Safety while studying or living abroad is an important topic that is often overlooked or not expanded upon. In the midst of the excitement of venturing into a new culture, learning a new language, and growing past your normal boundaries, it is important to consider that as a foreign student, you can often be more vulnerable in a new environment and pegged easily as an “outsider” by those who wish to do bad things.
I always like to start by saying that I am NOT an ‘alarmist’. I believe in striking a balance between basic common sense and finding what works best for the individual, however, there are some important concepts to consider.
As mentioned in my study abroad mini course ‘Surviving Your First Month of Study Abroad, there are different types of safety concerns that are often heavily dependent on where you may be traveling to study.
All of us understand the universal ones such as:
1. Never share your ATM pin number or access codes with anyone
2. Practice ‘Stranger Danger’ (yes, it works for adults too) when you feel uncomfortable in a new
3 Avoid walking home late at night alone or in unlit areas and spaces
4. If taking a ride share or taxi alone at night, take extra precautions to share your location with a friend and even take advantage of enhanced features from apps like Uber to request a ‘Pin-access only’ ride after hours.
However, I also wanted to point out an often overlooked aspect of safety – avoiding scams while abroad.
While you have probably heard much about Financial Theft and Identity Theft Scams, including electronic crowd skimming (please remember to pack several RFID covers with you!) “Personal opt-in scams as I call them are also rampant in many parts of the world.
They have always been around, but as we emerge from the pandemic, many more bad actors are in search of ways to make money fast and my goal is to ensure you do not become one of their victims.
Among these types of scams, always avoid:
Opportunities to be a “Model” – This is primarily relevant to young women, but also for some boys as well worldwide. If you get randomly approached by someone saying they own a ‘modeling agency’, take their info and do your research thoroughly. Fake model scams often target foreign students and are often tied to very seedy behavior and even gateways to human trafficking.
Under The Table Work – In a video on my YouTube channel (linked here), I go into extensive detail about what to consider when it comes to working while abroad. I always highly advise against taking “under the table’ work/job opportunities. Most countries are much more strict than they were a decade ago about punishing the book workers and additionally, you risk hefty tax levies from your home country and potentially being added to a ‘no entry’ list of your host country if you are kicked out.
Learn the rules of your visa and the types of permitted areas of work that can help supplement your funding and stick to those perimeters.
Other ‘Get Rich Quick Schemes’ – These could range from scalping event tickets, selling (insert any industry) contracts, “recruiting” or “promoting” a business on the street, and, of course, local multi-level marketing ventures.
As I said, I am not here to play Empress of Fear, but as someone who has been in this industry for a long time, I’ve heard and seen enough to know where some of the blind spots for newbies are.
Focus on always practicing situational awareness, using your best judgment, trusting your gut/intuition, and above all, considering the longer-term impacts of any choices you make and you’ll be fine.
I hope this was helpful for you. Feel free to reach out if you have more questions.
Ready for more on study abroad safety?
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Known as The Study Abroad Specialist, Kimber Grayson is a serial-study abroader turned International Education coach and expert. Since 2014, she has helped 100+ students navigate their semester away journey from the coastal areas of Spain to China and every place in between. In 2018, she launched The LiveStudyLearn™ Abroad Association, a one-of-a-kind online membership platform for study abroad students worldwide.
She holds two Master's degrees from two well-respected London-based universities and has experience working in the US, UK & and Italy.
In her spare time (what's that again?), she enjoys leisure travel city breaks, any snow-based activity, skeet shooting, and attempting to learn new languages.