Studying abroad in a new place can be exhilarating, with so many places to go and people to meet. However, it's important to take precautions to stay safe.
- Learn about the customs and local laws of the country to which you are going. Remember that you are subject to their laws and are NOT protected by U.S. laws or the U.S. embassy while in your host country.
- Avoid crowds, protest groups, or other potential volatile situations. It may be illegal for you to participate in protests as a foreigner.
- If you are arrested, the American consular officer cannot get you released from jail. For more information, contact the United States Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs.
Note About Illegal Drugs
While abroad, 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.
Remember that you are subject to your host country's laws. If arrested, the American consular officer cannot get you released from jail. For more information, contact the United States Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs.
Avoid Becoming the Victim of a Crime
- If you go out at night, use the buddy system and look out for each other.
- Become a professional people watcher. Know what is happening around you and how locals respond to different situations.
- Keep a low profile. Try not to be conspicuous in your dress, speech, or behavior. Foreigners may not be viewed in a positive light.
- It may be a good idea to avoid places where foreigners are known to congregate.
- Do not give your phone number or address or any other personal information to strangers.
- Never leave your luggage or any bags unattended. Thieves strike when people are distracted while making a phone call or checking a train schedule, with a bag casually left at one's feet. Never agree to carry a package for anyone.
- Beware of con-artists and pickpockets. They exist everywhere in the world. Be especially alert in crowds. The most common sites for purse or camera snatching are central train stations, crowded shopping areas, and public transportation.
- Avoid carrying large amounts of cash or all your credit cards at one time. Carry handbags/ backpacks under your arm on your side or in front of you. A money belt is an excellent investment and a great deterrent to prying hands.
- When traveling, always make certain your program, host university international student office, host family, and family back home in the U.S. know where you are going and when you are expected to return. Also provide them with your emergency contact information.
- Avoid dangerous areas. Don't use short cuts, narrow alleys or poorly lit streets.
- Know where you are going and how to get there before dusk. Try not to be out alone at night.
- Always carry a little extra cash in case you have to select an alternate route home (i.e. taxi).
- Never get money from an ATM when it is dark out.
If You Need Help
- If anything is lost or stolen, report it to the local police. Keep a copy of the police report for insurance purposes or in case you need to replace your passport or student visa, as they will need to confirm that the passport was indeed stolen. It is also necessary to report the loss or theft of traveler's checks to the nearest issuing office, a passport to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to apply for a new one, and airline tickets to your airline or travel agent.
- Have the following phone numbers and e-mail addresses available at all times so you can contact them, if needed.
- Family at home and work
- Study abroad program resident director or host university visiting student office/international student office
- U.S. Embassy and/or local Consulate in any country you visit
- Brandeis University - Office of Study Abroad (781-736-3483; firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Brandeis University - Public Safety (781-736-3333)