Four Principles of Personal Security Preparedness While Studying Abroad

 

Awareness: ¿Students should be aware of local hotspots and events. Read local newspapers and magazines and keep up with international newspapers (e.g, Newsweek, Economist, Financial Times, etc.) Learn from local residents which areas of town are safe or dangerous and when to avoid certain locations. For example, normally safe areas may become more risky late at night, during soccer games, or political rallies. Determine which means of transportation are safe and secure, and at what time of day. Which is safer late at night: public transportation (buses, subways, etc.) or taxis? This varies from country to country. When traveling from a familiar city to an unfamiliar area, ask for advice and research safe areas before departing. We would like to add, however, that participating in a demonstration is not a good way to raise awareness!

Communication: ¿Uncertainty causes a great deal of anxiety. Students are asked to check in regularly with their family by phone or e-mail. Cell phones are quite inexpensive in many countries; many plans do not charge to receive calls. For many parents, simply knowing that they can reach their student at anytime day or night reduces anxiety considerably. The Office of International Affairs also asks that you check in with us regularly by e-mail or phone. Notify us if you have a concern about your safety, or just to say that things are fine. We appreciate hearing from students.

Cultural Common Sense: ¿Gaining cross-cultural understanding is one of the most important and profound learning experiences students have while abroad. Students can apply their newfound cross-cultural understanding to help preserve their safety. The first point is to recognize that cultures are different even if they appear similar. While all cultures value safety and stability, the ways they achieve it may vary considerably. Students can enhance their experience and personal safety by learning the answers to the following Cultural Questions:

  • What do people in this culture value most?
  • How are reputations made or ruined?
  • What behaviors, manners or clothing blend in and which demand attention?
  • How do people respond to uncertainty or difference? Are they open or do they feel threatened?
  • What are the cultural norms for alcohol in the host country?
  • What reputation do American students have? Do my actions, behavior and dress reinforce the negative or the positive?

Personal Responsibility: ¿Many people are concerned about study abroad students' safety and security – including parents and friends, the Office of International Affairs staff and Missouri S&T, the hosting institution and people responsible for accommodation abroad. However, no one will be as involved or concerned as you, the student. Personal safety and security begins with the decisions each student makes on a daily basis including transportation, the people you associate with, when and where you go out, etc. By being aware, employing cultural common sense and making responsible, intelligent choices, students can greatly narrow the risks to their own safety. By far, the greatest threat to student safety involves alcohol. That alcohol impairs one's judgment is well known, but too often ignored. Although drinking across cultures is not necessarily as dangerous as drinking and driving, overindulgence, especially in an unfamiliar country, can result in equally negative consequences.