Safety While Abroad

Your safety is top priority. There are a lot of things you can do prior to departure to prepare to stay safe while abroad. There are also a lot of things you should keep in mind while you're in your host country. Carefully take a look at the resources below:

 

UNC Charlotte faculty, staff, and students traveling on study abroad programs have access to the AlertTraveler phone app for the duration of their study abroad experience. AlertTraveler is an extension of the OEA portal which provides you with alerts about safety and security related events near you (according to your itinerary) and contains professionally provided, up-to-date information about countries and major cities around the world.

Benefits of the app:

  • Access country information to stay up-to-date on issues that may affect your travels

  • Receive real time alerts when an emergency may affect you while traveling

  • The University will be able to send check-in requests to you during emergency situations to make sure you are safe and provide assistance as needed

 

Please reference the AlertTraveler user guide for assistance with downloading and using the app on your phone. Please also consult the AlertTraveler FAQs for additional information.

Any U.S. citizen traveling abroad is highly encouraged to enroll in the U.S. Department of State's Safe Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This is a free service that allows U.S. citizens traveling or living abroad to enroll with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The benefits of enrolling in the STEP program include:

  • Receive the latest safety and security information for your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans
  • Help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency
  • Help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency

Non-U.S. citizens should identify an equivalent resource provided by their home country. 

Research U.S. Department of State Traveler Resources

Travel.State.Gov is the U.S. Department of State's web portal to assist U.S. citizens traveling abroad and is one of your best resources to prepare for your travel, regardless of whether or not you are U.S. citizen. However, non-U.S. citizens may need to supplement their research with resources compiled by their home country. 

  • Go to travel.state.gov
  • Click "Find International Travel Information"
  • Type in your host country in the "Learn About Your Destination" box
  • Review all sections carefully
  • Repeat for any and all destinations (including those you plan to travel to on your own time)

Learn Local Laws

Familiarize yourself with basic local laws and customs in the areas you plan to travel. You are expected to (and will held accountable to) obey their laws, which may include dress standards, photography restrictions, telecommunication restrictions, curfews, etc. 

Dress Appropriately

Plan your wardrobe so that it does not offend the locals, nor draw unwanted attention to yourself. Americans can sometimes be perceived as wealthy and are targeted for pick pocketing and other crimes. Do not wear expensive-looking jewelry and avoid wearing American team sports shorts or baseball caps that might indicate you are American

Make Copies

Of your passport, immigration documents (e.g. visa, residence permit, etc. if applicable), flight itinerary, prescriptions of medicines you plan to take with you, driver's license, credit cards, etc. Keep a set of copies somewhere safe in your accommodations abroad (separate from the originals) and keep another set of copies with someone you trust in the U.S. This will help speed the replacement process if they are lost or stolen.

Protect Your Identity

Protect your passport! It is recommended that you carry your passport in a front pants pocket or in a pouch hidden in your clothes. Some hotels require you to leave it at the front deck during your stay and they may use it to register you with the local police - a routine policy. If your passport is lost or stolen, report the situation immediately to the nearest US Embassy or Consulate

Use Valid Public Transportation

Only use authorized taxis. Unauthorized taxis may take longer routes in order to charge you more.

Travel in Groups

Avoid traveling alone, especially after dark. Be conscious of your surroundings and avoid areas you believe may put your personal safety at risk. While a person has your attention, another may be picking your pocket.

Manage Your Money

Do not carry large amounts of cash. Always deal with reputable currency exchange officials or you run the risk of receiving counterfeit currency. Keep a record of your financial transactions

Drink Responsibly

If you are of the legal drinking age in your host country, be smart when consuming alcohol. "Binge drinking" is a fad that is largely associated with Americans. Do not leave drinks unattended as someone could slip a drug into it that causes amnesia and sleep.

 

Additionally, if you choose to consume alcohol, it's recommended you only purchase alcohol that is in a sealed contained (i.e. not purchasing mixed drinks or unmarked alcohol on the streets). While rare, some locals may use methanol in addition to ethanol (ingredients in alcohol - to keep costs low), which is a very harmful substance and could lead to death. Please research your host city thoroughly and avoid drinking alcohol in locations that are known to do this.

Beware of Pickpockets

Yes, this is real and very common - especially in high tourist destinations. You can protect your belongings by:

  • Wearing a money belt
  • Leave your valuables in the U.S. or somewhere safe in your accommodations abroad
  • Don't hang your bags or purses on the backs of chairs or leave them unattended
  • Don't put money or your wallet in your back pocket
  • Stay vigilant in crowds & steer clear of commotions; sometimes this can be a smokescreen for theft to distract you while you're being pickpocketed

Avoid Protests

Avoid civil disturbance and obey local laws. If you come upon a demonstration or rally, be careful; in the confusion you could be arrested or detained even though you are a bystander. Be mindful that in many countries, it is prohibited to speak derogatorily of the government and its leaders. It may be illegal to take photographs of train stations, government buildings, religious symbols, and its military installations.

If You're Arrested

If you are arrested for any reason, ask to notify the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. A consular officer cannot arrange for free legal aid or provide bail money, but they can assist you. Do not admit to any wrongdoing. Also - don't use your one phone call on the Office of Education Abroad! Unfortunately, there is nothing OEA can do for you in the event that you are arrested abroad.

Situational Awareness

Be aware of your surroundings. Take mental notes of anyone following you and promptly report it to the appropriate security officials and/or the US Embassy or Consulate.

Conversations May Not Be Private

Beware that your conversations many not be private or secure. Unlike the United States, most other countries do not have legal restrictions against technical surveillance. Most foreign security services have various means of screening incoming visitors to identify persons of potential intelligence interest. They also have well established contacts with hotels and common hosts that can assist in various forms of monitoring you

Telephone, Laptop & Cyber Security

  • Do not leave electronic devices unattended. Do not transport them (or anything valuable) in your checked baggage. Shield passwords from view. Avoid Wi-Fi networks if you can. In some countries they are controlled by security services; in all cases they are insecure.
  • Sanitize your laptop, telephone and PDA, prior to travel and ensure no sensitive contact, research, or personal data is on them. Back-up all information you take and leave them at home. If feasible, use a different phone and a new email account while traveling.
  • Use up-to-date protections for antivirus, spyware, security patches, and firewalls.  Don’t use thumb drives given to you-they may be compromised.
  • In most countries, you have no expectation of privacy in Internet café, hotels, airplanes, offices, or public spaces. All information you send electronically (fax, computer, telephone) can be intercepted, especially wireless communications. If information might be valuable to another government, company or group, you should assume that it will be intercepted and retained. Security services and criminals can track your movements using the mobile phone and can turn on the microphone in your device even when you think it is turned off.
  • Beware of “phishing”. Foreign security services and criminals are adept at pretending to be someone you trust in order to obtain personal or sensitive information.
  • If your device is stolen, report it immediately to the local US Embassy or Consulate.
  • Change all your password including your voicemail and check devices for malware when you return.

EXERCISE CAUTION IN NEW RELATIONSHIPS

 

You will interact with a lot of new people while traveling abroad, which is one of the benefits of participating in an international experience. You could be meeting new people from UNC Charlotte, the U.S. or elsewhere in the world. 

It is important to recognize and pay attention to certain red flags when meeting new people. 80-90% of victims know their assailant and most attacks are planned. Regardless of your gender or sexual preference, below are some red flags to look out for while interacting with others while abroad. Keep in mind that not everyone who might exhibit some of these behaviors has malicious intent, but these are red flags to look out for that could warn you that someone does have bad intentions or might try to pressure you into something you don’t want to do. You should keep your guard up and be assertive about what you do and do not want to do when meeting new people. 

Charm and Niceness

“He or she was so nice” is a comment often heard from people describing the person who moments or months after being so nice, ended up attacking them. Unsolicited niceness often has a discoverable motive. Some people are genuinely nice, just keep in mind potential ulterior motives if someone is making an extra effort to be particularly charming or nice to you.

Discounting the Word “No”

Declining to hear “no” is a signal that someone is either seeking control of a situation or refusing to relinquish it. Some things you might hear from them in response to a no include “Oh Come on,” “You don’t mean that” “I’m so nice” etc. Refusing to accept “no” often starts with refusing to accept “no” to minor issues such as buying you a drink, asking you to dance, joining you uninvited at your table, touching you, etc. The worst response to give to someone who refuses to accept “no” is to give ever weakening refusals and then give in. If you mean “no,” don’t negotiate. Remove yourself from the situation if necessary.

Loan sharking

In the case of loan sharking, the person may generously offer assistance, gifts or compliments, but is always calculating the accumulating debt. Examples may be buying drinks, inviting you to do fun things, etc. or otherwise expressing interest in you. Eventually this may turn into an insistence that you repay the debt which you are under no obligation to do. 

Typecasting

Labels you in some slightly (or not so slightly) critical way, hoping you feel compelled to prove that his opinion is not accurate. The typecaster does not even believe what he or she says is true. They just believe that it will work to get a response out of you and get you to engage in conversation with them.

Too Many Details

When people are telling the truth, they don’t feel doubted, so they don’t feel the need for additional support in the form of details. When people are trying to deceive you, however, even if what they say sounds credible to you, it does not sound credible to them, so they keep talking. If you are invited to a party with a description of the food and the people and “my mother will be cooking and would love to meet you…” and keeps adding details, you might want to pause for a moment to think about it.

Forced Teaming

Some people may attempt to establish premature trust with you on the basis of “were-all- in-the same-boat” and serves to turn you against your potential allies (e.g. friends). This attitude is hard to rebuff without feeling rude. The detectable signal of forced teaming is the projection of a shared purpose or experience where none exists.

The Unsolicited Promise

Promises are used to convince us of an intention. “If you come with me, I promise to get you home before your next class”. The reason a person promises you something is that he can see that you are unconvinced. When someone promises you something, it tells you that you are doubtful. Then you need to listen to your doubts and ask where they are coming from, and then decide to suppress them or to listen to them.

Disclaimer

The information above is intended to be a resource in recognizing when someone may have bad intentions. This does not meet that you should be immediately shut off to everyone you meet, or that everyone is out to harm you. Ultimately, you want to keep these things in mind, stay alert, and be assertive. 

 

sexual & interpersonal misconduct

In the event of sexual or interpersonal misconduct while abroad:

  • Contact local medical professionals
  • Contact local law enforcement
  • Communicate with Faculty Director or On-site staff
  • Report to UNC Charlotte Title IX (will reach out with resources)

All information listed above is subject to change