Studies show that safety is a top concern for students looking to spend a semester abroad. While research suggests that these programs have many benefits, it’s also important for students to feel safe while away from home. Here are our top 5 tips for securing your safety while studying in an unfamiliar country.
1. First things first: sign up for the U.S. Department of State’s free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Providing STEP with your travel and contact information makes it easier for U.S. embassies and consulates to contact you during an emergency abroad. You’ll also automatically receive relevant travel warnings and news updates.
2. Don’t assume everyone will speak English abroad. Research your destination and learn the basics of the local language so you can communicate with those around you if you need help.
3. To prevent pickpocketing, invest in a money belt or waist pouch for your valuables. It might look dorky, but it’s better than having your ID and cash stolen. A lot of these are even protected against scanners—little devices that can steal your credit card information just by walking next to you. This is a common method for theft overseas. If you have to carry a backpack, wear it in front of you when riding public transportation and walking around.
4. Use the buddy system and try to stick with a friend wherever you go. Whether you need a helping hand with deciphering directions, a phone to use when your battery dies, or someone to take a picture of you next to a weird statue for Instagram, it’s more helpful—and more fun—to explore abroad with other people. If you’re set on exploring by yourself, hover close enough to other tourist groups to ward off potential attackers.
5. Never get into an unlicensed or unmarked vehicle. Only take cabs registered with your host city, and download SafeRide to let your family and friends know when you’ve arrived safely at your destination or immediately alert them if you don’t.