While Rice University can never guarantee our students’ complete safety abroad - anymore than we can guarantee their safety here at home - we can make sure that students and families are well informed and know what resources are available. We will continue to provide students with certain safety guidelines as well as protocols to follow if they should run into problems while abroad.
While studying abroad, as in other settings, you can have a major impact on your own safety through the decisions you make before and during the program, and through your day-to-day choices and behaviors.
Before You Go
Research possible destinations before you decide where to study abroad. Learn as much as you can about the political, living, health, crime and general safety conditions. All of these things can affect your safety and well-being, and you should consider them in choosing your destination. In addition to the information provided on their comprehensive travel website, the U.S. Department of State issues regularly updated consular information sheets and travel warnings.
Once you have decided on your program location, no matter how safe your campus and host country community appear to be, acquaint yourself with all safety information from the U.S. Department of State, International SOS, the Rice Study Abroad pre-departure orientation materials, and the information provided to you by your host institution or program. Also, take the time to research the common laws of your host country.
Get Adequate Insurance
Make sure you have enough medical insurance, and that it will specifically cover you while you are abroad. If you will be taking valuable items such as jewelry, laptops, or other electronic devices, you may wish to consider purchasing property insurance for these items.
Talk to Your Family
Discuss your plans and make sure that your family understands where you’ll be going and how to stay in contact with you. Make sure they have your itinerary, copies of relevant travel documents (including your passport), and your program/host university contact information. Develop a plan for regular contact via email or telephone, as well as contact in the case of an emergency, so that you can communicate directly about your safety and well-being.
Register Your Travel
Before you go, register your travel plans with the U.S. State Department Smart Traveler Enrollment Program and International SOS. If there is a family emergency at home or you have any safety needs while abroad, assistance is much easier if you are registered.
Alcohol and Drugs
Drinking to excess places you at risk for accidents and could also result in judgment lapses that may result in you to be victimized by crime. Also, every country has different laws regarding alcohol and drug use, and consumption can carry severe legal consequences.
Note About Illegal Drugs: Avoid all temptation to buy, sell, carry or use any type of drug. Most countries have VERY strict drug laws. Long trials, prison sentences, and even the death penalty can result from drug possession. Do not assume that as a U.S. citizen you will not be subject to your host country’s legal system. You are subject to your host country laws while abroad. If arrested, the American consular officer cannot get you released from jail. For more information see the U.S. Department of State’s warning on drugs abroad.
Sexual Harassment and Assault
Sexual violence can occur abroad just as it can on campus or at home. Students participating in Rice University Study Abroad programs are bound by all Rice policies contained in the Student Handbook, as well as the Sexual Misconduct Policy. While abroad, it is essential that students know who to contact in an emergency, and that they are familiar with the resources on campus should sexual violence occur. Students who experience sexual violence while abroad are advised to first assure that they are safe, and then contact responsible and trusted program staff on-site, International SOS (who will inform the appropriate party at Rice), and/or on-campus resources such as the Counseling Center, the Student Wellbeing Office, or Student Judicial Programs. Students who are studying abroad and experience sexual violence have access to all of the resources at Rice University.
Use Safe Transportation
You will probably be doing a lot more traveling than you would normally do at home. This means, by definition, more public transportation such as trains, busses, metros, taxis and planes. Most provide convenient and inexpensive transportation for you as a student. However, there are a number of safety issues you should keep in mind, especially in urban settings. Do not hitchhike; stick to official, licensed buses and taxi cabs; research transportation options and schedules. Ask your program director if you have questions about which types of local transportation are safe and reliable.
Take Normal Crime Prevention Precautions
Use the same common sense precautions you would take in an unfamiliar location in the U.S. Avoid unsafe areas and poorly lit or deserted streets; travel with a buddy, but avoid going in large groups of Americans; don’t carry a lot of cash; keep your important documents safe and carry a copy of your passport page or any other identification; be aware of your surroundings and keep your wits about you.
Avoid “American” Hangouts
Trying to blend into your host culture is part of the experience of study abroad. It is also a wise precaution to avoid places where Americans are known to congregate, such as particular “tourist” restaurants or entertainment venues.
Know How to Communicate in an Emergency
Carry contact information with you at all times including that of your program director/host country university, host family or university residence, International SOS and the Rice Study Abroad Office. Note the telephone number and address of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Check to see if your host country has a system similar to "911" in the U.S.
Host Country Contacts/Itinerary
On site, make sure that your program staff, host family, or foreign university official who is responsible for your welfare, knows how to contact you in an emergency. Share your schedule and itinerary every time you plan on traveling, even if only overnight.
Stay in Touch with Your Family
Keep your family informed of your travel plans while abroad and maintain regular contact with them.
Your behavior and the choices you make on a daily basis will play a large role in your personal safety. Make good decisions, use common sense, and have a safe and happy time abroad.