Safety and Security

Safety is Pitt Study Abroad's number one priority.  While there is inherent risk in international travel, we do our best to mitigate risk and emphasize student safety by: 
     
  • Working with trusted partners and providers overseas. 
  • Keeping strict standards for housing. 
  • Performing yearly site visits and program audits. 
  • Training our faculty and staff in best practices abroad. 
  • Keeping abreast of world news and political situations. 
  • Monitoring all US Department of State advisories, alerts, and warnings. 
  • Maintaining a 24-hour-a-day, 365-days-a-year Study Abroad Emergency Hotline. 
If you have any questions about Pitt Study Abroad's standards for health, safety, and security, please contact our Director, Jeffrey Whitehead. 
 
In the event of an overseas emergency, please contact International SOS, the University's duty of care provider, at +1-215-942-8478 and provide membership ID number 11BMAS563390.
More information on International SOS is available under "Before You Go" and "While Away" pages. 
 

 

 

Things to Know Before You Go

Preparing to be safe and secure during your travels starts before you depart. Be aware of the information below as you prepare for departure. 

The University has contracted with International SOS (ISOS) to provide comprehensive health and security coverage to Pitt student, faculty, and staff traveling for University-related studies or business. ISOS is the world’s leading medical and travel security risk services company.

ISOS coverage provides medical and medical assistance coverage for the dates of your program. It covers:

  • Doctor and hospital visits (for physical and/or mental health needs)
  • Prescribed medication
  • Medically required transportation while abroad
  • Medically required evacuation and repatriation

ISOS also provides:

  • Travel Safety and Security Advice – The University of Pittsburgh ISOS program includes assistance in safety and security preparation before travel abroad and during travel.
  • Health & Safety Line Response – ISOS provides first-line response on the Study Abroad Health and Safety Line and will only pass a call to Study Abroad Office staff in certain situations.

ISOS does NOT cover:

  • Follow up care when you return to the US
  • Routine care – for example: physical exams or routine maternity expenses, non-emergency mental health and substance abuse expenses, surgical second opinions, or home health care
  • Injuries due to certain activities – for example: injuries related to accidents caused by using motorized vehicles and/or engaging in adventure sport activities
  • Personal travel before or after the program dates

We recommend purchasing additional insurance if you are traveling before or after your program.

Before You Travel 

  • If you are taking any medication, ISOS can provide pre-departure guidance on the legality of medications and supplements and the process necessary to carry them with you overseas.
  • If you have a pre-existing condition(s), ISOS can open a case for you before your departure for the program. Your study abroad program manager will work with you on that process after you submit your medical report.
  • We strongly recommend you download the ISOS Assistance App. This convenient app features: ​
    • One-click dialing to the ISOS Assistance Center closest to your location, for immediate help or advice 24/7/365​
    • The latest medical and travel security alerts for your location, with notifications being sent before and during trips​
    • NOTE: You must have a functioning data plan for your country of travel and location services must be turned on for this app to work. When you first start the App, you will be asked to enter your Membership Number, please input the following: 11BMAS563390.
 
 
Advanced planning is required in order to remain healthy, safe, and secure while traveling. This begins at home prior to departure. For detailed information on all health-related matters to review before you go, visit the Your Health page. 
 
The University of Pittsburgh relies on the U.S. Department of State’s Travel Advisories System to guide decision-making regarding student, faculty, and staff travel overseas, along with other information from the Overseas Security Advisory Council and the Centers for Disease Control.  
 
According to the U.S. Department of State, “Travel Advisories follow a consistent format and use plain language to help U.S. citizens find and use important security information. Travel Advisories apply up to four standard levels of advice, describe the risks, and provide clear actions U.S. citizens should take to help ensure their safety.”  
 
The categories are: 1. Exercise Normal Precautions, 2. Exercise Increased Caution, 3. Reconsider Travel, and 4. Do Not Travel. Full details regarding the updated system are available at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html 
 
For more information on the University of Pittsburgh’s travel policies for students, visit the International Travel Guidelines for Students page
All students participating in an international travel program at Pitt should enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program throught US Department of State. This free service allows you to receive important information about the safety conditions in your destination country and helps the U.S. Embassy contact you in case of an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.  
 
You can enroll here: https://step.state.gov/step/ 
  • Before you depart, check with your cell phone provider to see what kind of international service is offered. Your smart phone can be a great tool especially if using apps like Google Translate, Google Maps, currency converters, and more. ​
  • For your safety, be aware of the privacy settings on your phone. Your phone has a location on it and can tell everywhere you’re going. Pay attention to these things. ​
  • Have a plan for keeping in-touch with those at home, and discuss this plan with friends and family prior to departure​. 
  • Have flexibility in mind. For example, you may want to refrain from telling your parents that you’ll call them every other night at 8 if there’s a chance you may be unavailable one day or you may not have phone reception​
  • Skype, Facetime, Zoom, WhatsApp, calls (contact your cell phone provider prior to leaving) are all good options for communicating back home​. A clear communication plan between you and your family and friends at home ensures that they know that you are safe and secure during your travels.
If you’re an international student or a non-US citizen traveling on a program, you have additional considerations before departing:​
  • Refer to your government’s website to determine if you require a visa to enter the country or if there are any travel restrictions or travel bans​.
  • Meet with Pitt’s Office of International Services if you have questions about your current immigration documents​.
  • Contact International SOS if you have additional travel concerns after meeting with the OIS.
Updates from the Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management regarding University of Pittsburgh's COVID-19 travel policy is available at https://www.emergency.pitt.edu/coronavirus 

 

 

 

 

 

Knowledge and Prevention While Away

In order to maximize your safety and security and assist in your decision-making while away, please review the essential topics below to prevent potentially dangerous situations from occuring.   

  • In emergency situations, contact the in-country equivalent of 911.  Here’s a handy reference list of  emergency contact numbers in  foreign countries.
  • In non-emergency health and safety situations, contact International SOS, the University Health Insurance provider:  +1-215-942-8478​ 
  • In either situation, keep your faculty leader, program manager, and on-site staff informed. 

For mental and emotional wellness support, International SOS also offers zoom or skype sessions with therapists through WPO.  The administration or prescription of medication is not managed through WPO services; but International SOS can assist with referrals to local psychiatrists, as needed.  In either situation, contact International SOS, 24/7, so that the appropriate assistance can be provided.

  • SOS will help locate a qualified healthcare provider, receive a prescription, or simply answer any  general medical or security concern you may have so you get quality medical care and advice. 
  • In an emergency, ISOS can ensure that you get immediate care whether it requires evacuating you to a center of medical excellence or closely monitoring your condition with local  doctors. 
  • The ISOS program provides medical, security and logistical expertise to help safeguard Pitt’s international travelers. If you lose your medication in Prague, need to see a doctor in  New  Delhi, get pick-pocketed in Rio or, are in an  accident, you should immediately contact ISOS. 
  • To use this insurance most effectively, you should contact ISOS directly to coordinate care BEFORE going  to a medical facility if possible or practicable. Failure to do so greatly increases the chance that you will be required to pay the  costs up-front, in  which case, you will need to save your receipts and contact ISOS after treatment for reimbursement  instructions. 
  • This insurance does not cover injuries related to accidents caused by using motorized vehicles and/or engaging in adventure sport  activities. 
  • This insurance coverage is only in effect during your actual program dates and thus it does not cover any independent travel before or after your  program..

 

Most petty crime stems from opportunity. As an American abroad, you will stand out and thus some may target you. Being aware of your surroundings significantly reduces your chances of being a victim of crime. 
 
Risks Upon Arrival 
 
Newly arrived travelers are often the targets of crime because they: 
  • Are unfamiliar with their surroundings 
  • Might not speak the local language well 
  • Are recognizable as foreigners 
  • Have not yet learned the social norms or unwritten rules of conduct 
  • Are eager to get to know new people and the local culture 
  • Are naive to the intentions of people around them 
  • Are carrying all their valuables with them 
  • Wear headphones and/or talk on cell phones when walking around, crossing streets, and/or jogging.  
Actions to Avoid 
 
Some factors that you can control, which may place you under greater risk, include: 
  • Being out after midnight 
  • Being alone at night in an isolated area (travel with someone whenever possible) 
  • Being in a known high crime area 
  • Sleeping in an unlocked place 
  • Being out after a local curfew 
  • Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs 
  • Carrying excessive amounts of cash and/or valuable property 
  • Wearing earphones while walking (as then you cannot hear anything going on around you!)
Crime Prevention Tips
  • Do not take valuables on your trip which you may have difficulty replacing.
  • Take major credit cards, ATM cards, or travelers checks, NOT large amounts of cash.
  • Find out which parts of town the locals consider "risky."
  • Stay alert in crowds, especially in areas frequented by tourists.
  • You can NEVER be too careful with your money and belongings.  Use extreme caution at all times.  Possibly the best way to carry your money and passport is in a belt tied around your waist in the inside of your pants, or around your neck, under your shirt.
  • Limit your consumption of alcoholic beverages (drink responsibly) and stay away from banned/illegal substances.  YOU are ultimately responsible for your own behavior and choices.
  • Do not just set your bags down next to you; make sure they are touching some part of your body. 
  • It will be your first instinct to trust many people you meet, but using common sense is not distrust – it is smart. 
  • Fanny packs can be easily cut off of you on crowded trains and buses.  Even in church/religious sites, never let your belongings out of your sight. 
  • Be especially careful when taking pictures as your attention is focused on your subject and camera, rather than your belongings. 
  • "When you least expect it - expect it."  Above all, use common sense at all times.  If something does not feel safe, it probably is not.

Sexual Assault

Rape and sexual assault can happen to women and men of all ages and backgrounds. While most Pitt students abroad do not experience sexual assault, Pitt officials are becoming more aware of students being sexually assaulted while abroad because students are choosing to report. Sexual assault is a very traumatic experience—whenever and wherever it happens—but it may be more difficult to deal with when it happens in an unfamiliar setting. Pitt officials on campus and abroad and host institution officials will be as helpful and responsive as possible with you if you choose to report rape or sexual assault, or attempted rape or sexual assault. 
 
Talking with your local contact/faculty director 
 
Cultural and social attitudes toward rape and sexual assault victims may vary greatly in different countries. The support you receive from law officials and others, in addition to the resources available to you, will vary from country to country. In the United States, for example, if you tell a medical professional that you have been raped, he or she is legally required to report your name and situation to the police. However, you have the legal right to refuse speaking with the police. Laws in other countries may provide you with more or less decision making power. Therefore, it is important to consult with local staff/faculty abroad. 
 
 
Reporting to the police 
 
If you decide against reporting the incident to the police, it is still a good idea to have a medical exam to see if you were injured and to check for sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy. 
 
Be aware, though, that some countries will require the attending physician to alert the police. You may receive an exam and avoid legal involvement by not disclosing the sexual assault to the medical professionals if you do not want to report the assault to the police. 
 
 
Care after sexual assault 
 
Different people react to the trauma of sexual assault in different ways. As a survivor, you might feel angry, ashamed, frightened, or guilty. You may have different feelings at different times. 
 
You may have some of these feelings soon after the attack and some may develop later on, even years later. This is normal after such trauma and you should consider getting help and advice from a counselor or support group whenever you feel you need to. Pitt can provide you with information on what professional and legal help is available to you—both locally and in the US. 
 
 
Myths and Truths 
 
 
MYTH: Rape is uncommon. 
 
REALITY: According to United States Department of Justice document, Criminal Victimization in the United States, there were overall 191,670 victims of rape or sexual assault reported in 2005. 
 
Only 16 percent of rapes and sexual assaults are reported to the police (Rape in America: A Report to the Nation, 1992). 
 
Worldwide, a United Nations statistical report compiled from government sources showed that more than 250,000 cases of male-female rape or attempted rape were recorded by police annually. The reported data covered 65 countries. 
 
 
MYTH: There are many false rape reports. Many women make false rape accusations because they changed their mind after having sex, or in order to get revenge on someone. 
 
REALITY: False rape reports are very rare and are not more common than for any other felony crime. In reality, sexual assault is the most underreported violent crime in the U.S. 84 percent of rapes are never reported to the police. 
 
 
MYTH: Sexual assault is an impulsive crime of passion and lust. 
 
REALITY: Rape is not sex. Sexual assault uses sex as a weapon to dominate, humiliate, and punish victims. Perpetrators plan most sexual assaults in advance. Sexual violence is not just an individual or relationship problem, but stems from institutional sexism, racism, heterosexism, and other forms of oppression. 
 
 
MYTH: Only young, attractive women are sexually assaulted. 
 
REALITY: Sexual assault is a crime of power and control, not sexual attraction, and perpetrators often choose victims whom they perceive as vulnerable. Sexual assault survivors include people of all ages, gender identities, sexual orientations, races, classes, etc. 
 
 
MYTH: Men cannot be raped. 
 
REALITY: Men represent 13 percent of sexual assault survivors. Typically, the perpetrator is a heterosexual male. Being sexually assaulted cannot “make someone gay." 
 
Since you’ll be doing a good bit of traveling to get to your study abroad destination, it is wise to be concerned about the things that you bring with you as well as yourself.  Check if your belongings are covered by your parents' or your homeowners or renters insurance policy.  If you wish, you may purchase a "rider" or "personal articles floater" itemizing any high-value items with which you are traveling (i.e. laptops, jewelry, etc.).  This extra coverage is inexpensive and will cover the replacement cost of the item, not just the depreciated value.  While the parents' coverage may extend to the U.S. campus dorm room, it does not extend to study abroad unless there is a special rider or floater.  However, with the rider or personal articles floater, the specified items are covered anywhere in the world. 
 
 
Make Copies of Important Documents 
Leave a copy of all information at home and keep a copy with you in a safe place.  Items include: copies of the first two pages of your passport, pages containing current visas, travelers check numbers, credit card numbers, ATM card numbers, medical eyeglass/contact prescriptions, and any other essential documents.
 
 
Lost or Stolen Passport 
If your passport is lost or stolen, report the loss immediately to the nearest Foreign Service post (http://www.usembassy.gov) and to the local police. If you can provide the consular officer with the information contained in your passport, it will speed the issuance of a new passport (memorize your number).  Keep a Xerox of your passport data page in a separate place from where you keep your actual passport. 
 
 
Keeping Documents Safe 
Take good care of passports, travel tickets, and any other important documents. 
 
When traveling to your overseas destination, keep your passport with you at all times, preferably in a money pouch that you can wear on your body.  You should also keep proof of citizenship (an expired passport copy or copy of your birth certificate) and proof of identity (any type of photo ID), as well as a copy of your passport and serial number, in a separate location; this will expedite the administrative process in the event that your passport is lost or stolen.  
 
At your program site, it is advisable to carry photocopied information with you at all times.  When cashing travelers checks, you will need your passport. 

Below are some tips to help protect your money while traveling:

  • Keep your money in a safe place, and don’t carry more money with you than you need at any given time.
  • Don’t carry your debit and credit cards with you if you don’t need them..
  • Use ATMs during business hours, so that you can speak with a representative in the event of the machine "eating up" your card. 
  • Use ATMs inside banks, where possible. 
  • If you need to use an ATM that is on the outside of a building or along a street, check for people who might be loitering around. 
  • Cover your hand and PIN-pad when entering your PIN. 
Alcohol
While alcohol consumption may be legal in your host country, the reality is that there are many additional risks when consuming alcohol abroad compared to at-home. While it is required to follow all local laws wherever you travel, if it is legal for you to consume alcohol, we’d ask you to strongly consider the following… ​
 
  • Getting drunk in an unfamiliar location is riskier and more dangerous than at home​
  • Over 50% of student incidents involving sexual assault overseas indicated alcohol as a contributing factor​
  • Language/communication barriers may increase once alcohol is involved​
  • Jet lag, altitude, a change to one’s regular eating schedule, and other factors may alter the effects of alcohol on your body and mind​
  • As a visitor, you are already a potential target for things like theft and assault—don’t put yourself in a position where you make yourself even more vulnerable​
  • Certain types of alcohol may be stronger than what you are used to in the US​
 
If you’re going out at night​
  • Have a plan (and a plan B!)​
  • Stay within your comfort zone ​
  • Travel with a group. And when you’re with a group, speak up! ​
  • Look out for each other and know your surroundings​
  • Refrain from binge drinking​
  • Excessive drunkenness is frowned upon everywhere ​
  • Use common sense​
  • Don’t leave a drink unattended while in public​
  • Know your own limits and understand that now is not the time to push those limits​
  • Remember that you are representing the university, the United States, and your family
Drugs
The University of Pittsburgh has a strict no-drug policy on all programs. Using, possessing, buying, or selling of any drugs (or being knowingly present) is cause for dismissal from the program. This policy exists to protect the wellness and safety of all participants. 
In some countries it may not safe to drink the tap water. If that's the case, consider the following: ​
  • Drink bottled water (make sure cap has not been disturbed) ​
  • Have a water bottle with a water filter (and research which water filters are necessary for the country you are visiting)​
  • Don’t add ice to water in your water bottle or in the restaurant. Often it is not made with filtered water. 
Additionally be careful with what you eat. According to the CDC, the following items can be risky to eat, depending on your location:
  • Raw food including platters of cut-up fruit of vegetables, salads, raw meat or seafood
  • Street food
  • Bushmeat (generally animals not typically eaten in the US) including bats, monkeys, or rodents as they can be sources of Ebola, SARS, and other animal-origin diseases
Do research while traveling to determine what is safe to eat and drink and what precautions you must take.
More information is available on the CDC website.
Accidents involving water are one of the most common causes of death among young Americans abroad. Even the strongest swimmers can be placed in jeopardy by rip tides, overexertion, prolonged sun exposure, and water hazards not visible at the surface. 
 
Follow these basic tips for keeping safe: 
  • Do not swim in unfamiliar bodies of water or at isolated beaches. 
  • Never swim alone. 
  • Never swim while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 
  • Never dive head-first. 
  • Check local information for details of tides, currents, and pollution. Tide changes can produce powerful currents. 
  • Remember that rip currents and undertows can be very common at many beaches. 
  • Do not swim where there are no lifeguards present. 
  • Check for possible hazards from jellyfish, sea urchins, coral, sea snakes, sharks, and venomous fish. Saltwater crocodiles live in coastal estuaries in many countries. 
  • Human sewage and animal feces make some beaches no-go areas for swimming or even wading. 
  • If you find yourself unable to reach shore, wave your arms and yell for assistance. 
 
Fire can pose a significant risk, especially in countries where there is no fire brigade, where buildings are not constructed to minimize fire hazards, and few people know about fire safety. 
 
Fire safety standards differ drastically around the world. Many overseas locations do not meet U.S. standards in terms of fire protection and regulations (e.g., fire sprinklers, smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, etc.), means of escape, and fire-fighting capability. Some older buildings are constructed to minimal standards. 
 
Always consider fire precautions in any building you visit, particularly how to escape. Take the time to inspect your lodging for possible safety hazards, including lack of smoke detectors, exposed wires, and improperly operating heating and cooking equipment. 
 
 
Identify Fire Hazards 

Identify potential fire hazards and take steps to minimize or eliminate hazards. Eliminating fire hazards associated with electricity, natural gas, and flammable liquids will go a long way toward reducing your fire risk. 

 

Smoking in bed or careless smoking

Careless smoking is known to be one of the primary causes of home fires. If you don’t discard a cigarette properly, loose embers that are hot can ignite when they come in contact with a flammable surface. 

 
Other significant hazards include: 
 
  • Smoke alarms that do not work. 
  • Expired or inoperable fire extinguisher. 
  • No escape plan. 
  • Overloaded extension cord. Overloaded electrical outlets. 
  • Using a space heater that is not laboratory tested and approved. 
  • Frayed cord plugged into wall socket. 
  • Electrical cords under carpets or across high-traffic areas. 
  • Electrical appliances left on (hair iron, etc.) 
  • “Daisy-chained” power strips (one plugged into another). 
  • Power strip without circuit breaker. 
  • Flammables close to a source of ignition. 
  • Unattended candle, fireplace, or space heater. 
 
Prevention 
 
Taking a few sensible precautions, you can help protect yourself, and others, from injury— or worse: 
 
  • Ensure you have a working smoke alarm and test it weekly. Smoke alarms with a vibrating pad or flashing light are available for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. 
  • If you smoke, never smoke in bed; when you finish a cigarette, put it out completely and make sure all cigarette ends are cold before emptying ashtrays into bins. 
  • Be aware of where fire alarms are located and fire equipment is kept. 
  • Draw an escape route. Plan and practice it with your housemates. If you use a walker or  wheelchair, check all exits to be sure you can get through the doorways easily. 
  • Students with mobility disability are encouraged to have their bedroom on the ground floor and as close as possible to an exit. 
  • Keep a flashlight on hand to help guide you through smoke. 
For your (and everyone else's) safety, you are not to drive a motor vehicle (car, scooter, etc.) while traveling​. Reasons include
 
  • Roads may not be well-maintained or paved in some countries​
  • Roads may not be well-lit outside the city​
  • Laws will not be the same as in the United States (and some countries drive on the opposite side of the road)​
 
Use safe means of travel in general. Take trips during the day. Try not to travel by night particularly on unfamiliar roads. 

Many countries around the world do not have regulations on air pollution. It is important to learn about the air quality of your program’s location and how take measures to protect yourself.

Resources to help you protect yourself from air pollution during your program: 

Photos serve as great memories and souvenirs to take back home following your travels. Additionally social media is an integral part of our lives, and you may very-well be posting your experiences and photos online while away. For your own safety, keep the following in mind:
  • Be physically careful when taking photos. It's not worth risking your health, your safety, or your life to get that incredible-looking photo.
  • Be mindful of the location's culture and others' privacy when taking photos or videos and sharing them online.
  • Be careful what you post to social media and what details you share. For example, posting your current location can put you in a vulnerable situation. 
  • Consider your privacy settings on social media and who has access to what you post. For example, while it may be great to share your itinerary with friends or family, you shouldn't post it publically on social media for all to see. 
Communication is an essential part of traveling. Below are some tips and things to be mindful of while communicating with others while away:  . ​
 
  • When you run into situations that you're unsure of, try not to simply make assumptions. ​Ask questions. 
  • Use common sense, but more-than-often people are open and willing to help you if you ask (again, don't be afraid to ask if you need help). ​
  • ​If traveling to a non-English speaking country, have a basic understanding of gestures or non-verbal communication signals, as they can be just as effective as words and can help you communicate if in an emergency. 
  • Learn and practice daily basic phrases in the language of your location. When traveling, don't be afraid to make a mistake or say something wrong if you're trying. Practice makes perfect. Feeling comfortable with basic phrases can help if you are ever an emergency situation. 
Be vigilant about your surroundings and where and how you use your devices. Make sure to:
 
  • Keep your devices secure in public places such as airports, hotels and restaurants.
  • Take care that nobody is trying to steal information from you by spying on your device screen while it's in use.
  • Consider using a privacy screen on your laptop to restrict visibility.
 
Be cautious while using public Wi-Fi
 
Some threats – device theft, for example – are obvious. Others, though, will be invisible, such as data thieves trying to pick off passwords to compromise your personally identifiable information or access your accounts. You may be especially vulnerable in locations with public Wi-Fi, including internet cafes, coffee shops, book stores, travel agencies, clinics, libraries, airports and hotels. Some helpful tips:
  • Do not use the same passwords or PIN numbers abroad that you use in the United States.
  • Do not use the public Wi-Fi to make online purchases or access bank accounts.
  • When logging into any public network, shut off your phone's auto-join function.
  • While using a pubic Wi-Fi network, periodically adjust your phone settings to disconnect from the network, then log back in again.
  • Try purposely logging onto the public Wi-Fi using the wrong password. If you can get on anyway, that's a sign that the network is not secure.
Remember also to avoid using public equipment – such as phones, computers and fax machines – for sensitive communications.

 

Responding to Situations

The information below will help assist you if a situation occurs.

As soon as you are aware that you are the victim of a crime, take action IMMEDIATELY. If it is an emergency and it is safe to do so, contact the local equivalent to 911. If you do not know who to contact in a specific situation, call International SOS and inform them of the incident. Additionally you can contact your local representative (program provider or program assistant), Pitt faculty member, or Program Manager. These resources can help you navigate the local legal system, obtain police reports or other necessary documentation, and help you receive aftercare, should you want or need it. Remember: we cannot help you if you do not let us know, and your safety is the most important thing to us, so let us know! 
 
Most abroad programs have pre-planned procedures for emergency evacuations in times of crisis. If a situation should occur in which these plans need to be activated, you will be informed about how to proceed, so continue checking your Pitt e-mail while abroad, and ensure that the University of Pittsburgh study abroad office, your study abroad provider or in-country contact, and family/friends at home have up-to-date contact information for you.
Most abroad programs have pre-planned procedures for emergency evacuations in times of crisis. If a situation should occur in which these plans need to be activated, you will be informed about how to proceed, so be sure to check your Pitt e-mail daily and ensure that the University of Pittsburgh, in-country contacts (study abroad providers, etc.), and family/friends at home have your most up-to-date contact information. 
 
Remember, at any given time, in any given place, a dangerous situation could develop.  For this reason, students should take general precautions while living overseas.  Also, pay attention to daily news reports.
If you are arrested, immediately ask to notify the nearest US Embassy.  You have the right to contact the American Consulate.  If you are unable to do this, try to have someone contact the embassy for you. The Consulate should visit you, contact family and friends and can assist in the transfer of money, clothing and food. 
 
Drug Arrests 
 
Drug arrests and convictions among Americans are on the rise.  If you are caught with illegal drugs overseas, you are subject to local, NOT US laws.  If you are arrested, you must realize:
Few countries provide a jury trial 
Some countries employ the death penalty, with no questions asked 
Most countries do not accept bail 
Pre-trial detention can often last months 
Inhumane conditions may exist in the prisons 
Officials may not speak English 
 
Your Rights Abroad 
 
The rights an American enjoys in the States do not apply to travel abroad. Each country is sovereign and its laws apply to everyone who enters regardless of nationality. The U.S. government cannot get Americans released from foreign jails. However, a U.S. consul will insist on prompt access to an arrested American, provide a list of attorneys, and provide information on the host country’s legal system, offer to contact the arrested Americans family or friends, visit on a regular basis, protest mistreatment, monitor jail conditions, provide dietary supplements, if needed, and keep the State Department informed. 
 
Your Responsibility as a Pitt Student 
 
As you are still a Pitt student and subject to the Student Code of Conduct while abroad, you may be subject to disciplinary proceedings at the University of Pittsburgh if you use, possess, distribute, sell, or are under the influence of illegal drugs or are knowingly present during the commission of the aforementioned violations while abroad.  See Appendix C of this Handbook for a full listing of Offenses Related to Welfare, Health, or Safety (taken from the University of Pittsburgh’s Student Code of Conduct).
 
You are ultimately responsible for your behavior and choices at all times. 

Resources

Read below for additional resources for travelers.

You may find that stereotypes about American women abound overseas.  The stereotypes, as you can imagine, are not always flattering.  Rather, they tend to suggest that US women are very sexually active, most likely using TV and movies as examples. 
 
 
Words of wisdom from women travelers:
  • Be careful of talking about sex.  In a different culture it may equate as a come on. 
  • Be careful in asking men to dance in clubs. 
  • Be aware of going to clubs alone.  This may be interpreted as an "open invitation".                 
  • Do not hitchhike. 
  • Do not respond to the many catcalls you may receive.  Just walk on.              
  • Be firm and assertive when you say NO. Be clear and direct to be certain that your intention and the words are understood. 
  • Be aware that things which may appear as normal to you, such as getting drunk or asking someone to walk you home, may be misconstrued as an indication of poor character and place you in uncomfortable situations. 
 
Violence against women is a growing concern all over the world.  Sometimes when women are out of familiar environment, guards are let down.  Always be alert and use the same safety precautions as you would in Pittsburgh, no matter where you are going.  If something negative should happen to you, go to your program coordinator for assistance.  Unfortunately, in many countries the issue of female harassment is handled quite lightly and you may be treated accordingly by host nationals.  However, both your on-site program staff and the Study Abroad Office take these concerns very seriously and will do whatever they can to help you. 
 
On the same note, women are subject to the same kinds of dangers abroad as they are in the United States, including the danger of rape.  The occurrence of rape is often accompanied by date-rape drugs, such as roofies and GHB (it produces a state similar to being drunk).  Again, use the same precautions abroad that you would in the US, and think about these three simple common sense measures that could prevent you from being drugged: 
  1. Do not leave your drink unattended or exchange drinks with anyone else 
  2. Don’t accept a drink from anyone, no matter how nice they seem 
  3. Avoid drinking from a large open container 
Countries view gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation in many different ways.  Some host cultures may be more welcoming and tolerant of LGBT identities than in the US, but others may have laws that criminalize homosexuality. Gender norms vary from country to country as well, and it is important to do research on those prior to departure.  Learn the laws of your host country regarding LGBT issues, same-sex sexual behavior and expressions of LGBT identity and community.  It is important to remember that you will no longer be protected by US laws once you leave to go abroad.  If same-sex acts are illegal in your host country and you are reported for engaging in them, you could be arrested and imprisoned in that country. Regardless of the laws of your host country, it is always important to research whether an environment is affirming to LGBT people.' 
 
Things to Consider: 
  • Are you only willing to go somewhere that is very tolerant and affirming of LGBT identity?   
  • What if the perfect program for you is in a place that openly discriminates against LGBT individuals?   
 
Some LGBT students may find that their ideal program may be hosted in a place that is less than welcoming.  While this could lead to a very eye-opening and valuable experience, it may also present certain dangers.  You should carefully research your destination and consider all aspects of your health, safety, and security before committing.  
 
Important Questions 
 
Here are some questions to ask yourself and/or your Program Manager or Study Abroad Advisor when choosing a study abroad program:
  • What are the cultural and local attitudes towards Americans, tourists and sexual orientation and gender identity in my host country? 
  • What is the attitude of the police towards LGBT visitors? 
  • What is the social perception of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in my host country? 
  • How open will I be about my sexual orientation and gender identity with my teachers, peers, friends, host family and others? 
  • The LGBT population is often misunderstood by others.  To what degree am I comfortable with educating others and dispelling myths? 
  • Are there situations in which I would not disclose my sexual orientation? 
  • How important is it to me to find other students and friends who share my identity while abroad?  How will I make connections with other sexual minority students, local residents, or community organizations? 
  • Are there LGBT friendly establishments nearby?  How can I find them? 
  • Will I need access to any medications, supplies, or services to properly care for my medical needs, including those related to physical transition, like hormones?  Are they available in my host country?  If not, will I need any additional documentation to travel with any medications or supplies?  Will it be possible to travel legally with these supplies? 

American embassies overseas will assist you in times of national crisis or threatening circumstances.  Embassies will not assist you if, by virtue of your own actions, you break the laws of the country in which you reside.  If you are arrested and taken to jail for a crime you have knowingly committed, the embassy is not responsible for your release.  The US government has no funds for your legal fees or other related expenses.  

 
If you experience difficulties with the local authorities, remember that American officials are limited by foreign laws, US regulations, and geography as to what they can do.  Should you find yourself in need of legal counsel, contact the nearest consular office and they can provide you with a list of attorneys and other services.  Consular offices will do whatever they can to protect your legitimate interests and ensure that you are not discriminated against under local law.  But they cannot get you out of jail.  See Appendix D in the back of this Handbook for a list of what services a consular office can and cannot provide for you. 
 
Information concerning international legal assistance can be viewed at: www.travel.state.gov/law/info/judicial/judicial_702.html or www.travel.state.gov, click on “Law and Policy” then “Judicial Assistance”. 
 
If you are arrested, immediately ask to notify the nearest US Embassy.  You have the right to contact the American Consulate.  If you are unable to do this, try to have someone contact the embassy for you.  The Consulate should visit you, contact family and friends and can assist in the transfer of money, clothing and food.  
 
 
Office of Overseas Citizens Service 
 
Should your family need to contact you while you are traveling (e.g. after the program is over), emergency assistance is available through the Pitt Study Abroad Office and the Citizens’ Emergency Center of the Office of Overseas Citizens Services (OCS) operated by the State Department’s Bureau of Consulate Affairs.  That office is open from 8:15am to 10:00pm Monday through Saturday and can be reached at 1-888-407-4747.  Emergency communication after hours and on Sundays and holidays, contact can be made through the Overseas Citizens’ Services duty officer at (202) 501-4444.  They can, for example, transmit emergency messages from your family, provide protection in the event of an arrest or detention while abroad, transmit emergency funds to destitute nationals when commercial banking facilities are not available, etc.  
 
It would be wise for you to provide your family with at least a tentative itinerary so that in an emergency, they can give the State Department some idea where to begin looking for you.  Keep in contact with your parents on a regular schedule.    
 

   

General Personal Security Tips:
 
  • Don’t stand out: while “safety in numbers” is a good rule to follow, traveling as an identifiable group of U.S. students will attract attention and possibly cause problems.  Try to fit in with the surroundings.
  • Whenever possible, speak in the local language.
  • Report suspicious events immediately: Contact the on-site study abroad coordinator/resident director if you observe suspicious persons within the premises of your educational environment.  Act similarly if anything might indicate threats or an actual terrorist attack on the premises or on student activities.
  • Careless talk: Do not be free with information about other students.  Be wary of new people.  Do not give out yours or anyone else’s address or phone number to strangers.  Don’t give away your class or field trip schedule.
  • Official contact: Your resident advisor may have an agreement with you as far as leaving the campus site and staying with others.  Do let your advisor and host family, if applicable, know if you will be staying overnight somewhere else, especially in case of an emergency.
  • You should dress and behave inconspicuously in public.  Try not to "advertise" that you're a foreigner by wearing your college sweatshirt or hanging out in typically American bars and pubs.

Additional Resources:

 

 

 

 

In order to remain safe and secure after you return home, review the information below. 

Cyber Security

Electronics and devices use abroad can be compromised. Your mobile phone and other electronic devices may be vulnerable to malware if you connected with local networks while away. Update your security software and change your passwords on all devices and accounts that you used while traveling when you return home.