8 Tips for Staying Safe While Getting a Degree Abroad

by Published

Getting a full-degree abroad can change your life in so many positive ways. You meet new and exciting people, you see sites you’ve only dreamed of, and you experience events you never thought were possible. Despite the awesomeness of the experience living abroad as a student overall, traveling also presents its risks—and you have to be ready for them. 

Spongebob thumbs up

Keepin’ it safe is 👍

When it comes to international student safety, some risks will be outside your control, but most of the time, the matter of safety and staying healthy while attending university abroad is in your hands. While knowing what to pack, how you’re planning to pay, and choosing a program abroad are all important parts of your study abroad checklist. Your health and safety while abroad is the most important component there is to having a successful trip.

So to quell the stress levels in you (or your parents) your student safety abroad, we have compiled a list of the safest student cities with prominent universities, as well as a few nifty safety tips for long term travelers abroad.

Is attending university abroad safe?

Absolutely! Many school study abroad programs take all the steps to ensure that it is safe to attend universities abroad. On your behalf, universities and other study abroad programs consult government agencies, prepare emergency plans, and vet vendors and services to secure student and faculty safety while abroad. 

If anything, programs do everything in their power to preserve a culture of safety where the only safety issues you may encounter are the risks you pose to yourself. With tightly packed itineraries and secure partner campuses your essential safety needs are always covered.

World’s safest places to get full degrees abroad

So where is it exactly safe to attend universities abroad? Stress no more we’ve got you covered. This list is full of amazing places that are safe to study as well as safe places to get your master’s degree abroad. For the highest ranking countries, the index numbers are between 1-2.5 with one being the highest. The rankings on our list range between 1-1.6, so you can trust that these countries—according to the —are the safest in the world.

Australia 🇦🇺

With low rates of theft and safe transportation, Beautiful beaches and pacific wildlife are not all this country has to offer. Safe for LGBTIQ and female travelers, Australia is open and safe to all.

Girl reading book and map

Get in the know before you go! Travel guides are your best pal.

Canada 🇨🇦

With the reputation of having the it’s no surprise that Canada has a place on our list. In addition to the nice locals, Canada has a very .  Coupled with nice law enforcement, respect for the law, all in Canada nature filled backdrop you can say safety comes natural to them.

Czech Republic 🇨🇿

Another featured country on our list with a small crime rate. The Czech Republic, though a small country, boasts beautiful architecture and it’s much celebrated capital of Prague. While the country is known for its beer and multitude of bars for you to visit and try; the country also has a zero tolerance policy regarding driving under the influence, keeping roads and pedestrians safe.

Austria 🇦🇹

As the 4th safest country in the world can it get any safer? Offering low rates of serious crime and a reputation for safe transportation, studying in Austria has little to no risks. Leaving you less time to stress your security and more time to try some Schnitzel.

Denmark 🇩🇰

A rich culture that spans more than just the Vikings this progressive country champions freedom of speech and press. Countries that prioritize these freedoms are least likely to have violence and conflict. The peaceful nature of Denmark makes it the safe place to study abroad, plus Legoland is the perfect place for a study break.

Germany 🇩🇪

The law is strictly enforced and abided by, making this a safe country to study abroad. With reliable security, safe transportation, and low crime rates, there is certainly no reason to avoid seeing this beautiful country.

Japanese building

Nothing to worry here—except running out of space on your camera roll

Japan 🇯🇵

With low air pollution and a low crime rate Japan is a beautiful country with a history of prioritizing health and safety. With Japan’s high rank in safety even more impressive due to its size it’s clear that safety is number one.

Spain 🇪🇸

As the 9th friendliest country in the world safety concern and risks are pretty low. Home to tapas, world class wines, and a vibrant culture Spain is a safe to study as well as safe places to get your master’s degree abroad.

Switzerland 🇨🇭

Offering safe transportation and low crime rates, safety in Switzerland is not an issue. Famous for Geneva, the capital of peace and freedom. Switzerland talks the talk and walks the walk.

New Zealand 🇳🇿

With the lowest crime rate involving guns and gun control New Zealand is an obvious addition to our list. Known as the Paradise of the Pacific, its high rating for safety makes it easy to understand why.

Girl on a train

Make sure you check out all the safest options for transportation within your country.

9 ways to stay safe while attending university abroad

You need to be in tip-top shape to get that international degree. Here are our best tips for staying safe and healthy while attending universities abroad.

1. Know your country.

While studying abroad for your degree, you will likely find many differences in the country that will be your temporary new home. Whether you’re studying in England and Australia, or someplace else like China or Guatemala, getting to know your country and its cultural differences will help to reduce risks you might encounter while you’re away. While your professors, host family, or new global friends are great on-site resources for this information; the is also a great place to learn any safety precautions you may need to take in advance. Keeping an updated record of travel advisories and alerts the website is the perfect way to stay informed.

2. Make copies of essential information.

When you study abroad long term, sometimes bad things happen—like your passport going missing or losing your money. In cases like these, it’s safe to keep copies of your passport and your personal I.D. on hand so you can have these important documents as a backup. So before you go, find a scanner, keep calm, and copy on. You should also be uploading even more backup copies to your cloud or email. Digital AND physical copies are essential.

3. Use an international phone plan.

In an increasingly globalized world, it’s good to keep in touch with those at home. From periodic check ins with family to keeping your phone handy for emergencies, having a cellphone while abroad can be useful in a variety of circumstances. Before you go, inquire with your cell phone provider to set up the best plan for you or ask your university advisor if you should hold out and buy a local phone and phone plan once you arrive. No matter your strategy, say NO to roaming charges! 

And also—while we’re on the subject—keep a close eye on your phone because it can also make you a target for theft. Instead of idly passing time thumbing through photos of your friends back home, pay attention to your surroundings (both place and people) and stay alert. More on this to come.

4. Bring along any important medicine/prescriptions that you need.

If you have any medical needs, make sure you arrange to get all necessary prescriptions before you depart for your trip. You can also check with your medical provider to see if your medicine is available abroad if you need it. Additionally, check if your medication is legal in your chosen country. The and are great resources to catch up on the most updated information regarding medications abroad. 

Piggy Bank 

Keep the important stuff super secure

5. Put your phone down & pay attention to your surroundings.

Yes, this is going to be kind of hard, but it’s for your own good. While this is not a tip to ban you from phone usage altogether (see number #3), we’re referring to the mindless scrolling while walking from place to place or sitting somewhere alone like a park or a restaurant. While it’s something we all do at home, doing this abroad can present its own risks. Staying aware of your environment (and off your phone) can reduce them. 

When it comes to your safety and staying healthy while studying abroad for your degree, it’s important to be in tune with your surroundings. So with the exception of taking cool globetrotting selfies and snapshots of all the amazing places you’ll see on your travel itinerary, it’s best to give your phone a rest.  

6. Don’t forget to pack your common sense.

We know that, for the sake of adventure, there are going to be some things you will do abroad that you wouldn’t be brave enough to try back home. And that’s great (we are pro-pushing-your-comfort-zone) but you should also, without fail, exercise caution. This is not to discourage you from going beyond the tourist hotspots and immersing yourself in the local culture (we’re so for it!), but even in the safest student cities, bad decisions can put you at risk for some not-so-good things. Listen to your instincts and explore smart!

7. Keep your valuables secure and try not to look like a tourist (because you’re not!).

When carrying things like your wallet or phone, keep them secure in your front pocket. Also, make sure to keep any bags you’re carrying zipped and in front of you. This keeps your valuables safe from pickpockets and helps you protect yourself from any theft attempts, particularly in crowded spaces (like rush hour to the cafeteria!).

As a long term student, it’s more and more likely your behavior will evoke that of a local rather than of a tourist. But, it’s still helpful to bear in mind that certain actions can make you stand out (and not in a particularly good way). Don’t flash expensive brands, walk with purpose, and don’t look lost. Sticking out like a sore thumb will make you look like a neon light to con artists or thieves that might take advantage of you. So stick some duct tape over your Nikon logo, duck into a café to check if you’re really going the right way, and travel with purpose.

8. Make some local friends.

Not only will this benefit your ability to learn and understand the country where you’re getting your undergraduate or masters degree abroad, but it will also benefit your health and safety. In the case of an emergency, it can be very helpful to have a true local’s insight and help available. Foreign hospital systems can be tricky and if you end up in jail, your only option for immediate help may be someone like your local friends. So while you’re in class or doing late night cramming at the library, strike up a conversation with someone from the place. You’ll be better for it!

Special circumstances

Man tapping his head

Remember, stay safe

While safety abroad is a top priority for any international student, being an international student that identifies as a woman or a person of the LGBTIQ community must sometimes take extra precautions. Even though these identities can present additional risks, it is still safe to attend universities abroad. While some are mentioned in our safest student cities list, make sure to see our list of countries that embrace LGBTIQ students. In some instances, it may be safer to keep your sexual identity to yourself and a few close friends rather than being open it publicly. Take cues from your community and try to connect with past LGBTIQ students in your study abroad destination if possible.

[See more travel tips and advice from the LGBTQ perspective]

Women who choose to study in countries where even basic gender equality standards are still a long shot may have to adapt to new levels of oppression. Our best advice is to do extensive research and actually talk to other women who have been in your shoes before. They will be great resources for information regarding how you should dress, how you should address people in power, and how you should carry yourself as a female international student abroad.

You just go an A+ in International Student Safety 101

Despite the risks out there don’t be afraid! There’s plenty of room for spontaneous travel while you’re studying abroad but spontaneity is not a code word for unsafe.  Never compromise safety for opportunity and remember that the best kind travel happens when you’re prepared and safe.

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