Study Abroad Safety Tips3 min read
Studying in another country is one of the best and coolest ways to travel and learn about other cultures—and maybe the subjects of the classes you’re taking. Not only do you get to use the “it’s for school” excuse, but you also get to explore a new city (your college town is probably so lame by now anyway), try new things, and see the world from a perspective outside of the bubble that is your college campus.
But as you make sure to pack plenty of clothes and maybe a textbook or two, you should also equip yourself with some important safety tips before you leave.
To ensure you have a trip that’s both awesome and safe, here’s what you should know:
- Learn about the culture. It’s important to learn the local norms, customs, and even general laws before you visit any country for the first time. This will help you stay safe, blend in, and even gain respect from the locals and make new friends.
- Know what’s going on. Stay updated on current events in the local area and country in which you’ll be staying. You may need to take extra precaution if there’s political unrest in certain areas, upcoming major events, etc.
- Travel in groups. Always travel with at least one other person when abroad. While you shouldn’t go anywhere alone, tell your friends where you’ll be going if you do, even if it’s just to the café down the street. And above all, don’t go off with strangers.
- Blend in. The best way to fit in with the locals and avoid being targeted by pickpockets is to blend in as much as possible. Don’t wear flashy clothes or jewelry, and dress modestly if the locals do. Keep your camera and other electronics out of sight.
- Be aware. For your safety, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings at all times. If you see anything or anyone out of the ordinary, try taking an alternate route and leaving the area.
- Food and water safety. Before arriving at your destination, find out if the tap water is safe to drink. If not, only drink purified or bottled water. You should also skip the ice and avoid fresh fruits and vegetables, which are often washed in tap water.
- Road safety. Many roads in the developing world can be extremely hazardous. Crashes can be common in some countries due to undeveloped infrastructure or, frequently, no real code of conduct for drivers (don’t assume drivers will stop at stop signs!). Since getting from one place to another can be dangerous, be sure to practice these road safety tips.
- Emergency contacts. Carry a card with a list of emergency contacts with you at all times during your trip. Also, be sure to keep your professors on the trip and contacts at home updated on your whereabouts. Your contacts at home should also have a copy of your passport, visa, and other important documents.
- Visit your doctor before traveling. You should go at least two weeks before your trip and find out if you need to be vaccinated for any common diseases or illnesses. If you take a prescription medication, make sure you bring an extra prescription in case you need more during your stay.
- Purchase travel insurance. Your school very likely requires you to have travel insurance anyway. The best policies will also plug you in to a network of healthcare providers that make it easier to navigate the health system when you’re in another country.
Image from William & Mary.