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Student Safety

Preparing for Personal Safety while Away

Mental Health
The cultural adjustment process requires psychological flexibility in the face of different customs, beliefs, and living conditions. These new situations may trigger “culture shock” while studying abroad, marked by symptoms such as sadness, anxiety, homesickness, and difficulties eating and sleeping, to name a few. The adjustment process, with all its ups and downs, is a manageable experience for most participants, but sometimes preexisting health conditions can become exacerbated in new settings or new conditions can emerge. Students are encouraged to discuss their GO plans with their mental health provider. All students are asked to complete a wellness plan to start thinking about healthy habits before departure. You are always encouraged to seek assistance if you are not feeling well or have any questions at all.

Tips for adjusting to new culture

  • Don’t isolate yourself. Explore your host city, don’t just stay in your housing.
  • Keep in touch with friends back home but also reach out to people in your host country.
  • Journal.  This can be good for tracking mood and if you’re experiencing culture shock or something more. There are also great mood tracker apps.
  • Recognize your limits and allow yourself to take time for self-care, even if it may take away from an excursion or activity.
  • Remember to eat and get enough sleep. Jetlag and exhaustion can impact mood.
  • If you choose to drink alcohol, be mindful of your use. Alcohol may affect you differently when in another place.
  • Expect to feel upset, nervous, frustrated at times and recognize ways to cope. You will face similar challenges abroad as you do at SU.
  • Be patient with yourself. Getting used to a new environment and culture takes time.  Remember, culture shock is natural.
  • Reach out for support. Your Study Abroad Advisor and others back on campus are still here to support you.

Additional Resources:

Safety and security precautions

Personal safety is an important precaution travelers must take abroad. Foreigners are often victims of crimes, accidents, and illness simply due to their unfamiliarity with the location. The following sections offer suggestions and resources to ensure you are prepared for the most common safety concerns. The U.S. Department of State also has detailed information about personal safety during international travel, as does StudentsAbroad website
You are your best resource for staying safe abroad. Here is a list of tips to consider when studying away.

  • Be alert and aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded or tourist areas, and trust your instincts. If something feels off, listen to your inner voice.
  • Look out for each other and intervene when friends need help. Don’t go out alone, watch out for each other’s drinks, and come home with the same friends you went out with.
  • Always carry a fully charged mobile phone and make sure you can use it on the cell network and not just wifi. Put the local equivalent of 911 in your contact list as well as the 24/7 contact numbers for your program.
  • Register any weekend trips with SU ( and let your program know when you will be away from your host city.
  • Practice responsible behavior with alcohol, which can affect your judgment and lower inhibitions, and avoid drugs which can impair you and become a serious legal issue.
  • Don’t drive abroad. Driving in foreign countries is a top cause of serious injury and death of U.S travelers overseas.
  • Take precautions with outdoor activities, and especially when it comes to water safety. Be sure to follow warning signs and have a safety plan for any water activities. 
  • Report suspicious persons following you or loitering around where you live, study, or work.
  • Keep your residence area locked. Do not reveal information to strangers about where you live, study or work, or your travel itinerary.
  • Do not draw attention to yourself through expensive dress and accessories, or careless behavior.
  • Avoid walking alone late at night or in questionable neighborhoods.
  • Know how to say ‘no’ in the local language and manner. Be aware that the friendliness of Americans may be mistaken for romantic interest
  • Use ATMs attached to banks or banks to exchange money
  • Do not carry more money than you need for the day. And while out, put most of your money in a safe place such as a money belt.
  • Know the local laws. Americans abroad are subject to the laws of the foreign countries they are visiting and are not protected by U.S. laws by virtue of being a U.S. citizen
  • Avoid crowds, protest groups, or other potentially volatile situations

Above all, ask for help when you need it! Your program staff is there to help with whatever comes your way.