Studying abroad is exciting — you get to learn about a new city, a new culture, and a new way of life. But the number one concern I hear from students’ parents has to be “What about safety?” This question is especially common when students study abroad in a city that’s much larger than their college town back home.
But don’t worry: Many safety concerns simply come down to common sense.
I want to share tips I picked up while living and studying abroad to help you have a safe experience.
- Always be aware
When studying abroad, it’s easy to get lost in the sights and sounds of your host city. Even after three years in London, I’m still captivated by the city! However, it’s important to remain aware of what’s going on around you. If you notice something strange, don’t be afraid to duck into what might become your new favorite restaurant or move to a more populated area. Paying attention to your surroundings and reacting accordingly is a great way to stop a potential problem before it starts.
- Keep your stuff close
Keep your purse or bag in front of you with the zipper in sight; this makes you a more difficult (and thus a less attractive) target. If you carry a wallet, take a tip from Londoners and keep it in your front pocket. (Most people from the country keep their wallets in the back pocket.) The key is making sure you know where your belongings are so that they continue to be your belongings.
- Talk to people
Tap into the best resource of info about places and events: locals! Don’t be afraid to ask about places and events you should avoid (and, of course, that you shouldn’t miss). Along with finding the hidden gems that give a place it’s special charm, talking to locals is also a great way to work on your language skills/make new friends. That being said, use your judgment.
- Use the buddy system
There is always safety in numbers. If you’re going somewhere alone, let someone else know where you will be. That way, if anything happens, at least one person knows where to find you. At night, it’s always good to have someone with you and, even though some might make fun of you, have people text you when they get home. You can’t put a price on peace of mind!
- Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at home
Like I said before, studying abroad is exciting… but it’s not a free pass to do whatever you want. Stay within your own personal limits and don’t do anything too out of the ordinary, or that you wouldn’t normally do at home.
Above all, be smart, use common sense, and have a great time!
Alex Henderson is an Admissions Counselor at CEA Study Abroad, an organization that helps students spend a semester, a summer, or an academic year studying abroad in 12 countries. Where will your learning take you?