5 Safety Tips Before Study Abroad
Ways to stay safe and aware while studying abroad.
College students are able to channel their wanderlust through study abroad but the recent geo-political realities of the world has created uncertainties for both students and parents. The experience of studying abroad should not be hindered due to the fear of terror. It is difficult to assuage feelings of uncertainty and nervousness especially after the recent attacks in Europe. However, being attentive is always paramount no matter where in the world you may be. Being alert to one’s environment is only one suggestion. The essential goal is to be mindful and stay safe in every situation, while obtaining an education around the globe.
1). Know your surroundings:
This may seem obvious, but before you embark on your travels abroad obtain an exact address and location of where you will be staying. Research the neighborhood online before you get there. Familiarize yourself with the local transportation including bus stops and train locations, police precincts, landmarks, etc. Know before you go. Google Maps is an invaluable tool to virtually navigate the area you will be living in. Besides being geographically familiar with your location, you should always be spatially aware no matter where you are. Always be cognizant of emergency exits in buildings, theaters, and museums.
2). Register with the United States Department of State:
The U.S. State Department has created the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) for travelers to enroll their trip with the closest United States Embassy or Consulate. This program sends continual emails about the specific area that you are studying in. It is an ideal way to keep abreast of the latest updates especially if there are areas that Americans should avoid these include general alerts, or travel warnings. Go to their website: www.travel.state.gov to sign up and find out more. You should also know the location of the American embassy in the country that you are planning to visit.
3). Avoid large crowds:
One of the most exciting experiences about traveling abroad is sightseeing. For many of you it is a dream of a lifetime to visit the monuments, statues, museums, and “tourist traps” you always wanted to see in person. Make sure you are aware of your surroundings when you do go to these areas. Please do not roam around the vicinity of a section, which is unfamiliar to you or the guidebooks. These places may be worthwhile to visit but just know that there is always a risk in going off the beaten path. While this may be an opportunity to explore spots that the local inhabitants frequent, please make sure beforehand that the area you are going to is safe and secure.
Make copies of important documents and keep identification on you at all times. Always keep a copy of your passport with you so that you can keep the original in a safe place. Take the copy with you. You should also carry a copy of your health insurance card, whether it is your personal card or one acquired through your study abroad program. Make a list of important numbers in case of an emergency such as your study abroad office contact information, study abroad director’s information, and telephone numbers of local authorities. It is imperative that you always keep a form of identification with you, even if it is a driver’s license or voting registration card. This will enable emergency personnel to ascertain who you are and where you are originally from. If you have any medical issues that information should also be on your person. For serious medical concerns, consider wearing a medical alert bracelet which can aid health providers in rendering critically needed care.
We are lucky to live in a world where instantaneous news is at the tip of our fingers and home is just a phone call away. If you are wary about going abroad, buying a local phone or sim card is a perfect solution to calm those jittery nerves. This way you will have the ability to remain in constant contact with friends and family. Also consider calling your local phone provider to see if they have any special promotions to the country that you will be visiting. In case of an emergency, be prepared. Always travel with a portable cell phone charger in order to keep your phone fully charged, because you never know when your device might become a lifeline.
As a student who was present during the recent Paris terror attacks, there is no sufficient amount of planning that can prepare you for such a catastrophe. There are things in life that we cannot control but we must prepare ourselves as best as possible. Maintaining awareness can help us become self-assured global citizens of the world.