Studying abroad is often regarded as an opportunity with numerous rewards, however, the amount of risks associated are mostly disregarded. Living away from your homeland, in a completely different country, with their own set of values, traditions, culture and language could be a difficult bullet to dodge for students and learners. But do not worry. If you are planning on becoming part of the international student community, here are 7 tips for students to stay safe in a land and culture you have no clue about.
1. Collect Information About Your Destination
The first and the foremost step is to gather information about the destination you are planning to select, by researching important facts about the place. Travel advisories can help students to get a know-how of the local demographics, which parts of the country are safe, what modes of public transportation are available and what scams and frauds one should avoid getting into. Guidebooks can also provide you with authentic local information about the country’s cultural values, customs, history, practices, etiquettes and language.
2. Try Learning Local Practices, Laws
While researching about the destination, pay close attention to the customary practices and statutory laws of the country. A number of countries have strict laws which could potentially lead to trouble and punishments. In some countries, alcohol is permitted, while in some countries it is banned completely. Similarly, in some countries pork and beef are banned, while in some countries eating such type of meat is permitted. Moreover, in some countries raising discussions on sensitive topics is illegal. Hence, living in a completely foreign land, with different cultural norms will also impact your ways of interacting and raising discussions in the public sphere.
3. Get Mentally Ready To Face Emergencies
Always make extra copies of important travel documents including passport, hotel documentation and visa details, and set them aside from your original documents. You should also keep a digital copy of these documents in your laptop, tablets and smartphones. In case, your original documents are lost, stolen or misplaced, keeping a copy can speed up the process of acquiring documents again from the authorities. Note down or save important emergency numbers, including police, embassy or consulate, before leaving your homeland. Try and learn some basic phrases in the native language so that you can communicate and ask for the help of locals if needed.
4. Look After Your Health
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention maintains a website to guide travellers about the common medications and vaccinations while moving to other parts of the world. If you are travelling to a country, get the medications and vaccinations recommended by the authorities. Seek help from medical professionals or experts who can advise you about how to make it through regular infections like flu and cough. If you are diagnosed with a specific disease, take stock of medications along that will last the trip. Also make sure to check with local authorities about health and safety insurance and get a plan for your stay as a student, for getting medicated in a foreign land without insurance could mean the end of your finances as well as your studies.
5. Get Digitally Ready
Before heading out to a foreign land for studies, it is a good idea to secure your smartphone and other digital devices with passwords. Get apps like Apple’s Find My iPhone or Google’s Find My Device that can help you locate your phone or at least erase your phone’s memory in case it is lost or stolen. In some countries, particularly ones where hacking is rampant, or the use of the internet is highly restricted, take a throwaway phone along, so that you can easily erase the memory after returning to your homeland. Majority of countries allow you to buy pre-paid SIM cards to contact your loved ones back home. Carry a mobile hotspot with roaming services instead of relying on open Wifi services.
6. Make Personal Safety Top Priority
Pick-pocketing and baggage theft are some of the most common crimes that travellers fall prey to, particularly ones who are negligent of the things happening around them. Keep track of your personal belongings and always keep an eye on them. If you are travelling via road, avoid travelling at night time. Be wary of overly kind strangers who offer to help you about the new place. Such scammers can spot a newbie from miles away and trusting easily could land you in major trouble.
7. Avoid Countries With Political Or Civil Unrest
Avoid moving to countries that are undergoing political or civil unrest. If you somehow land in such a country, steer clear of demonstrations and protests. Although such demonstrations can provide insights into local politics, but chances of them turning violent are always high. Regularly monitor local news and social media for drawing important information about the country you are planning to travel. Travel insurance policies can help you with getting out of a particular country in case situation there gets out of hands.
Inspiration from QS Top Universities.