The health and safety of any UT student studying abroad is a primary concern for the UT Study Abroad Office and the BBA International Programs Office. Take the quiz below to test your level of preparation. Knowing the answers to these key questions will be critical to your pre-departure planning as well as the base to having a pleasant and productive time abroad. Remember you are ultimately responsible for the choices you make regarding your safety! Many places abroad are safer than the U.S., but your lack of familiarity with the culture, language, people and locales may put you at higher risk.
Risk and Safety Preparation
The safety of our students is of the utmost importance to us. It is our chief concern. Unfortunately, there are no guaranties when it comes to safety - not at home, as 9/11 so tragically demonstrated, and not abroad. Nonetheless, risk can be limited. To that end, we strongly encourage our students to read thoroughly and to take seriously the risk and safety information provided below and to stay aware of current events in the countries in which they will be studying.
Four Principles of Personal Risk Preparedness While Studying Abroad
Students should be aware of local hotspots and events. Read local newspapers and magazines, also keep up with international newspapers (e.g. Herald Tribune, Newsweek, Economist, Financial Times, etc.) Learn from local residents which areas of town are safe or dangerous and when to avoid certain locations. For example, normally safe areas may become more risky late at night, during soccer games, or political rallies. Determine which means of transportation are safe and secure, and at what time of day. Which is safer late at night: public transportation (buses, subways, etc.) or taxis? This varies from country to country. When traveling from a familiar city to an unfamiliar area, ask for advice and research safe areas before departing. We would like to add however, that participating in a demonstration is not a good way to raise awareness!
Uncertainty causes a great deal of anxiety. Students are asked to check in regularly with their family, by phone or e-mail. Cell phones are quite inexpensive in many countries; many plans do not charge to receive calls. Students should inquire with their program provider which cell phone plans are best. For many parents, simply knowing that they can reach their student at anytime day or night, reduces anxiety considerably. The Study Abroad Office also asks that you check in with us regularly by e-mail or phone. Notify us if you have a concern about your safety, or just to say that things are fine. We appreciate hearing from students.
Cultural Common Sense:
Gaining cross-cultural understanding is one of the most important and profound learning experiences students have while abroad. Students can apply their newfound cross-cultural understanding to help preserve their safety. The first point is to recognize that cultures are different, even if they appear similar. While all cultures value safety and stability, the ways they achieve it may vary considerably. Students can enhance their experience and personal safety by learning the answers to the following cultural questions:
- What do people in this culture value most?
- How are reputations made or ruined?
- What behaviors, manners or clothing blend-in and which demand attention?
- How do people respond to uncertainty or difference? Are they open or do they feel threatened?
- What are the cultural norms for alcohol in the host country?
- What reputation do U.S. students have? Do my actions, behavior and dress reinforce the negative or the positive?
Many people are concerned about study abroad students' safety and security – including parents and friends, the BBA International Programs staff and the University, the hosting institution and people responsible for accommodation abroad. However, no one will be as involved or concerned as you, the student. Personal safety and security begins with the multitude of decisions each student makes on a daily basis; which includes the transportation methods you choose, whom you associate with, when and where you go out, etc. By being aware, employing cultural common sense and making responsible, intelligent choices, students can greatly narrow the risks to their own safety. By far, the greatest threat to student safety involves alcohol. That alcohol impairs one's judgment is well known, but too often ignored. Although drinking across cultures is not necessarily as dangerous as drinking and driving, overindulgence, especially in an unfamiliar country, can result in equally negative consequences.
Additional Tips on Reducing Student Risk:
- Stay Informed, by local news and people.
- Have Documents and Cash Available, including passport and air tickets.
- Don't Dress Like an American, e.g. leave the Texas cap at home.
- Don't Discuss Politics, and certainly don't feel compelled to defend any US policy in a bar.
- Avoid American hangouts.
For the majority of students, study abroad is an amazing and sometimes life-changing experience. But just like life at your home school, you may encounter some discrimination on your travels. Diverse students face discrimination. People might judge you based on your ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, age, religion, or gender. Remember, there is nowhere in the world 100-percent free of ignorant people. Whatever happens, don’t let the possibility of discrimination prevent you from experiencing the many benefits of study abroad.
International experiences have had a tremendous effect on the personal and professional lives of individuals from all kinds of diverse backgrounds. While no place is completely free from discrimination, some students actually discover less discrimination abroad than at their home universities. You will learn a lot about your host country’s culture and your own by living in another country.
Curiosity or discrimination?
You may discover that what first seems like discrimination is actually curiosity. Your challenge is to figure out the difference. People may stare at you or ask questions that you find insensitive. Another thing to keep in mind is that people outside of the U.S. tend to be less concerned about “political correctness.” At times you may find someone to be saying something that you find offensive. However, they may not realize that it is offensive to you; in fact, what they say may be perfectly acceptable in their society. In other words, the two of you are not attuned to each other’s cultural norms.
An opportunity to change minds
In many parts of the world, a person’s only connection with Americans and certain cultural groups comes from what they see on TV or in movies. Sometimes the media doesn’t portray these groups, such as minorities, in a favorable light. As such, you have the opportunity to be a representative for minorities, people with disabilities, GLBT students, adult students, people of your religion, and/or women abroad. Show who you are and be an ambassador for your culture abroad. In this way, you can help change the perceptions of diverse groups for the positive.
Nevertheless, you may face some sort of discrimination while abroad. Don’t let this possibility rob you of the many benefits that you will gain. Inform yourself beforehand about diverse groups so you have an idea of what to expect during your trip.
BBA study abroad students will be provided with an International SOS membership card during their Pre-Departure Workshop. As member of the SOS network, students can use SOS in the event of a health or safety emergency abroad. However, whatever services you call on SOS to provide must be paid for by you personally. SOS is a special emergency service; it is not insurance. Detailed instructions on how to utilize the International SOS services are in the BBA International Programs Blackboard community.
Students can also register their trip abroad with International SOS, for expedited help in case of emergency. Students can also upload copies of your passport and other documents, sign up for medical and security reports, find English speaking doctors abroad, get help finding if medications are legal in certain countries, look up detailed information about countries, and call them collect 24/7. This is an invaluable resource! Students will be provided with their International SOS membership number at the Pre-Departure Workshop.
To learn more about the services and resources offered, visit at http://www.internationalsos.com.