How to Stay Safe When Studying Abroad
1. Don’t Overdo It
Food, exercise, and especially drinking on nights out- don’t overdo it. Just like drinking too much at home can be a concern to safety, while abroad it multiplies. Not only are you drinking different alcohol, but you’re in an unknown place with a lot of strangers that know their way much better than you. You also don’t want to waste your days abroad being sick or feeling hungover. Have plenty of fun during your nights out, but drink in moderation to make sure you are always aware of your surroundings and that you can get yourself home.
2. Travel In Packs
The phrase “strength in numbers” wasn’t just a made up idea that was catchy. The more friends you have watching your back and looking out for you, the less trouble you will come across. An even better idea is to have a mix of guys and girls in your group. People who are “out to get you” won’t dream of pulling a stunt if you have a big group that includes your male friends. You are at your most vulnerable when you are alone, so when you are out at night, make sure to travel in twos at the very least.
3. Don’t Accept Drinks From Strangers or Leave Drinks Unattended
A basic rule in College101 that applies heavily during your study abroad semester. If someone you don’t know has sent a drink your way, be very hesitant to accept it. Watch your bartender prepare all of your drinks if possible, and never leave a drink unattended and then return and continue drinking it. Drugging a drink can happen in as much time as it takes to turn your head and back, so always keep your drink in your sight. If you suspect your drink has been tampered with, tell a trusted friend, waiter, bartender, or bouncer immediately.
4. Be Assertive and Stand Your Ground
At the risk of coming off as “a rude American,” if someone is being too pushy or bothering you, be firm in telling them to stop, and stick to it. The culture overseas is very diverse, and sometimes men in particular can be very aggressive in “cat calling” or asking you to dance, drink, or come outside. Just like the stranger danger you learned in kindergarten, say no, get away, tell someone (and be believed.) It can be a funny game to ruffle your feathers to foreign men, but keep your cool and get away from the situation if you can.
5. Be Aware of Culture Differences
Flirting is a tricky game in itself, let alone when the two parties are from two different countries. While there’s nothing wrong with going “Lizzie McGuire” and searching for romance abroad, you should keep in mind that anything from certain phrases, gestures, and behaviors in general can be misconstrued as an invitation for more than you are comfortable with. Don’t feel guilty or embarrassed to say no to someone, even if, and especially if, they are your friend. You also need to be aware of not only how you are acting and conducting yourself, but how others around you are. Picking up on what curtly different advances look like can help prepare you to get yourself out of the situation if it’s unwanted.
You can never be too careful when you are studying abroad, but learning how to look out for yourself and for others is a wonderful life skill to have. Guys and girls both need to remember to have an extra eye out for your own safety during your study abroad trip. Be aware and beat the statistics for safety abroad, and help keep yourself and other safe both in foreign countries and at home.