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GENERAL ADVICE

Letís begin with a few all-purpose tips about staying safe abroad.

  • Be alert. People-watching is part of the pleasure of foreign travel. It's also part of keeping safe.
     
  • Trust your instincts. This connects with our first point. If you become aware of suspicious behavior, if you're getting bad vibes from someone on the street, put some distance between yourself and the situation.
  • Be inconspicuous. One travels to see, not to be seen. Clothing or behavior that broadcasts "tourist" or "young American abroad" could bring trouble in your direction.
     
  • Don't sightsee in large, English-speaking groups. This connects with our third point. It can be fun to wander about with a friend or two, but large groups of young American's (inevitably a bit boisterous) can attract unwanted attention and hostility. Of course one must violate this rule in program-sponsored outings.
     
  • Avoid "American" haunts. Why hang around fast-food joints and tourist traps when quieter, more "authentic" areas beckon?
     
  • Be discreet with your cash. Don't flash large sums for all to see.
     
  • Probably, like most of our traveling students, you will be studying at an urban institution. You should then carry over to your new surroundings the precautionary measures you have adopted in Chicago. Learn which areas are relatively "safe"--safety is always relative--and which are less so. For night trips choose your itinerary carefully. Stay away from suspicious types.
     
  • Political demonstrations are always interesting. We suggest that you observe them from a distance and that you limit yourself absolutely to passive observation. If the demonstration has an anti-American theme or tone, don't let your wounded pride lead you to shed your anonymity.
     
  • Naturally you will want to make new friends abroad, and we would not want to discourage you from this. But don't let this quite appropriate goal lead you into an unwelcome intimacy. Allow yourself to be just a bit cautious with strangers. Friendships worth having are often slow to develop. Don't rush it!
     
  • Once you have arrived at your temporary home-away-from-home, learn where the nearest police station and hospital is. This is not especially burdensome knowledge, and it might turn out to be useful.
     
  • Use public transportation wisely. By all means you will want to avail yourself of the subway, streetcars, and buses of your host city. But itís important that you know how the system works and where itís taking you. More about this under transportation safety below.
     
  • Stay sober. Although you will likely find the drinking laws in your host country to be less restrictive than those back home, you are urged to be moderate in your consumption of alcohol. To incapacitate yourself with strong drink (or drugs) is to make yourself vulnerable to mischance. Inebriation weakens your judgment, your self-protective inhibitions, and your observational abilities.
     
  • Perhaps you have read about the confidence games known as "pigeon drops" in Chicago. If a stranger suggests a scheme by which a small investment on your part will lead to a handsome reward, be very suspicious.
     
  • If you are fearful or confused about anything, share your concerns with the director of your program or the overseas study office of your host university.

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