door to the world


Students can help ensure their safety while off-campus, especially abroad, by following these tips:

  • If you are a U.S. Citizen, register your period of travel with the U.S. State Department's STEP program.

  • Read up on your host country— study a map of where you’ll be living, learn about current events and recent history, learn key phrases in the local language, know the name and party of the head of government, read local newspapers, know the currency and its average conversion rate. The more you know the safer you’ll be.

  • Attend your program’s orientation—this is often the best source of local knowledge on topics like using public transportation, what parts of town to avoid, unsafe times of day, gender-specific concerns, and local police contact info.

  • Memorize emergency contact numbers—your program’s emergency line, your country’s emergency number (remember: 911 isn’t the emergency number in other countries!), and the Bowdoin Executive Assistance Program card. Keep these numbers in your wallet, but also know what number to call if your wallet gets lost/stolen.

  • If you do not know how to speak the local language, learn a few key phrases that could help you out in an emergency. 

  • Keep your passport safe! Leave it at home in a safe place unless traveling internationally. When traveling keep it on your person, not in a bag or pocket. US citizens who lose their passports should go here

  • Know the location and phone number of the U.S. Embassy in the country in which you are living/traveling. 

  • Ensure that important personal health information is translated into the local language and kept in a safe location. 

  • Avoid heated political conversations, especially in public.

  • If there are local protests or political unrest, do not get involved, even if others chose to do so!

  • Have precautions if your wallet gets lost/stolen—at home keep hidden some cash, a back-up credit/ATM card, and copies of your ID (driver’s license, passport and visa, local ID, student ID). 

  • Parents may want to consider obtaining power of attorney and HIPAA and FERPA releases in order to make medical decisions for a child overseas in case an emergency arises.

  • Regardless of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity, be aware of local cultural norms around gender and sexuality. Dress appropriately and be extra-cautious regarding nightlife and the consumption of alcohol until you are familiar with the culture and city. In the case of a sexual assault please contact help right away, either with your program, local authorities, or at Bowdoin. 

  • Cultural norms related to gender and sexuality vary widely, and misunderstandings in this area are a source of confusion. Behaviors that are perfectly acceptable in one culture might be highly inappropriate in another. Educate yourself about gender norms in your host country and be mindful of how behavior that would be unremarkable in the United States might be interpreted in a different cultural context.

  • The Executive Assistance Program—Bowdoin students abroad have access to the Executive Assistance Program, an emergency assistance service designed to assist with extraordinary needs. It is not an insurance policy and does not provide medical payments; rather it is designed to work in tandem with your existing insurance and provide assurance of benefit availability. Further details about what to do in the case of an emergency, including emergency numbers for the EAP program, can be found here.