Safety Precautions

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.

Legal Issues

  • 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, you are still held to the policies of Brandeis University which include not buying, selling, carrying or using drugs of any kind. Your program will also have strict policies in place around drug usage. These are to be followed regardless of the laws and regulations of your host country. Please remember that most countries have VERY strict drug laws which could come with long trials, jail time or in some places, the death penalty. Violating these policies may also result in your dismissal from your program and you would receive zero credit for the semester.

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.

Be Aware

  • If you go out at night, use the buddy system and look out for each other.
  • Be aware of how excessive consumption of alcohol may impair you. Don't leave friends alone who may be drinking.
  • Know what is happening around you and how locals respond to different situations.
  • Follow cultural norms about clothing; if you are unsure about your comfort level with this, have a conversation with Office of Study Abroad staff or your program staff prior to departure.
  • It may be a good idea to avoid places where foreigners are known to congregate as these places tend to have more pick-pocketing incidents.
  • 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 phone 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.
  • When traveling, always make certain your program, host university international student office, host family and family back 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.
  • Follow your program recommendations and pay extra attention during the health and safety section of your orientation!

If You Need Help

  • If anything is lost or stolen, contact your program and they can help you. You may need to report it to the local police to have a copy of the police report for insurance purposes. If you passport is lost or stolen, you should report it to the nearest embassy or consulate to apply for a new one.
  • Have the following phone numbers and email 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
    • Your embassy and/or local consulate in any country you visit
    • On Call International, provided by Zurich Travel Assist: +1-883-808-0251 (from inside the U.S.) or +1-978-651-9219 (from outside of the U.S.)
    • Brandeis University — Office of Study Abroad (781-736-3483;
    • Brandeis University — Public Safety (781-736-3333)
    • Your international insurance information