Study Abroad Safety: 9 Great Destinations + Helpful Tips

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Are you considering studying abroad or perhaps even longing to study abroad, but a psychological battle is breaking out between your desire to study abroad and your natural human desire to stay safe? That little voice listing all the reasons to stay home and trying to talk you out of having the experience of a lifetime may be getting a little boisterous, so it’s time to send it packing.

Girl using phone while studying abroad

Stay alert while studying abroad—get your phone out of your nose!

Just as with every time you hop in your car, board a plane, enter a movie theater, go shopping at a mall, or walk out your front door…there is always risk.

Is studying abroad worth the risks? Absolutely. The truth is that traveling can be scary. But the other truth is that studying abroad is nothing to be afraid of. And there are study abroad safety statistics to prove it.

Is it safe to study abroad in 2018-2019?

Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Yes.

The whole premise of studying abroad is that it brings you to not let yourself be afraid of foreign places or foreign people. The world can seem scary, but the world is also an utterly beautiful place filled with a whole lot of kind people who don’t want to steal your wallet at the train station. Instead of allowing your fear for potential catastrophes to hold you back, view it instead as a lesson in proper preparation. There are real risks to travel. But these risks shouldn’t be debilitating or cause you to acquiesce just yet.

Additionally, most program providers consider student study abroad safety their top priority and go the extra mile to help mitigate concern. The topic of how to stay safe while studying abroad will be top of mind. Always be sure to ask your program provider about the steps they take to help ensure study abroad safety right out of the gate.

World’s safest places to study abroad

The world has been becoming a more dangerous place—at least according to the Global Peace Index. With a worsening atmosphere of insecurity developing worldwide today, now more than ever before students are concerned about staying safe while studying abroad and looking for safer places to study abroad. Along with other study abroad safety statistics, many find themselves looking to this report ranking the top 25 safest countries in the world.

Here are some of the world’s safest places to study abroad:

1. New Zealand

While feeling safe is a luxury in many places, it’s one that New Zealanders are accustomed to. New Zealanders are by and large open-minded and believe people should be free to live the lifestyle they choose, which makes for an easygoing study abroad country largely free of personal violence and strife between communities. The country is rated in international surveys as one of the world’s most peaceful and least corrupt countries and there’s not even any deadly wildlife for you to worry about.

kids sitting on a stoop

Studying abroad in Australia is one of the safest experiences you can have a student internationally.

2. Australia

Australia is a very safe place to study abroad by almost any standards. The country has an established political system, low crime rate, and is always ranking high on the list of world’s safest countries. The biggest threats to your safety are when you leave land for sea and are subjected to riptides and dangerous marine life. 

3. Canada

Many people regard Canada as a blissful, crime-free oasis. While some sticky fingers still roam about the cities, they are mostly right. As one of the most welcoming destinations in the history of study abroad, Canada is one of the safest countries in the world. Just watch out for rogue moose!

4. Japan

One thing Japan does better than anyone is that it puts a strong focus on crime prevention and the safety of its citizens is paramount. Small police stations called koban are strategically placed throughout cities and neighborhoods so you can always find a safe haven or just a place to ask for directions. Their ubiquitous presence also encourages people to turn in lost property, including cash. 

5. Germany

Germany offers economic and political stability, which makes it an ideal place for you to study abroad. Crime rates are low and laws are strictly enforced. Germany is a magnet for international students. And it’s said that there’s safety in numbers.

6. Spain

Spain is first and foremost a country devoted to living the good life and there’s a fair amount of safety serving as the steady foundation to the good life. There’s also a lot of diversity walking around in Spain, so if you don’t fit the description of a stereotypical local, you are less likely to stick out like a sore thumb and be an easy target for gypsies and pickpockets. 

two young travelers

Adventure is out there. Go find it!

7. Chile

Compared with other South American countries, Chile is remarkably safe. Chileans are known to be friendly and welcoming to foreigners, violent crimes are quite rare, and there are plenty of guided and insured adventure sports to take advantage of. 

  • What to study here: conservation, health
  • Recommended program: Study Abroad in Chile with API

8. Czech Republic

The Czech Republic goes the extra mile to ensure the safety of its visitors. For example, every lamppost in Prague has a six-digit number posted at eye-level. Should you require assistance from the police or emergency services, these codes will pinpoint your location if you’re unable to offer an exact address.

10 (actually helpful) study abroad health & safety tips

When it comes to how to stay safe while studying abroad, here are 10 basic health and safety tips to help you check yourself before you wreck yourself when studying abroad:

1. Bring back the fanny pack.

Wearing a fanny pack or a money belt is a pro traveler move. Having a small, zippered pouch securely fastened around your waist and tucked under your pants or shirt keeps all your goodies out of reach of pickpockets and out of sight to those looking to target tourists. With a fanny pack or money belt, all your essential documents, cash, cards, etc. are on you as securely and thoughtlessly as your underwear. 

2.  Use the buddy system.

One of the biggest warnings to students studying abroad is not to wander the streets alone, especially at night. So one of the most basic and obvious tips is to use the buddy system. If you didn’t bring a buddy with you from home, don’t be afraid to ask a classmate if you feel uncomfortable traveling somewhere alone, especially for the first few days in your new area while you are still getting acclimated. Chances are, they will be happy to have you as their buddy too.

3.  Keep a low profile.

You don’t have to hide away and be a hermit, but remember that it’s best if you don’t broadcast the fact that you are a foreigner. This will prevent unwanted attention and also help you immerse yourself in the culture. This is the time to practice the art of camouflage. Dress like the locals and leave your jewelry at home. 

4.  Get travel insurance.

If an emergency situation occurs while studying abroad, travel insurance will swoop in and save the day. Most study abroad program providers will help you sort out this detail, but you should also make the effort to know your insurance policy like the back of your hand.

empty drinks

Don’t go crazy with the alcohol—your safety and your liver will thank you. ;-)

5.  Drink wisely.

Do not get white girl wasted. Drink responsibly with friends you trust and always know how you plan to safely get home before you go out. If you aren’t 627% sure where your drink came from, don’t drink it. It seems obvious, but you’re in a foreign country, so you’re a target just by being a tourist and being drunk just multiplies that risk by like a gazillion (not actual statistic). Also, those picturesque cobblestone streets and heels don’t mix.

6.  Enroll in a government travel program.

Different countries take unique measures to ensure their citizens are traveling as safely as possible. Many countries offer programs specifically designed to track and locate travelers as they move around outside of their home country. In the UK, this is the Registered Traveller Service. While Australia offers the Smart Traveller Program and U.S. citizens can opt to sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. These government programs share underlying goals: to keep you safe, keep tabs on whether or not you are alive, and keep your family informed on your status in an emergency situation.

7.  Make multiple copies of your ID and passport.

This may be one of the oldest travel tips in the book. However, it can’t go without being said again, and again: have multiple copies of your travel identification documents handy. Leave physical and digital copies with your immediate family, make sure your study abroad provider has multiple versions, save your files in your school and personal email accounts, keep a copy folded up neatly in your money belt, and stash a few extra physical copies in your notebooks and your suitcase. It may seem like overkill, but this small step can potentially alleviate a boatload of stress in case of an emergency.

8.  Tell people where you are.

Even if you are just going out for a morning stroll, give someone a heads up. Shoot a text to a friend letting them know your general vicinity or let your roommate know when you expect to return. If you are intending to travel outside of your study abroad city, let your on-site director know in advance. The more people are aware of your bearings, the safer you will be. If you are impossible to track down in a crisis, your friends and extended network might aptly jump to the worst case scenario, thinking you will be starring in the next Taken movie. Save everyone the panic by being proactive in telling others your wheres and whens.

9.  Learn the language.

If you plan to study abroad in a country where you aren’t familiar with the language, try and get with it before you go. You will definitely pick up a lot when you get there, but make sure you prepare by learning a few basic phrases, like the word for “help” for instance. Taking it a step further and researching the cultural nuances and nonverbal language can also keep you out of unnecessary trouble.

10. Trust your gut.

Seriously, it’s always right. Keep your wits about you. Be aware of your surroundings. Be smart and travel smart. 

Special circumstances

young solo female traveler

Ladies should take extra precautions when choosing where to study abroad safely.

Is it safe for women to study abroad solo?

The answer to this one is a resounding YES! Studying abroad solo requires you to be extra aware of your surroundings no matter what your gender, but at the end of the day, women are just as safe studying abroad solo as they are in a group. Plus, ain’t nobody gonna mess with a woman who flaunts enough confidence to run around the world solo. Who run the world? Women who study abroad solo!

Where is it safe to study abroad openly as a LGBTIQ*?

In many countries, the LGBTIQ community has come a long way, and each victory should be celebrated until equity has been reached. However, this isn’t the case in all countries in the world. That being said, LGBTIQ students are not technically banned from studying abroad in any specific countries, but what they should be aware of is that reality might be different abroad, and adjustments in behavior might be necessary.

More developed countries, especially those in northern Europe, have the most affirming LGBTIQ communities. If you would like to continue your crusade for freedom, get involved with LGBTIQ activities, and have an open relationship with your partner, countries such as Spain, France, and Denmark, as well as Canada and New Zealand will let you focus on studies without sacrificing PDA moments or having to sit on the sidelines of any epic parades.

Let’s do this! (With caution)

Study abroad safety statistics only say so much. By taking the necessary precautions and planning ahead, many issues of safety abroad can be lessened or even abolished altogether! Studying abroad is risky business. But what’s more risky is staying in your comfort zone. So don’t let fear hold you back! While there will always be some fear of the unknown, these very fears are part of what you will conquer during a study abroad program. Studying abroad will allow you to see the world for what it is, and form your own opinions instead of having to trust what you’re hearing in the news. 

Spending time abroad will also help you to recognize your shared humanity with others and dissipate fear or misunderstandings. After all, it’s much more fun to love the world than to be afraid of it.

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