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Safety Issues Abroad

Safety Abroad 
When you study abroad, you'll be in an unfamiliar environment, away from people and situations that are predictable or the same as they were at home. Helping you stay safe in both day-to-day and emergency situations is important to us, in the Office for Study Abroad & International Exchange. The most important factor that affects your personal risk may be your own behavior - the one thing completely in your control. Below, there are some things you may want to consider and keep in mind in order to stay safe in your host country.

Expectations & Preparation
Make sure you know what to expect by asking about things like:
  • natural phenomena that can be dangerous
  • environmental hazards (i.e. air quality or drinking water)
  • common crimes (i.e. pick-pocketing)
  • traffic and transportation precautions
  • street-smart behavior (where can you go safely and at what times? if you're alone? only if you're in a group? only if you're in a group that includes men?)
  • norms regarding dress and behavior (for example, is it acceptable for women to wear shorts or have bare shoulders in public?)
  • what documentation should be carried at all times versus stored in a safe place

Personal Responsibility While Abroad

There are certain things you can do, in order to stay safe abroad:

Gather Information

  • consider information from your program provider about safety, health, legal, environmental, political, cultural, and religious conditions in the host country
  • conduct your own research on the host country
  • participate fully in orientations
  • be aware of local conditions and customs that may present safety risks


  • obtain proper insurance coverage
  • learn how to obtain health and legal services abroad

Act Responsibly

  • consider your physical and mental health and any special needs
  • comply with your program’s terms of participation, codes of conduct, and emergency procedures
  • obey host country laws
  • avoid irresponsible consumption of drugs and alcohol
  • behave in a manner respectful of others’ well-being
  • accept responsibility for your decisions and actions


  • give accurate physical and mental health information to your study abroad advisor(s)
  • register with local U.S. authorities (embassy, consulate, or U.S. interest section)
  • keep your parents or guardian informed of your whereabouts and activities
  • keep program staff informed of your whereabouts and well-being
  • express any safety concerns to program staff

Staying in Touch

          • stay in touch with your emergency contacts throughout your time out of the U.S. Make sure they have accurate local contact information for you at all times
          • notify your host country program contact / director of any health condition that lasts longer than a day or two
          • notify your emergency contacts immediately in the event of an emergency, accident, health problem, or other serious mishap

Safety Issues in Your Host Country
As study abroad students and/or parents, you should take the time to read specific country information available from the United States' Department of State and other countries' governments. This information and reports from host institution officials are what the Office of International and Transnational Affairs uses to determine health and safety concerns throughout the world.
Cultural Sensitivity & Respect
As you explore your new home, be aware that people will see you as a representative of the U.S. And people may associate you with American things from foreign policy to pop culture. It is not necessary to be concerned about anti-American sentiment when studying abroad; most students report that they encounter much less unfriendliness than they expect.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that values that are generally accepted in the U.S. may be different in your host country. Behavior that is considered racist or sexist in the U.S. may be social norms in many other countries. Tolerance is an important piece of cultural awareness, but be prepared to speak out when something seems very wrong or dangerous.
University of Massachusetts Boston Study Abroad & International Exchange