American safety expert Carrie Pasquarello authored an excellent book, Study Abroad Safety: A Parent’s Guide to Sending your Child Abroad, which gives parents instructions for optimal safety, and this article is designed to provide expert advice for students to prepare for their foreign exchange program. Studying abroad can be a wonderful and exciting experience, but it’s also important to take steps to ensure your safety. Here are ten safety tips for students studying abroad:
- Research the area you’ll be living in especially when studying abroad: Learn about the local culture and customs, and be aware of any potential safety hazards.
- While studying abroad it’s important to stay in contact with your family and friends: Let them know your plans and how to contact you in case of an emergency. Discuss a regular communication plan, so that in the event that you miss a check-in, your family can make an urgent inquiry.
- Whilst your study abroad coordinator will have a copy, it’s essential to keep a copy of your passport and important documents: Make a copy of your passport, ID, and other important documents and keep them in a secure place where you reside. In the event that your documents go missing or are stolen, you’ll be able to source new ones easier without depending on your school coordinator.
- Be aware of your surroundings: Know before venturing into a new area by using the WanderSafe free smartphone application. It has tips from other users and our AI, JENI alerts you of location-based safety matters. Stay alert and aware of your surroundings, especially in unfamiliar areas.
- Don’t carry too much cash: Keep your money in a safe and secure place, and only carry what you need for the day. Be vigilant around ATMs as in foreign countries thieves are known to pickpocket careless users. Ask a friend to accompany you if using an ATM after dark and be your ‘eyes’ when withdrawing cash.
- Learn basic phrases in the local language: Knowing some basic phrases can help you navigate and communicate in case of an emergency.
- To optimize your safety when studying abroad, memorize the police, fire, ambulance, or emergency numbers in your host country. Learn the emergency numbers for your host school’s security office and your study abroad program coordinator, and keep them in your phone and write them down and keep them in your wallet in case your phone gets lost or stolen.
- Ensure your phone is adequately charged when venturing out for long periods of time. Store your phone safety when in crowded areas. Frequently check to ensure that you have adequate signal and avoid ‘black spots’.
- Don’t accept rides or invitations from strangers: It’s important to be cautious and not accept rides or invitations from strangers.
- Follow the advice of your program leaders: Your program leaders have experience living and working in the host country, and they can provide valuable advice on how to stay safe.
- BONUS TIP: Set up the free WanderSafe Beacon smartphone application available in both the Google Play and IOS App Stores, and set up an emergency contact tribe of first responders so that in the event of an emergency you can call for help discreetly, notify parents or roommates QUICKLY (within ten seconds of activation), and be located accurately within 10 meters anywhere in the world provided you have a cellular signal.) Set up the voice shortcut with Google and SIRI with a unique activation phrase and a de-activate phrase. This feature is ideal in the event that someone takes your phone away from you, or your phone is out of reach and you feel threatened. If your phone can hear you, it will open the app from a locked screen and begin to send the SOS SMS Messages to your present contacts using your secret SOS activation phrase.
It’s important to remember that while these tips may help to keep you safe, it’s always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions to stay safe, regardless of where you are. Additionally, it’s always important to get to know the emergency procedures of the host country and University and try to familiarize yourself with the contact information of local authorities.