It’s important that you take personal responsibility for your health and safety while abroad. If you don't take care of yourself, you’ll be at greater risk for illness and dangerous situations.
Remember that taking care of both your physical and mental health is important before, during, and after your study abroad experience, and this is ultimately your responsibility.
Be sure to inform the appropriate people about your health needs. Whether you have dietary restrictions or a disability, it is important that the program coordinators are aware of any health conditions so that you can be accommodated. It is also a good idea to let people like your roommates know about your medical conditions, so that they will be able to help you in case of emergency.
Follow the links below for suggestions on how to protect yourself while abroad.
(1) Research Your Host Country
Always be aware of your surroundings when you are abroad. Before you leave, research your host country:
Get a physical and any necessary immunizations before you leave. Your doctor should be able to tell you about health risks abroad. Or, consider seeing a doctor who specializes in travel medicine; they will be able to discuss with you in depth the risks in your host country. In addition, you may want to see your other doctors, such as your dentist.
Once you arrive to your destination, you’ll be experiencing a new lifestyle and new environment, which can be difficult on your health. Remember:
For up to date information on country-specific health conditions and travel health information, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's travel website.
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:
Once you leave the U.S., the civil rights and liberties you receive from 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.
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.
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.
If you're thinking about using illegal drugs when you're abroad—DON'T. In many foreign countries, laws against drug use and possession are very strict. Every year thousands of Americans are jailed in foreign countries—sometimes for life—for drug possession, even in small amounts.
You are more likely to be caught because police abroad specifically target foreign students for illegal drugs. Obtain more information about Drug Use Abroad and what services the U.S. can and cannot provide if you are caught abroad using or possessing illegal drugs.
Staying safe while abroad has a lot to do with your behavior. Follow these tips:
“I wanted to study Arabic in order to connect with my family, history, religion, and culture. I previously lived and worked in an Arabic-speaking country and wanted to learn Arabic more formally in order to maintain personal and professional...”
American Councils for International Education