How to Prepare
What is the first rule in foreign travel?
Follow the Boy Scouts advice, and "be prepared."
Above all, you want to have a safe and secure study abroad experience. One of the best rules of thumb is to use your common sense. Read the following information before you leave, and spend a little time thinking about some of the basics of being a safe traveler while you're adventuring.
Always be prepared for any circumstance. Do not think, "It can't or won't happen to me.” You don't have to be frightened when you embark on a study abroad experience, but you should remember that you're operating under a completely different set of circumstances than you've been used to. Your "comfort zone" will vary depending on how secure you feel in your new environment. You should plan to act even more responsibly than you would at home.
When you first arrive in a foreign country, you might feel somewhat disoriented and uncertain of your new surroundings. Don't forget to lock your room, keep your purse or backpack secure and do not become careless. Be particularly vigilant about your personal possessions the first week or two after your arrival.
Make copies of your travelers checks and credit cards, and leave a copy at home. Know your credit card numbers. In the event of your cards being lost or stolen, you will want to be able to call the credit card company to put a hold on them. Many credit card companies have toll free numbers that you can call from abroad, so check with your credit card providers before you leave. In addition, you should know the numbers of each of your travelers checks and store your receipt in a place separate from where you keep your checks.
Become familiar with the basic laws and customs of the country you plan to visit before you travel. Do not assume that because it is legal in the U.S., it is legal everywhere. Remember, while in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws. Avoid public demonstrations, even peaceful ones. If there should be any political unrest, don’t get involved.
What precautions should I take while traveling abroad?
Try to act like you know what you are doing and where you are going, so that you are less easily identified as a newcomer. Whether you are on foot or in a car, be aware of everyone around you and assess their probable intentions. This means occasionally looking behind you.
Try to walk in groups of four or more, especially at night or in areas with high crime rates. In most cases, the bigger your group, the safer you are.
Avoid wearing conspicuous clothing and expensive jewelry.
Remember that your life is more valuable than any of your possessions. Learn the transport system, so you’ll know how to get home.
Do not hitchhike. Read guidebooks and ask locals about the taxis.
Do not leave your bags or belongings unattended at any time. Security personnel in airports and train stations are instructed to remove or destroy any unattended luggage. Do not agree to carry or look after packages or suitcases for anyone.
Never keep all of your important documents and money in one place or suitcase.
Have sufficient funds or a credit card on hand to purchase emergency items. At the same time, don’t carry excessive amounts of cash or any unnecessary credit cards.
Learn what the locals do to protect themselves (neighborhoods to avoid, places that are known to be safe, where to walk, where to shop, etc.)
Take nothing of great value with you when you go out, and try to carry as little cash as possible.
What resources are available?
There are lots of on-line resources that provide safety information for travelers in general or specifically for study abroad students. Some of those resources, which we advise you to consult, are listed below:
- U.S. State Department booklet “A Safe Trip Abroad”
- U.S. State Department General Site
- U.S. Embassies Recommendations to Americans Abroad
- Association for International Road Safety
- Federal Aviation Administration
- Studyabroad.com Health and Safety
Emergencies and Emergency Procedures
Fortunately, true emergencies are actually quite rare. You may lose your luggage, your plane ticket, or even your passport while you are abroad. While any of those occurrences would certainly be inconvenient, none is an emergency. Emergencies are situations in which there is an immediate threat to a student or staff member’s health and/or safety.
We advise you to:
- Make sure you know how to use the telephone and have a calling card or other means of using the telephone in the country(-is) that you visit as part of the program or on your own.
- Although it is possible to get a passport from the Houston passport office in a day, it’s more expensive than applying one through normal channels, and it involves a trip to Houston. You might consider asking your parents or designated emergency contact to obtain a passport so that they’ll be prepared if they need to go abroad to help you in an emergency.
How do I deal with emergencies?
Emergencies Abroad (For Faculty-Led Study Abroad Participants)
Tarleton State University has an emergency procedures plan in its Study Abroad division. If you witness an emergency or are in an emergency situation yourself, your first call (after you have attended to any life-threatening matters, of course) should be to the faculty leader of your program. Your faculty leader will provide you with information on how to reach him/her, or another designated contact, in case of an emergency. The emergency contact for your program will then contact Tarleton State University to activate the emergencies procedures.
If you need to contact Tarleton State University campus for an emergency reason, you should call the Control Center at 888.214.4636.
Emergencies Abroad (For Exchange Participants)
Before you leave the United States, get the address and phone number of the U.S. Consulate or Embassy closest to your host city. These addresses and phone numbers can be obtained on the web at: http://www.usa-people-search.com/content-us-embassies-around-the-world.aspx. When you arrive in the host country, you should register with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate by providing them with information on the length of your stay and information on how to reach you.
When you arrive at your host institution, you should ask what emergency procedures and resources will be available to you there. If you witness an emergency or are in an emergency situation yourself, your first call (after you have attended to any life-threatening matters, of course) should be to the appropriate person at your host institution. If you need to contact Tarleton State University campus for an emergency reason, you should call the Control Center at 888.214.4636.
How do I stay in touch with loved ones?
Staying in Touch
While abroad, you’ll want to be able to communicate with your parents and others directly about your safety and well-being. People need to know how to get in touch with you, especially if you are away from your program city or traveling on your own before or after the program. If there is an emergency in your family, your family will want to be able to reach you.
We advise you to:
Develop a plan for regular telephone calls and/or e-mail contact with your family and others with whom you wish to stay in contact. Develop your plan before your departure.
If there is an emergency that requires you to leave your program and return to the U.S. for any length of time, you should notify your faculty leader.
Make sure that someone always knows where and how to contact you in an emergency and knows your schedule and itinerary when you are traveling.