Studying abroad is becoming a very popular choice among students of all ages. There are a growing number of programs that let students take courses for usually between a semester to a year at a foreign university. Some programs even offer a “semester at sea” where classes are taught on a ship that takes students across the world to visit several points of interest. Whether you’re in high school or working towards your doctorate degree, safety is one of the most important things to keep in mind during your travels abroad. Here are some quick tips to help you avoid trouble while you travel.
1) Study the Language and Culture
This does not mean you must learn everything about the people living where you plan to visit. But putting in a little effort to get to know about your destination before you arrive can really pay off in the long-run. Aside from making your experience more educational and enriching, understanding a few phrases of the local language and some of the cultural norms can help you fit in and be less likely to be targeted by people who prey on tourists. It can also help you avoid unintentionally offending people. Some of the behaviors and manners that are expected of you where you come from might be taboo or even downright rude in some corners of the globe, and you may be putting yourself into a bad situation without realizing it. Learn about the etiquette that is expected by the countries that are hosting you.
2) Be Careful About Who You Trust
While many of the people you will encounter on your journeys will be happy to help you find where you are going and share their knowledge with you, some will use this situation to take advantage of you. Use common sense (while maintaining decorum) when deciding to accept favors from people. Also, try to avoid giving out too much personal information such as where you are staying with people you haven’t gotten to know better.
3) Be Confident and Look Assertive
Studies repeatedly find that body language is a strong determining factor in criminals’ decision of who they go after. A sturdy posture, level shoulders, and confident demeanor can go a long way toward making you an unattractive target for someone who is looking to prey on tourists and other easy victims. Even if you don’t have a clue about what’s going on around you, don’t broadcast that fact to everyone who walks past you.
4) Make Sure You Have All of the Required Documents and Identification
This point cannot be stressed enough. Careful planning can make your trip go much more smoothly and prevent unnecessary disruptions to your travel plans. Different countries have different requirements you must fulfill before you can travel freely within their borders. This can include approval from the proper authorities, vaccinations, or what can legally be transported across borders. Many of these measures are taken to ensure that visitors have a safe experience.
5) Study Some of the Laws in the Country You are Visiting
While many of the requirements and laws are in place to ensure a safe experience, this is not the only reason they matter. Many students fail to realize that the laws surrounding detention and what is punishable to what degree can vary widely from country to country. Some offenses in your home country which are considered to be relatively minor may be taken quite seriously elsewhere, and the conditions for a foreigner who has been arrested may not be what you would expect at home. The best way to avoid legal troubles that you don’t want is to learn about the laws and regulations in advance and respect them while you are there.
These are just a few tips to help you keep your traveling experience a safe one, and there are tons of additional resources available to help you. The most important thing to remember is to have fun, keep notes of your experiences (maybe even write an essay on the subject), use common sense, and don’t let your desire to stay out of trouble prevent you from getting as much as you can out of your time while studying abroad.