Students who want to study abroad might be put off by the news in the world. It doesn’t seem to matter where you’re considering going; there’s some level of concern in almost every country around the globe. Of course, studying abroad is a unique experience, often a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but there are some safety tips to help you during your time abroad.
5. Do Your Research
One study abroad safety tip before you hop a plane, you should research the country you’ll be visiting. Chances are you already know something about where you’ll be staying, but few people do in-depth research into the current political situation in their countries of choice. Read reports and news stories not only about your destination country, but also the cities you will visit. Online advice from other travelers or ex-patriots living there gives you a firsthand account and will tell you what areas of a city to be careful in.
Even people in other English-speaking countries may do things that you find strange. Chances are you do some things they find odd as well. Observing social customs, however, can help keep you safe and out of trouble. You may not realize it, but acting out of the ordinary can make you a target for crime such as theft—or worse. People may treat you differently if they perceive that you’re not a local. The best policy is the adage “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.”
4. Buddy Up
Once you’re studying abroad, a good tip you can follow to stay safe is to make some friends. Be sure to associate with other exchange students as well as local students and people as much as possible. While you might be tempted to simply hang out with people from your own country creating more variety in your social circle will help you stay safer.
Local students are likely to be more aware of the “dangerous” areas of town, and they might be able to help you understand the healthcare system and how the local police work.
3. Get International Student Insurance
While study-abroad insurance may not keep you out of trouble, it can definitely help you if something should happen. Most insurance plans for students studying abroad include protection for natural disasters and political upheaval, which can help you get out of a bad situation. The insurance plan should also include medical evacuation back to the United States, which domestic plans often do not have.
International student insurance plans often include coverage for the more mundane troubles of traveling: lost luggage, stolen ID, and so on. Having a good policy provides you with the peace of mind you need while you’re studying abroad—and it’ll protect you if an accident happens or some unforeseen incident occurs!
2. Have a Plan
Accidents do happen, and sometimes, even the most prepared person will run into trouble. Don’t simply assume that nothing will happen to you, even if you do take precautions. Instead, have a plan for what to do in case of an emergency.
This is a great rule of thumb when you’re at home, and it works very well when you’re studying abroad too. Know the local emergency numbers, and keep some information—such as your name, your local emergency contact, and your insurance provider’s contact details—on you.
1. Stay in Touch
And the No. 1 tip for international study abroad students: Stay in touch. It’s easy to lose touch with people back home while you’re studying abroad. You might be too busy, and time zones can make it difficult to keep in touch with people half-way around the world.
Nonetheless, you should check in with people at home regularly. Keep them up to date on your whereabouts and activities. That way, if you miss a scheduled check-in, they’ll be aware that something is wrong and can jump into action sooner, rather than later.
Author: Erin Caswell
Erin is Vice President of LewerMark Student Insurance and currently leads our Client Advocacy Team. Her passion is providing the best care and client advocacy to our schools and their international students. Erin, a former middle school teacher, is well-known in the international student industry as a go-to resource and dynamic personality, having been recognized as “Best Presenter” by NAFSA at its Region 1 Conference in 2018.