Warning Signs are not always obvious

For teens and college students, the freedom of their first trip or study abroad program without parents can be a rush. Empower them to stay safe by sharing this advice.

Parents often think of traveling with children only in the context of family vacations or similar trips. However, despite the valuable experience that this gives children, it is not the same as when they travel for the first time on their own or only with their friends. This could be in the context of a school recreational or a study abroad program, it might be that first solo vacation to Europe, or it could even be a job that takes a young person away to live.

Student Study Abroad Programs are Growing Rapidly

According to the 2015 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, the number of U.S. students studying abroad expanded by 5.2% to an all-time high of 304,467 in the 2013/14 academic year. In comparison, last year, U.S. study abroad increased by only 2.1%. The report also cited that students are increasing their engagement in non-credit work, internships, and volunteering abroad, putting them in non-academic environments with perhaps greater risk.

Interestingly, and perhaps a reflection of the greater assimilation of immigrant families in the U.S., the racial and ethnic diversity of U.S. students studying abroad has increased over the past 10 years. The proportion who identify as racial and ethnic minorities increased from 16.3% in 2003/04 to more than a quarter (25.7%) of study abroad students in 2013/14. Certain ethnic and racial minorities may find themselves at a disadvantage in different cultures where immigration is a hot social and political issue.

Safety Tips to Keep Students Safe

Of course, parents try their best to equip their children with the tools to travel safely, but it is a good idea to remind children of a few important things to do when they set out on their own for the first time. This is especially useful if the trip is international.

Here are a few suggestions you can give your young person as he or she makes that first international trip without parents.

  • Be sure to carry your keys, credit cards, cash, etc. in a pants or jacket pocket so that you can keep a close watch on them. This also makes it easier to surrender a purse or bag if robbed.
  • Always carry an international cellphone or a local calling card to make a local telephone call, in case of need. Know how to do so and know a few words of the local language in a foreign country so that you can ask for assistance.
  • Always know where you are going, how to get there, and how to return before you set out to go somewhere.
  • Avoid demonstrations or unruly crowds and identify a safe place you can go in case of a problem.
  • If you feel uncomfortable in any situation, immediately leave the area.
  • Avoid isolated and/or poorly lit locations -­- especially late at night.
  • If you become trapped or otherwise sense danger, yell or scream to attract attention.
  • If you become the victim of a robber, remember that your safety is more important than your possessions.

iJET Travel Risk Management suggests a few more cautionary tactics at international sporting events, such as the World Cup or Olympics:

  • Limit your movements within a city and avoid public transportation.
  • Lock your passport away in your hotel but always keep a copy with you.
  • Be polite and patient with security personnel and anticipate long waits to enter or leave official buildings or sports venues.
  • Update all vaccinations and immunizations as these events draw spectators from countries where contagious disease may be an issue.

Of course, common sense can go a long way toward avoiding a situation in which most of the above mentioned suggestions must be utilized.

Travel is generally an enjoyable and rewarding experience and most young people will do so without unusual difficulty. However, a word to the wise can sometimes help. Of course, we also recommend that families purchase travel insurance for their students, in case of itinerary changes, medical emergencies, and other unforeseen events.

We would like to thank Mayer Nudell for sharing his expertise in the area of travel security in order to protect families from harm while on vacation. Read more about the author here.

 

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