Giving you the tools to stay safe while abroad is something we strive for. Ultimately, you must take responsibility for your own safety. The single most important factor that affects your personal risk is your own behavior. Below are common guidelines we urge all students to follow:
Make two copies of your passport - leave one at home and pack the other in your carry-on luggage. Keep your passport and other travel documents on you at all times while traveling. Report a lost or stolen passport to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate immediately.
Don't carry large amounts of cash. We suggest investing in a money belt or neck wallet and keep it concealed under your clothing. Always be cautious in crowds, on the subway, in the marketplace, at festivals, or when surrounded by groups of people. Coat pockets, purses, backpacks, and hip pockets are particularly susceptible to theft.
Americans tend to stick out, try not to draw additional attention to yourself. Try to blend in with locals. Avoid flashing large amounts of money when paying for items. Consider changing the way you dress. You may want to leave your college sweatshirts and baseball caps at home. In many countries, Americans are stereotyped as being loud. Try to talk quietly on public transportation and in eating or drinking venues. Be especially conscious of your volume when in a large group.
Check the safety and reliability of public transportation. Get to know the local neighborhoods. Know where you can go safely and at what times. How does this change if you're alone? If you are in a group? If you are in a group that includes men? Even when you see others walking alone, realize that it may not be safe for you to do so as a foreigner. Before stepping into a cab, make sure you know which taxi services are legitimate and trustworthy. If you are traveling in a new city, carry the business card of your hostel/hotel with you in case you need their address or phone number.
The drinking age is often lower in other countries than in the US. This is not an excuse to drink excessively. Not only does intoxication make you look like an "ugly American," but it impairs your judgment and makes you a target for theft, or worse. If you choose to drink alcohol while abroad, drink in a culturally appropriate and responsible way. Politely decline food or drinks from strangers. Never leave your drink unattended. If you must, order a fresh one instead of drinking from a glass that has been out of your possession.
One of the best aspects of studying abroad is meeting new people from all over the world. We want you to make new friends, but be cautious. Exercise good judgment when establishing new relationships with strangers. Don't give out your address or phone number to just anyone. Don't let strangers watch over your possessions for you. Never leave a friend behind at a bar or party, or let someone leave by his/herself. Practice the buddy system to make sure everyone gets home safely.
A note to women: Be aware that many countries have the misconception that American women are indiscriminately sexually active. Be cautious of the image you project and do not allow your self-confidence to lead you into dangerous situations. Behavioral and cultural cues are different in other countries. Innocent flirting or spending time alone with a man could provoke unwanted sexual advances. Learn about gender roles in your host country by asking questions and taking your cues from local women.
Theft is a crime of opportunity that can happen when you are traveling, or even when you are in your home city. Theft often happens toward the end of a study abroad experience when students are most comfortable in their new environment. Remember to stay vigilant.
You may have to adjust to cars driving on the opposite side of the road, motorcycles driving on sidewalks, or other traffic-related safety issues. Follow local laws and customs in order to be a smart and safe pedestrian.
Hitchhiking is practiced by some Americans and Europeans, though forbidden by law in several countries and considered to be dangerous. Never hitchhike.
Have phone numbers of program contacts handy at all times. Know how to reach a doctor, a hospital or clinic, and the police in the country in which you are traveling. Have sufficient funds or a credit card on hand for emergencies. Always carry enough local currency to take a taxi home or make an emergency phone call. If you use a pay-as-you-go phone, make sure you have credit on your phone at all times.