Health and Safety While Studying Abroad

Institutions and organizations involved with student travel have always sought to protect the health and safety of those participating in international educational activities. In the last few years, this effort has become better coordinated and more comprehensive between home institutions, program providers, and host institutions.

In addition to any safety information provided by the program provider, the host university’s international office, and the Harvey Mudd study abroad pre-departure handbook (MS Word), the most important person responsible for keeping safe is you, the student.

  • You are responsible for reviewing the safety information provided to you by Harvey Mudd College and your program provider.
  • You are responsible for handling the advice provided by local staff about how to stay safe abroad, particularly when on your own.
  • You are responsible for any poor choices you make that may jeopardize your health or safety, or the health and safety of those around you. Learn more about arrest and detention abroad.

Included are some additional tips from Bill Hoffa’s ‘It’s Your World’ handbook:

Student’s Personal Responsibility to Health and Safety

The most important factor in your safety abroad is likely to be your behavior. It’s wise to do the following:

  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Don’t wander through unfamiliar areas alone, and always remain alert.
  • Don’t go out alone at night. Even when you’re with friends, stick to well-lit streets where there are a lot of people.
  • Don’t flash jewelry, expensive cameras, or electronic equipment.
  • Use caution when walking or jogging. Remember that in some countries, drivers use the left side of the road. In certain areas, drivers may not expect anyone to be running along the road.
  • When crossing streets, keep in mind that pedestrians may not be given the right of way.
  • Be careful with alcohol. If you drink, make sure it is only with people you know and trust, and designate one person to remain sober. As in the United States, never drink and drive. (Drunk driving laws abroad are sometimes much more severe than those in the United States.)
  • Don’t attract attention to yourself with provocative or expensive clothing or boisterous conversation in public. Observe local students’ behavior, and try to mimic it.
  • Use only official taxis. Unless meters are used, agree on the fare before you get in.
  • Before you travel from your program site, find out what methods of transportation are safest and whether any roads should be avoided.
  • Read the local papers to find out where high crime areas are and whether civil unrest is brewing.
  • Stay away from demonstrations or any kind of civil disturbances. Even innocent bystanders can be hurt or arrested.
  • Protect your passport. Make a copy and carry this with you. Lock your passport in a safe whenever possible. If you need to carry it with you, place it in a front pocket or your purse. Be careful when displaying it.
  • In general, avoid being engulfed in a crowd. This is the preferred environment of pickpockets.
  • Accidents can happen anywhere. If driving, know what local traffic laws are and follow them. Always use a seat-belt. Make sure you understand local road signs and signals (Note: Harvey Mudd College advises against students driving while abroad).
  • Remain alert when walking. Before crossing streets, remember to look both ways; in some countries, traffic will be coming from the opposite direction from what you would expect.
  • While these preventative measures can ward off some dangers, anyone can be a victim of a random accident or theft. For these rare circumstances, it is a good idea to have travel insurance available in case medical attention is needed, or stolen goods need to be replaced.
  • For the latest safety alert information on a specific location, visit and select the country of interest from the alphabetical listing. U.S Embassy contact information can be obtained from the bottom of each country page and should be copied in case of an emergency.