Various resources exist that help prepare your child for studying abroad and will put your mind at ease as well. This article will identify the most important ones for you.
But before that, consider this: according to Purdue University, few countries have as much street crime and stranger-upon-stranger violence than here in the United States. In fact, many students return from studies abroad to remark that they have never felt safer.
Before your child departs
The first thing to consider is the study abroad program in which your child will participate. Certain guidelines have been established by NAFSA's Association of International Educators Website that you can view online in order to make sure that the program your student has chosen is one with safety in mind. Good study abroad programs will offer advice to both parents and students when it comes to safety.
Parents should take an active and supportive role as their children plan to study abroad. Before your kids depart, make multiple copies of any identification, credit cards and travel tickets they will be taking with them, and keep a folder with a copy of each with you at home. Students are advised to keep their passports, credit cards and cash under lock-and-key while overseas, and travelers' checks are recommended whenever possible.
Have your child register the trip with the U.S. Department of State. The Department of State has a great deal of help to offer families of students studying abroad. Consular Information sheets are available for each country that has study abroad programs, with information on entry regulations, crime and security situations and locations of the U.S. embassies, consulates and agencies.
The Consular Affairs Department can be a tremendous help to you and your student. Consular officials can help your student get a new passport, contact family and friends, get medical care, address emergency needs due to a crime, get local assistance and understand the local criminal justice system.
Your student should also register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate so that he or she can be reached in an emergency. You can also exchange messages through the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-5225.
Another thing to do before your student leaves is check any Department of State Travel Warnings that may be in effect in the country in which he or she is traveling. In addition, Department of State Public Announcements regarding certain countries should be checked.
Safety tips for once your child is overseas
According to the U.S. Department of State's Office of Overseas Services, students are subject to the laws and customs of the country in which they are studying. They should already know these laws and customs before arriving in the country. Many of the safety tips your student should know are much like the admonitions you would give him or her when visiting a strange city in the United States.
Encourage your student to avoid risky behavior, particularly involving alcohol and drugs. While the laws may be different in another country, many safety problems stem from the use of alcohol and drugs. Students should also take care to be sure any taxi service they use is marked.
Students are encouraged to use their best judgment while overseas. They are told not to use short cuts and not to travel alone, especially at night. Students should not speak to strangers about their travel plans or personal matters. They should leave their valuables, such as jewelry, at home, as they do not want to appear to be a rich tourist. If confronted by anyone, students should not fight back.
Pickpockets are the most common criminals in most countries. Students are advised not to carry around large amounts of money. They should report any crime or suspicious activity immediately, either to their leader or resident director.
The more your child speaks the local language while studying abroad, the better off he or she will be. Your kid should have a cell phone plan or learn how to use the local pay phones and keep a list of emergency numbers handy at all times. Some countries are more sensitive than others, and when students would like to take a photograph, they are wise to ask permission.
Female students should avoid unwanted attention, as men in some cultures may mistake friendliness for romantic interest. Female students are advised to dress conservatively, to meet in public places and not to walk alone.
All in all, the U.S. Department of State advises students studying abroad to "be friendly but cautious." If your student stays close to the group with which he or she has traveled and exercises good judgment, there should be no problem. Studying abroad is a great experience for American students, and our government offers many assurances to both students and parents when it comes to safety while studying abroad.
Source: Institute of International Education's Parent Guide www.iiepassport.org