As I described in my last column, CIEE’s incident database currently houses data on any recorded major and minor health and safety incidents that have occurred over the past three years. The data suggests that incidents involving students are most common after the students have acclimated to their new environment, particularly when they travel outside their new home town during weekends or mid-semester breaks. Because of this, a few weeks after CIEE students have settled into their new home, we proactively send them a message reminding them of 11 safety guidelines they should follow to minimize risks. (Why top eleven? We like to go one step beyond.)
Here’s the safety advice we reinforce with students partway through their program:
- Look out for each other. If you think a friend isn’t making the best choice, speak up! Ask friends to do the same for you.
- Trust your instincts. Traveling can put you in vulnerable situations. If the voice in your head says “No, no, no,” pay attention.
- Pass on driving. When it comes to driving while abroad, the risks outweigh the benefits. Driving in foreign countries is a top cause of serious injury and even death.
- Realize that alcohol and drugs alter your brain – and judgment. Drinking abroad may be legal, but it still impedes your ability pay attention to your surroundings and identify unsafe situations.
- Be Alert. The effects of alcohol, drugs -- even headphones -- can prevent you from following your instincts and being aware of your surroundings.
- Have a plan and share it. Know your destination, and share it with CIEE staff, family members, and your school advisor. Communicate any changes to your plans.
- Invest in your safety. You may be on a budget, but think twice before opting for the cheapest accommodations and transportation. The cheapest taxi may have worn tires and unreliable brakes. Plan so you can afford safe options.
- Keep an eye on your belongings. Theft is the most common crime against students studying abroad.
- Always maintain control of your drink. Be aware that “date rape” drugs could be placed in an unattended glass.
- Never swim without a lifeguard present. Be aware of the dangers of rip currents, never swim alone, and never drink alcohol and swim. When boating, wear a life jacket.
- Ask for help when you need it. If something happens, don’t hide it. Contact a CIEE staff member right away, or ask a relative or your study abroad advisor to contact CIEE. It’s important to us that you get support and assistance when you need it.