Your bags are packed, tickets are purchased and passport in hand; you are ready to study abroad! The odds are you’ll be safe while abroad, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Here are a few tips that will help keep you out of compromising situations that could get you into trouble with the law, or even worse, be harmful to your health.
1. Follow the Law
When abroad, follow the local laws. Your host country’s laws may differ from U.S. laws. Typically, you’ll learn about specific laws during your program orientation. But remember, ultimately it’s your responsibility to know your host country’s local laws. As a rule:
- If something is illegal in the U.S., it’s probably illegal in your host country.
- Don’t fool yourself and think that local authorities will give you a break because you’re a foreign student.
- Infractions considered minor in the U.S. many times carry severe penalties in other countries.
2. Rights of the United States Do Not Apply Abroad
Once you leave the U.S., the civil rights and liberties accorded to you by the U.S. constitution don’t apply. Some countries don’t even have basic laws that we are granted in the U.S. If you’re uncomfortable with this, consider studying in a different country.
3. If in Trouble
If you find yourself in trouble for breaking the law in your host country, contact the local U.S. embassy or consulate. If you are arrested, the embassy and consulate can visit you in jail. With your authorization, the consulate can notify your family or friends and deliver request for money or aid. The consulate can help you choose a local attorney to ensure you are receiving all of your rights under the law of your host country. Consulates, however, cannot guarantee your release from jail.
4. Alcohol Use Abroad
Research your host country’s drinking laws and customs. In many countries, the legal drinking age is lower than that of the U.S. However, in some parts of the world, drinking alcohol is highly restricted or even illegal.
If drinking alcohol at your age is legal, remember to be smart about how much you consume. Being drunk in an unfamiliar country could lead to dangerous situations. Also, be aware of the risk of date rape, which can happen to both women and men. Sometimes, people will buy you drinks and add date rape drugs to them. For your safety, you should buy your own drinks and never leave your drink unattended.
The asking yourself the following questions will help make your time abroad not only fun but safe!
- What should I do in case of emergency? Who should I contact?
- What is the equivalent of 911 in my host country?
- Do I have any health issues that I will need to take care of while I’m abroad?
- What medications will I need to take with me?
- What are the local laws?
- What are common crimes in my host country?
- How can I safely get around? Is public transit safe and reliable?
- Are there things I should look out for as a pedestrian?
- What is appropriate dress and behavior in my host country?
Learn what other students have to say about their experiences abroad:
Student Travel Blogs: http://www.diversityabroad.com/blogs
Study and Travel Forum: http://www.diversityabroad.com/travel-forum