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
- Avoid "American" haunts. Why hang around
fast-food joints and tourist traps when quieter, more "authentic"
- 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
- 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
- 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.