Toying with the idea of learning a second language abroad? Brace yourself. It’s gonna be one of your most epic experiences yet! You’re about to sharpen your skills while galavanting in some cool overseas locale. Now, you might have some travel abroad willies. After all, how safe is doing language classes in another country? And where are the safest places to learn a language abroad?
Cast your fears aside...there are tons of safe language schools abroad. All it takes is some basic prep work to keep you safe and sound. Here’s everything you need to know about safety during immersion language programs abroad.
Is learning a language abroad safe?
Ah, the million dollar question! Staying safe while learning a language abroad is totally doable. In fact, the vast majority of foreign students return home with a bout of wanderlust and ready for more. The keys to safety while attending language school revolve around three things: picking a safe program/school/language academy with a strong rep, understanding in-country threats, and actively avoiding them.
That means a big portion of how safe your experience is rests on you, homie! So, keep an eye out for safe language abroad programs so you have no regrets. A good in-country support staff that’s upfront about safety concerns and provides support is your winner. Think of their advice as your safety during immersion language programs abroad Bible.
Keep in mind that you can’t possibly prevent every safety hazard. You could get stung by a nasty jellyfish while wading in the waters off Australia. Or, you might study a language in a country with a high crime rate and have your clutch snatched. However, with a good eye for potential risks your chances of having a run-in will be significantly lower.
World’s safest places to learn a language abroad
Thinking you’ll find safe language schools abroad in an active warzone? If safety is your top priority, that’s probably not a good idea. Your best bet is to head out to the safest places around the globe—that double as top locations for learning a second language. What lands a country on our list? Nations with fewer socio economic challenges like poverty and unemployment (crime drivers) are generally safer. These countries also tend to have higher quality health facilities.
Ready to find out where all of these safe havens are? Alright Carmen Sandiego, we’ve broken down the top contenders in this recent World Atlas report on the safest countries in the world. Here’s the scoop below.
This country is often ranked as one of the most peaceful and least corrupt nations in the world. New Zealand is so safe that local police don’t even carry around guns—there’s an actual law prohibiting it! Plus, freedom of expression is a biggie to New Zealanders, who are known for being super tolerant about different lifestyles. So religious or sexual persecution will be the least of your worries. New Zealand is one of the best places for staying safe while learning English (or Maori!) overseas.
- Languages to learn here: English, Maori
- Recommended program: University of Otago
Low violent crime, political stability, and a warm embrace of foreigners. This is just a taste of why Denmark is the perfect place for staying safe while learning a language overseas. Education and healthcare are free for all (international students get free medical care too!). So your health and safety while learning a second language abroad is covered. Plus, the local culture puts a huge value on work life balance—it’s no wonder life for the Danish is so copacetic.
- Languages to learn here: Danish, English
- Recommended program: Language Vacation
That’s right. America’s northerly neighbor has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, making it one of the safest places to master a second language. Worried about the gun violence of the States spilling over onto Canadian soil? Not likely. Canada has supremely low gun death stats and its super hard to buy a firearm. Plus, with plans to welcome in a million immigrants by 2020, Canada is an ideal safe space to improve your English language proficiency or practice la belle langue, French.
- Languages to learn here: French, English
- Recommended program: Edu-Inter
When it comes to crime prevention, Japan is on the money. The country’s low crime rates, endless security guard presence, and tiny kobans (small one room police stations) makes for a pretty well shielded society. Japan is brimming with safe language abroad programs. Beef up your manpower by taking a local judo class after your tutoring hours. You’ll be undefeatable!
- Languages to learn here: Japanese
- Recommended program: KCP International
Looking for a safe and uber-friendly French (or German.. Or Dutch!) immersion destination? You’ll find plenty of safe language schools in Belgium just bubbling with good vibes! Belgian host families are known for their exceedingly warm nature (and waffles), so you’ll be well looked after. The country is so full of culture, you’ll never tire of putting your language skills to work while traveling between cities and coastlines and gorgeous old buildings! Swing on over to Belgium and your parentals won’t have to worry about your safety while perfecting your Euro tongues while abroad.
- Languages to learn here: French, German, Dutch, Flemish, English
- Recommended program: BXL Academy
With one of the lowest murder rates in the world and practically no mass shootings, English language learners can leave their paranoias at home while in Australia. Most of the Aussie po po don’t even carry guns, so deaths at the hands of officers is rare. This island continent also has a top notch healthcare system. Let’s say your Outback trek ends with a painful spider bite. Not to worry. Your health and safety will still be in good hands.
- Languages to learn here: English
- Recommended program: Eurocentres
- Despite its turbulent history, violent crime in Germany isn’t a common occurrence. The government has a strict anti-nationalist policy and maintains a stable economy. Germany has excellent medical facilities and hardly any natural disasters, making it one of the safest, not to mention best, places to learn German. You will see a lot of graffiti though, but it’s more so a political statement than anything else.
- Languages to learn here: German
- Recommended program: Nomaden Berlin
While some Singaporean laws might seem wacky, they’re a big force behind maintaining the country’s ultra safe society. Chewing gum, forgetting to flush, stealing wifi—Singapore is known for its severe sentencing of even the simplest offenses, keeping crime at a low. But as long as you stay on the right side of the law, you’ll be A-OK.
- Languages to learn here: Mandarin, English
- Recommended program: Yago
This language learning hotspot was ranked as the 23rd most peaceful country by the Global Peace Index. The most common safety issue occurs in larger Spanish cities where cell phone pickpocketing happens. Aside from lingering unrest in the Catalonia region, Spain is generally a very safe country for travelers. And, if you’re worried about big city terrorist attacks, Spain ranks high for it’s tight safety and security force.
- Languages to learn here: Spanish
- Recommended program: Euroace
Thinking a jaunt through South America would do you well? You’ll be calm as a cucumber if you study Spanish in Chile. What makes it one of the best places for staying safe while learning a language overseas? Well, for starters the Global Peace Index ranks Chile as the safest South American nation! There’s little threat of terrorism and the lowest homicide rate on the continent. And, since Chile is a super popular expat destination, you’ll develop a cool posse of friends to have your back.
- Languages to learn here: Spanish
- Recommended program: Center for Study Abroad
11 basic safety tips
Whether you’re going to language school in the jungles of the Amazon or the Joburg city center, you will need to follow some basic safety tips. Now, don’t worry. We’re not saying you have be a total saint. You can still have fun and let the good times roll—just be conscious about avoiding safety risks. And, you should have an action plan in the slim chance that something goes down. These simple steps will prioritize your health and safety.
1. Prep for emergency
When you’re abroad, emergencies can be complicated by your foreigner status. Local hospitals may not accept you without insurance or you may not know how to call 911 (if it exists). Be smart about your health and safety while abroad by developing an emergency plan. Then stick it in your pocket and carry it with you. Your plan can include:
- Local emergency, program staff, and embassy contact info.
- Emergency cash.
- Addresses and phone numbers of the best hospitals and doctors.
- A copy of your travelers/medical insurance.
- A copy of your passport.
- Any personal health information you’d want someone to know.
2. Have travel insurance
Yes, this will cost ya extra dough. However, your health is not something you want to shortchange. Accidents and illnesses happen to even the safest travelers. Travel insurance can get you access to the best health facilities and be extra financial padding in crisis.
3. Know local dangers
Know where the in-country crime hotspots are so that you’re aware or avoid them all together. You should also keep tabs on any local political turmoil. That’s because if things get too hot, you may need to evacuate.
4. Don’t be a Jane Doe
Forward thinking students abroad always let someone know where they’re heading out to. Why is this important? In the .0001 percent chance that something happens, there will be a trail for folks to find ya! Another great idea is to schedule a regular check-in time with someone back in your home country as well. One final tip—avoid exploring sketchy areas. But if you must, definitely go with someone familiar with the area.
5. Stick with reputable rides
Transportation around the world has varying standards. And, as a rule of thumb, private taxis or bus companies are often safer than public ones. So, keep their numbers in your pocket, especially for after dark outings.
6. Stay sober
Now, there’s nothing wrong with having some bubbly. However, you probably don’t want to get too tipsy while you’re abroad. Remember, you’re a foreigner in new territory. Having your wits about you is one of the keys to staying safe.
7. Blend in
Heading to a high theft neighborhood? Keep a low profile and tuck away pricy valuables. Even better, leave them at home.
8. Register with foreign agencies
Many countries will have a local embassy or representative that their citizens can register with. This simply means you’re officially counted for, so to say. Get to know their services and carry their phone numbers with you as well.
9. Know the health risks
Be sure to get all recommended shots, mosquito nets, and anything else you need to stay healthy. Find out if the tap water is safe to drink to avoid that icky Montezuma's revenge in Mexico. Program staff, a travel health doctor, or even the CDC’s website can give you all the deets.
10. Understand cultural norms
It’s good practice to do a little research on the local culture and any little nuances. For example, tipping is actually considered insulting in Japan and South Korea. And, in parts of West Africa, giving a thumbs up is seen as giving the finger. Yikes! The less offending you do the better for your overall safety.
11. Don’t jump in too fast
Making new friends abroad is dope. However, you don’t need to be too much of an open book with everyone you meet. Feel people out without being downright icy and give yourself time to learn your new community. Bottom line, there are folks out there who take advantage of foreigners. Just don’t be too naive so that you can weed out any weirdos.
Is it safe for women to learn a language abroad solo?
Plenty of women have awesomely uneventful solo travel experiences. However, the sad truth is that many women face challenges such as harassment and worse. You can lessen negative experiences by going with safe language school programs with few reports of in-country harassment. Just remember that things can go sour even in the “safest” places for learning languages abroad. And, if you’re studying in a country with high assault rates, these techniques are worth a shot.
- Decrease attention by wearing a wedding ring, sunglasses.
- Observe what tactics work best with street harassment—shouting or ignoring? Most effective responses will vary country to country.
- In some countries showing bra straps or skin can bring on even more unwanted attention. Covering up in certain areas can help you stand out less. Take cues from how local women dress as well.
- Go out in groups after hours.
Where is it safe to learn a language abroad openly as a LGBTIQ*?
Your safety as a LGBTIQ* will also vary country to country, as some places are much more accepting than others. Countries in Europe are often ranked as the safest places for LGBTIQ* students. These countries include Norway, Spain, Belgium, Sweden, England, and Ireland, as they tend to have less anti-LGBTIQ* incidents. There are also South American countries like Uruguay, Brazil, and Argentina which are known for local LGBTIQ* support.
Thinking about going to a country with a rep for LGBTIQ* intolerance? You’ll want to think twice before showcasing your sexuality or any PDA. For example, in some countries homosexuality is a serious offense punishable by law. So, get familiar with acceptance in your destination and be mindful of the local rules to avoid problems. Previous LGBTIQ* students can also offer you great advice, so consider connecting with them. Take a look at our comprehensive guide to LGBTIQ* study abroad for more pointers.
Keep safety in mind. It will save your behind!
As you can see, learning a language abroad can be a very peaceful experience. However, generally, a good chunk of your fate rests on you more so than the place you’re going to. Simply put, staying safe while abroad is a no brainer! Some good common sense, basic prep work, and a proactive attitude can make a world of difference in your experience. Now you're armed with tons of juicy safety gems of wisdom. It’s time to take your language immersion opportunity by the horns and run with it!