While we monitor events on a daily basis, we believe that studying abroad continues to be a reasonable choice for students. While we 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.
What Safety Precautions Can Students Take?
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 by 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 situation, living conditions, health conditions, and crime and general safety. All of these things can affect your safety and well-being, and you should consider them in choosing your destination. The US Department of State issues consular information sheets and travel warnings as well as their comprehensive travel site http://www.travel.state.gov
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 State Department, International SOS, Rice International Programs pre-departure orientation materials and the information your host institution should provide you when you arrive on-site. 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 and your program/host university contact information. Develop a plan for regular contact via email or telephone as well as in an emergency so 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 Travel Registration Service 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
No matter what the country’s alcohol laws allow, drinking to excess places you at risk for accidents. It could also result in judgment lapses that would put you at risk to be victimized by crime. Illegal drug use not only places you at similar risks, but can also have 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 US 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 US Department of State’s warning on drugs abroad.
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 US. 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 your program director/host country university, host family or university residence, International SOS and Rice International Programs. Note the telephone number and address of the nearest US embassy or consulate. Check to see if your host country has a similar "911" system.
Host country contacts/Itinerary:
On site, make sure the resident director, 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.
• Tips for Emergencies and Crises
• State Department Suggestions for Students Abroad
• State Department General Safety Issues Guide
• Center for Global Education Emergency Planning Guide
Your behavior and the choices you make will play a large role in your personal safety. “Make good decisions!” and have a safe and happy time abroad.