Before You Go
Research possible destinations before you decide where to study abroad. Learn as much as you can about the political situation, living conditions, health conditions, and crime and general safety. All of these things can affect your safety and well-being, and you should consider them in choosing your destination. The US Department of State issues consular information sheets
and travel warnings
Get Adequate Insurance
Make sure you have enough medical insurance, and that it will cover you while you are abroad. If you will be taking costly items such as jewelry, laptops, or portable CD/DVD players, you may wish to consider purchasing property insurance for these items.
Check Airline and Travel Regulations
Keep up to date with restrictions and regulations for airline safety, as well as any changes in entry requirements for the country you’ll be going to. The Transportation Security Administration
provides updates about changes in airline passenger requirements, as do many international airport websites.
Talk to Your Family
Discuss your plans and make sure that your family understands where you’ll be going and how to stay in contact with you. Make sure they have your itinerary and copies of relevant travel documents. You may want to make plans to check in by email or phone at regular intervals. Also consider how you will contact them in the event of an emergency.
Avoid Alcohol and Drugs
No matter what the country’s alcohol laws allow, drinking to excess places you at risk for accidents and judgment lapses that could lead to being victimized by crime. Illegal drug use not only places you at similar risks, but can also have severe legal consequences. Don’t assume that as a US citizen you will not be subject to your host country’s legal system! Check the US Department of State’s warning on drugs abroad
for more information.
Use Safe Transportation
Don’t hitchhike, and stick to official, licensed buses and taxi cabs. Make sure you know how long trips will take, what the schedule for transportation is like, and how you will get back. Ask your program director if you have questions about which types of local transportation are safe and reliable.
Take Normal Crime Prevention Precautions
Use the same common sense precautions you would take in an unfamiliar location in the US. Avoid unsafe areas and poorly lit or deserted streets; travel with a buddy, but avoid going in large groups of Americans; don’t carry a lot of cash; keep your important documents safe and carry a copy of your passport page or any other identification; be aware of your surroundings and keep your wits about you.
Avoid “American” Hangouts
Trying to blend into your host culture is part of the experience of study abroad anyway, and it’s also a wise precaution to avoid places where Americans are known to congregate, such as particular “tourist” restaurants or bars, McDonald’s, or the US Embassy.
Know How to Communicate in an Emergency
Carry your contact information card (provided at your predeparture meeting) with Hamilton contact information, and be sure to add phone numbers for your local study abroad office, host family or apartment, local advisor, and anyone else you may need to reach in an emergency. You might want to carry the number of the nearest US consulate or embassy in case you need to contact them, for instance if you’ve lost your passport.
Stay in Touch with Your Family
Keep them apprised of your travel plans and try to maintain regular contact with them.