There are some important things that students can do to help ensure a safe and healthy experience overseas. All students should be aware that there are inherent risks associated with any travel, and that neither Whitman College nor the study abroad program they attend can guarantee their safety or eliminate risk. Although most foreign countries have less violent crime than the U.S. and may seem to be relatively "safe", there are certain aspects of living and traveling abroad that make it riskier than being in a home environment.

General Safety Tips

  • Read all program information carefully and take seriously any recommendations related to safety, health, the physical environment, the law and cultural conditions in the host country.
  • Read the State Department's Consular Reports to U.S. travelers for the countries you plan to travel to. The reports highlight risks to Americans abroad. It is accessible at
  • Consider personal health and safety needs when accepting a place in a program.
  • Students should make available to the sponsor accurate and complete physical and mental health information about themselves, so they can be efficiently helped if a problem arises.
  • Students should familiarize themselves with the local police, fire and hospital services as soon as they arrive overseas, so that they know how to contact help in the event of an emergency.
  • Inform program staff promptly of any health or safety concerns.
  • Do not engage in risky activities such as excessive drinking, involvement with illegal drugs, hitchhiking or exchanging money on the black market.
  • Before swimming, students should make sure the body of water they plan to swim in is safe. In the developing world in particular, water that may look fine could be severely polluted or contain the parasites that cause the disease Schistosomiasis.
  • While programs try to screen host families and other student accommodations carefully, problems can arise. If a student feels their housing situation is at all unsafe, they should discuss your concerns with the program staff immediately.
  • Students should use their common sense and instincts--if a situation seems strange, or feels inappropriate, the student should remove themselves from the situation as soon as possible, while remaining as safe as possible.