students who plan to study abroad take precautions to stay safe and avoid potentially dangerous or harmful situations. Here are some important safety tips to remember for students who are studying abroad:
Tips for Avoiding Pickpockets & Scam Artists
Anytime you find yourself in a crowd of people, whether in an airport or bus terminal, a busy street or crowded market, you are vulnerable to theft from those who prey on unwary travelers. Finding yourself stranded in a strange place without your wallet is not a situation you want to find yourself in.
- v Pay attention to your surroundings at all times. Notice where you are and who is close to you. Try to keep a little distance from strangers when walking in a crowd.
- v Secure your valuables! Don’t put all your money in one place, don’t keep your wallet in your back pocket, don’t keep your wallet in a long-handled purse hanging on your side or your back, and never flash cash. Be discreet with your money when making purchases.
- v A really good deal on a designer handbag is probably a scam. Whatever the good deal is you really don’t need to buy it from some guy on the street. Be wary of locals clamoring to be your guide, stay away from anything sold from inside someone’s trench coat.
Reminders for Avoiding Dangerous Situations
The political climate of any foreign country at the time of your visit can really affect your level of safety when traveling about. There are also bad people in any country who look for young, vulnerable victims to exploit.
- v Again, always pay attention to your surroundings.
- v Keep up with current events and know if there is political unrest in your host country or if there is a dispute between that country and your home country. Avoid large demonstrations or political rallies.
- v Make a point of discovering which neighborhoods are considered unsafe. Ask your onsite director to recommend safe places to eat and shop.
- v Learn about potentially offensive behavior before you break some local taboo.
- v Be especially cautious walking at night. Stay in populated, well-lit areas.
- v Study a map before you go anywhere so you don’t get lost.
- v If you have to ask for directions, look for an authority figure like a policeman, or for a couple or a woman.
Health Safety Tips
Hygiene standards are not universal, and neither are vaccinations, food preparation regulations, or general sanitation. You really don’t want to get sick in a foreign country if you can avoid it.
- v Don’t drink the water. Period. And not just in Mexico. Always drink only bottled water wherever you are studying abroad.
- v Make sure you get all required and recommended vaccinations before you travel abroad.
- v Be aware that any time you buy food from a street vendor you are rolling the dice with food poisoning. Proper cooling and cooking procedures are difficult in a street cart and germs are often prevalent. You might taste something truly remarkable and be just fine, or just as easily come down with a nasty case of botulism.
Extra Advice for Female Students Studying Abroad
Young women are exceptionally vulnerable in certain conditions, but as long as you take extra precautionary measures there’s no reason for a girl not to take advantage of the benefits of studying abroad.
v Be aware of women’s dress customs in your host country, and take care not to risk offending anyone with inappropriate clothing.
v Don’t go out alone. Stay with a group of other people at all times.
v Carry mace or pepper-spray. Take a self-defense class before you go. And always pay attention to your surroundings!!!