Many people have found that they need to be more cautious in a foreign country than in their home countries because misunderstandings may easily arise. It is worthwhile to be aware of cross-cultural differences to avoid potentially dangerous situations, particularly given that some subtle clues that would ordinarily alert you to dangerous situations may not be as readable as when you are at home. Below is some practical advice for helping you reduce the risk of finding yourself in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation.
Tips on Staying Safe abroad:
- Educate yourself on the cultural and political environments of the countries you plan to visit.
- Develop strategies for how you might need to modify any of your normal daily activities to accommodate for a new or different environment.
- Be aware of cultural norms that might be different than those in the U.S. However, do not feel that you need to allow for unsafe or uncomfortable invasions of your personal boundaries for the sake of cultural sensitivity.
- Educate yourself about sexual harassment, violence, and gender dynamics abroad in order to make safe choices.
- Carry your emergency card and your ID at all times and know local emergency numbers.
- Learn how to ask for help in the local language.
- Keep important bags and belongings close to you or on your person at all times.
- Be alert in crowded places like train/bus stations and popular tourist destinations.
- Be cautious when driving or riding in a car and understand potential dangerous situations occur when you are near or in moving bodies of water. (Traffic accidents and drowning are the leading causes of death for students abroad.)
- Don’t hitchhike.
- Identify ways to blend in with the local culture to avoid being targeted as a tourist.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Listen to your instincts and learn to trust them.
U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories
Every participant on a GEO program is strongly encouraged to read carefully the Travel Advisories issued by the U.S. Department of State for the country or countries to which they will be traveling. Go to following link to find the travel advisory information for the country of your study abroad program; you will also find other useful information regarding travel documents, country information, traveler’s checklists, etc.
Please contact your GEO advisor if you have any questions or concerns.
For students who are U.S. citizens, you will be registered for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive information from the U.S. Embassy regarding conditions in your country of study during your program. We suggest that you also register yourself and notify the U.S. Embassy of the dates and locations of any personal travel you plan outside of the program to help you make informed decisions about your travel plans. You can sign up for free at https://step.state.gov/step/.