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Safety While Abroad

Safety Abroad

Personal Safety

  • Avoid travel at night, especially in rural areas.
  • Know how to get home before you go somewhere.
  • Traveling in groups is preferable to traveling alone. Avoid traveling alone.
  • Walk where you will be visible.
  • Walk as though you know where you are going.
  • Avoid crowds that will cause you to slow down. You become an easier target for thieves when you walk slowly.
  • Beware of people walking behind you, especially if someone slows you down. They may be working together to steal from you.
  • Do not smile at strangers. A smile can be misinterpreted as meaning that you are interested even though you have stated otherwise.
  • In most countries, women never respond to strangers. The appropriate behavior is cold silence and indifference.
  • Keep a low profile. Wear modest clothing.
  • Do not wear expensive jewelry or watches.
  • Stay clear of political demonstrations, especially those involving the United States. If you see a political demonstration, stay away.
  • Follow your instincts. If you do not feel safe, leave as soon as you feel it is prudent to do so.

General Transportation Safety

  • Take notice of traffic patterns and native road culture.
  • Be alert at intersections in countries where traffic pattern differs from yours.
  • At night, cross where the lights are bright and visibility is good.
  • Remember that the curb drill (looking left, then right, then left again) must be reversed in countries where the traffic pattern is reversed.
  • Walk on the sidewalk where there is one. Where there is none, walk on the road bank or on the side of the road in a single file line facing oncoming traffic.
  • Do not adopt the attitude that because you have the right of way in the pedestrian crossing, you are automatically safe to cross.
  • Jaywalking may result in severe fines in various countries. Be alert for reckless driving.
  • Beware of bicyclists on sidewalks and speeding through intersections.
  • If your driver is irresponsible, get out at the first safe opportunity.

Taxi Safety

  • At night, calling a taxi is the safest way to travel.
  • Have your destination written down by a local to give to the taxi driver.
  • Do not get in a taxi you did not order. Make sure the driver knows the name and destination to check that he is your driver.
  • If you have to hail a taxi, make sure it is from a well known and reliable company. Make sure the driver agrees to take you to your destination before entering the taxi.
  • Get out of the taxi if the driver tries to bargain instead of using the meter or claims his meter is not working.
  • Ask someone you trust what the cab fare should be.
  • Always ask the driver what the fare is prior to entering the taxi.
  • Sit in the back seat.

Bus & Minivan Safety

  • Wait for the bus a safe distance away from the road.
  • After exiting the bus, step into a safer area a few steps away.
  • Alert the bus driver before picking up anything you drop near the bus.
  • Always cross the street in front of the bus. Make sure you have the driver's attention before crossing.
  • Stay seated at all times.
  • Beware of reckless drivers.
  • Exit the vehicle at the first opportunity if you feel the driver is being irresponsible.

Dealing with "Culture Shock"

What It Is

Culture shock" is the name given to a feeling of disorientation or confusion that often occurs when a person leaves a familiar place and moves to an unfamiliar one. While traveling to a different country, you will encounter a multitude of new things and of new challenges. As a result of all this you may feel confused, unsure of yourself, and you may have some doubts about the wisdom of your decision to go abroad.

Coping with "Culture Shock"

Different people react differently to culture shock. Some become depressed, or even physically ill. Others are stimulated by the new experiences that are open to them. Here are some ideas that might be helpful:

  • Maintain your perspective. Try to remember that thousands of students have traveled abroad from colleges and universities all across the U.S. and have lived successfully in a foreign country.
  • Evaluate your expectations. Your reaction to your new surroundings is a product of both the way things actually are and the way you expected them to be. If you find yourself feeling confused or disappointed about something, ask yourself, "What did I expect?" "Why?" "Was my expectation reasonable?". If you determine that your expectations were unreasonable, you can do much to reduce the amount of dissatisfaction you feel.
  • Keep an open mind. People in foreign countries might say or do things that people at home would not say or do. But remember that these people are acting according to their own set of values, not yours. Try to find out how they perceive what they are saying and doing and try to avoid evaluating their behavior using the standards you would use at home.
  • Be sensitive to different methods of healthcare delivery. If you are confused by a situation, ask your mentor/teacher/translator privately to explain what you observed. For example, a physician may only share a diagnosis with family members and not the patient. Consider your experience in the U.S.
  • Learn from the experience. Experiencing a new culture can be the most fascinating and educational experience of your life. It gives you the opportunity to explore an entirely new way of living and compare it to your own. There is no better way to become aware of your own values and attitudes and to broaden your point of view. Ask cultural questions of the natives and compare the answers you get to answers you would get to the same questions at home, in order to develop a better understanding of your own society and of the one where you are living now.

Adjusting to a New Culture

When you are in a new setting, you have to make certain adjustments or adaptations in your usual behavior and attitudes. If you are able to keep the perspective of a person who is observing himself or herself while undergoing an unusual experience, you will be able to help prevent yourself from becoming extremely anxious or depressed. You will learn more from the intercultural experience you are having.

"Adjustment" in a new culture has three aspects, according to psychologist Richard Brislin. The first is a general feeling of satisfaction, based, for example, on the satisfactory completion of one's tasks or objectives. The second is a feeling of being accepted by the host society. The third is having the ability to carry out daily activities without stress.

Do not spend all your free time communicating with your family and friends back home. You need to invest time in your new culture.