University of Vermont

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UVM Study Abroad Pre-Departure Guidebook

Section 1 Before You Go:

Safety Abroad

  • In the case of an emergency affecting the public, please follow any emergency procedures put in place by your program director or in-country international office.
  • Safety is an understandable concern wherever you may be going.
  • Keep in mind that the United States is known around the world as a relatively dangerous country, and our street crime statistics support this view. No country has as many hand guns nor as many gun-related deaths and injuries, as the U.S. and U.S. rates of drug and alcohol abuse are amongst the highest in the world.
  • It is also important to consider that the U.S. media coverage of the rest of the world focuses on overseas political upheavals, violent strife, and natural disasters.
  • One of the first reactions study abroad students have is how "normal" life seems abroad, in spite of cultural differences.
  • While you may be statistically safer abroad than at home, danger can occur anywhere, and you can play a big part in minimizing risks and hazards.
  • Use the Buddy System: To ensure your safety we encourage you to identify one or two “buddies” in the group who will either always be with you or know your whereabouts.
  • Know which areas are considered safe/unsafe in the cities you visit. If you are alone at night, stay in well-lit areas and don’t use short cuts or narrow alleys.
  • Students should not travel alone, especially at night.
  • Know where to get help if needed. Familiarize yourself with your neighborhood, locate your nearest police station and hospital, and be sure you have all necessary emergency phone numbers on your person at all times.
  • If you are raped or assaulted—remember it is never your fault. Get to a safe place; seek medical attention and emotional support.
  • Avoid crowds, protest groups and volatile situations. In the event of disturbances, do not get involved. In some cases it is illegal for foreigners to get involved in political protests.
  • Don’t divulge personal information to strangers.
  • Keep a low profile and don’t draw attention to nationality or wealth.
  • Read and evaluate all materials provided by your program or university that relate to safety, health, legal, environmental, political, cultural, and religious conditions in your host country.
  • How do locals and local laws deal with harassment and sexual assault? (Is the cultural norm supportive of victims, blame victims? etc.) What you consider harassment, may not be considered so in another culture.
  • Pay attention to the local conditions. Stay informed about local and regional news, read newspapers with good international coverage and analysis of local issues.
  • Be street smart. Remember that adjusting to city life is part of the cultural adjustment process, since most cities where students study abroad are much larger than Burlington, Vermont.
  • Make sure your resident director, host family, or foreign university official knows how to contact you in case of emergency. Leave your itinerary if you are traveling. Know which forms of public transportation are the safest to use.
  • Alcohol and drugs decrease your ability to consent, and to make good judgment. They also make you vulnerable to perpetrators. Be wary of impairing your judgment through excessive use of alcohol, and do not fall under the influence of drugs.
  • Do not display money, jewelry, cameras, or other valuable items. You might want to consider insuring valuable items such as camera, laptop, jewelry that you are bringing abroad!
  • Never carry large amounts of cash.
  • Don't allow yourself to be vulnerable. Take the same precautions you would at home regarding giving out your name and address to unknown people.
  • Driving customs vary a great deal, and in most countries pedestrians are not given the right of way.
  • We advise you not to drive at all while abroad, especially in countries where driving on the left-hand side of the road is the norm.
  • Traffic congestion and different traffic laws and regulations, civil and criminal, can make driving motor vehicles in foreign countries extremely hazardous.
  • Find out which roads are safest and whether it is safe to travel on overnight trains and buses.
  • For Women: Unfortunately women travelers are more likely to encounter sexual harassment, but dangerous or uncomfortable situations can sometimes be avoided by dressing conservatively, not walking alone at night or in questionable neighborhoods, and not agreeing to meet anyone in a secluded place. In addition, be aware that there are many unfortunate stereotypes about American women. If you are traveling alone, you may encounter being whistled at by men as you pass, catcalls or getting grabbed while on buses. Be aware and alert to what’s going on around you.

Country-specific Information on Safety:

  • We strongly encourage you to visit the State Department website for more up-to-date information on the country and region you will be visiting.
  • The State Department International Travel website also lists Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts for specific countries and regions around the world:
  • Review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Traveler’s Health website:
  • The Association for Safe International Road Travel promotes road safety through education and advocacy. It compiles yearly updated road travel reports on over 150 countries (there may
    be a fee for obtaining the reports):

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Last modified April 26 2012 10:18 AM

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