For most people, the opportunity to study abroad is associated with excitement and culture and personal growth. However, it is important that you keep your safety in mind. In most larger cities, female students don’t need to worry about their safety any more so than they do at home. Of course, there is the possibility for things to happen, but they are often avoidable when the proper steps are taken. While abroad, a good rule to follow is if you wouldn’t do something at home, don’t do it there.
Maintaining your safety abroad is all about trusting your instincts and using your common sense. That being said, read on for tips for staying safe when studying abroad.
Awareness and Research
Being vigilant can help you perceive potential threats; that isn’t to say that you need to be paranoid as you should not feel like you are living in fear for the duration of your study programme. Instead, try to foster a state of relaxed alertness and an awareness of your surroundings.
Researching your study abroad destination is paramount to your safety. You can find security warnings, crime rates and political stability information online. It may also be worth looking up the embassies or consulates in the region as they can help you in an emergency, or with a stolen or lost passport, and even to obtain appropriate medical care.
You need to be aware of any cultural norms or religious codes in your country of study. What behaviours or gender roles are at play, and is there consequences for non-adherence? Some social gestures that are innocuous in your home country may be interpreted differently in other places.
What strategies do the local women use to stay safe and stave off unwanted attention? If you know or are able to find other students who have studied there, ask them for their experience. Try to be culturally sensitive but not to the detriment of your own safety.
Some study abroad programmes have accommodation options, but these are not always the best options for your safety, especially as some institutions expect you to bunk with strangers. Dormitories are not always the safest choice; consider instead renting. When renting, you have an added level of privacy as no one else knows your address.
If you want to look into renting a private residence, there are plenty of companies who can help. They have both mid-and long-term rental options available in hundreds of different countries. So, for example, if you were looking at renting in Cologne or Barcelona or Rotterdam, to name but a few, they could help you.
You should never give your address or take someone to your home unless you know them really well and trust them completely. Your home is your sanctuary, your place of safety; it should be treated as such.
Studying abroad can be a wonderful experience, but you should be aware of some things as a lone woman abroad. There is no more danger abroad than there is at home; what makes it scarier for some is the unfamiliar there isn’t as much of a safety net. Although, you should always feel that you can go to your course advisor if you have any concerns or qualms about your time abroad.