Safety Abroad


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Safety Abroad

We want you to have a positive experience abroad. We’re all adults here—be safe and act responsibly.

Quick safety tips for when you are abroad:

  • Be part of a team and watch out for each other
  • Leave valuables at home in a secure place
  • Use major pathways that are lit in the evening
  • Avoid walking alone, especially at night
  • Always let someone know where you are going and what time you expect to return
  • Learn a few phrases in the local language so you can ask for help
  • Be wary of people who are overzealous to make your acquaintance, as they may have an ulterior motive
  • Dress to blend in
  • Do not speak English loudly with a group of people
  • Code of Conduct

With your signature on the Release & Waiver document, (login to your UMD email account to view), you confirmed that you read and understood the Student Code of Conduct. In summary, when you travel abroad you're an ambassador for UMD, the University of Minnesota system, and the U.S. Over the years, the majority of students have been excellent ambassadors. Therefore, it is important to be aware that bad behavior abroad can have a damaging effect on UMD’s relations with other universities and other students in the program.

Drugs & Alcohol

Illegal drug use on study abroad programs is grounds for immediate expulsion from the program. Alcohol consumption is permitted according to the legal and cultural norms of the area, family, or local environment. Although alcohol may be legal at an age limit lower than in the U.S., as you know, alcohol consumption lowers your capacity to make good choices and avoid risky situations, especially in an unfamiliar environment. Assault, robbery, and sexual assault, as well as your own inappropriate behavior, are more likely to occur when you have been drinking alcohol. If you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation, know the source of your beverage, use good judgment, and have a friend or someone you know with you at all times.

Note that while alcohol consumption is permitted during program participation, bad behavior as a result of alcohol consumption is not permitted and may result in immediate dismissal from the program. This would include but is not limited to:

  • Failure to attend class
  • Failure to participate fully in all program related activities
  • Aggressive, harmful or inappropriate behavior towards people or property

Safe Sex

Take full responsibility for your actions when it comes to relationships and safe sex. If you are sexually active, use protection to avoid and reduce the risk of infection or unwanted pregnancy. Since condoms may not be as readily available as they are in the U.S.—all travelers (both men and women) should bring them. Respect yourself—be smart, aware, and safe, and only engage in sexual interactions when consent is given.

Sexual Assault Resources & Support

We hope that you never experience an incident of sexual assault, but there are a number of resources for confidential help and support:

Street Smarts

Use the same common sense while abroad as you would at home. Be especially attentive in an unfamiliar environment, crowded subways, train stations, elevators, tourist sites, market places, festivals and marginal areas of cities. If you are walking at night, be aware of your surroundings. Avoid areas where there are planned public demonstrations. If you must converse in English in a crowded area, do so with low voices. You do not want to draw unnecessary attention and make yourself a target. Do not discuss travel plans or other personal matters with strangers. Know pickpocket behavior. Thieves often work in teams and jostle you, ask you for directions or the time, point to something spilled on your clothing, or distract you by creating a disturbance. A child or even a woman carrying a baby can be a pickpocket. Try to seem purposeful when you move about. Even if you are lost, act as if you know where you are going. If necessary, ask directions from shopkeepers or bus drivers. Know how to use a payphone and have the proper foreign change or token on hand. If you are confronted, do not fight back. Most possessions are replaceable, but your safety is not.

Hotel Behavior

Meet visitors in the lobby and keep your hotel door locked at all times. Do not leave money and other valuables in your hotel room. If you must do so, use the hotel safe. If you are alone, be wary of elevator rides and people following you to your room. Read the fire safety instructions in your hotel room and know where the nearest fire exits are located. Know how to report a fire in the local language. Count the doors between your room and the nearest exit. This could be a lifesaver if you have to crawl through a smoke-filled corridor.

Public Transportation

Only take taxis clearly identified with official markings and licenses. People might ask you if you want a ride in their car; be sure that they are licensed taxis. While unlicensed taxis may seem like a better deal, they are generally less safe because they are not regulated.

Buses and subways generally are crowded and busy. Be extra cautious when using public transportation.Keep your belongings close and do not use your cell phone or listen to music; they attract unwanted attention and make you a target for robbery. If you see your way being blocked by a stranger and another person is very close to you from behind, move away. This can happen in the corridor of the train or on the platform or station.

If you are traveling on an overnight train or bus, lock your compartment when possible and never leave your belongings unattended. If the compartment cannot be locked securely, take turns sleeping in shifts with your traveling companions. When asleep, tie down your luggage, strap your valuables to you and sleep on top of them as much as possible. Do not be afraid to alert authorities if you feel threatened in any way.

Photography Ethics

Keeping a photographic record is a great way to help memories abroad last. Keep in mind that some countries prohibit the photographing of police and military installations, government buildings, border areas and transportation facilities. It may also be culturally offensive and inappropriate to photograph people; always ask for consent. A good guidebook will reference guidelines for photography, such as Unite for Sight’s web page on Ethics and Photography in Developing Countries.

Independent Travel

In accordance with the University of Minnesota, students must inform an official representative of the study abroad program or the University of any plans to travel during free time or before, during and after the program dates. Note that neither the University nor its staff, agents and representatives are responsible for any travel outside program requirements.

In an Emergency

Further information can be found on our emergency page.