Staying safe abroad

We want you to stay safe and have a rewarding experience, wherever you are going in the world! Living abroad means adapting to a new environment, new lifestyle, new culture, as with any form of travel these things can affect your health and safety.

One of the best things you can do to minimise any potential risks is to be as informed as possible about your host country. Prepare yourself by doing your own research, for example into the cultural, environmental and political conditions in your host country and include an emergency travel budget should you need to return home in case of a family or wider emergency.

Emergency situations

For advice on what to do in an emergency, refer to our Emergency Situations page. 

The Foreign and Commonwealth office website 

The Foreign and Commonwealth office website (FCO) has wealth of foreign travel advice and checklists specially tailored for the different needs of travellers and regularly updates the information in their travel advice following any significant incident that might affect British nationals visiting or living in the area. 

All exchange students are subject to the laws of the host country and you should familiarise yourself with these as early as possible. Use the “Travel advice" section of the FCO website to get an insight into legal matters in the host country. 

The “Support for British nationals abroad: a guide” information provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth offers vital advice on staying safe abroad. Save this guide as an electronic file on your laptop. Make sure you know the location of and number of your nearest Consulate/Embassy and don’t forget to save it on your phone!

Join the FCO on facebook.com/fcotravel and twitter.com/fcotravel to receive updates on the current situation of the country you are planning to travel to.

Study Abroad Blogs

Read the feedback left by previous students in our Study Abroad Minerva organisation, blog entries on the LeedsUniAbroad left by Leeds students and thirdyearabroad.com to get first-hand insight into your destination.

Risk Awareness form

Your school will ask you to complete the risk awareness form, which is a required part of the study year abroad. This form will help you to start thinking about various practical aspects of your year abroad, identify any problems you may face and start to consider how you will adapt to the challenges that come with living in a different environment.

Contact at your host university

Save the name and contact details of your Study Abroad Adviser at your host institution on your mobile phone. It is always important to ensure that you have a contact in the host country if you need it in case of emergencies upon your arrival.

Emergency contact page on your passport

Before you set off, remember to fill in the emergency contact details in your passport. This will help government officials to get in touch with next of kin in case of emergencies. We strongly advise you to take a photocopy of your passport (both the information page and any relevant visa pages) with you and leave one at home, in case you need to replace or request a new passport while abroad.

Health and Insurance

Make sure that you obtain appropriate health insurance cover for the whole duration of your study placement. See more information on our Insurance page.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition, make sure you research whether and how you will be able to obtain any required medication while abroad. Speak with your GP about taking prescription medications with you and be sure to research local restrictions on carrying medication into your host country.

Check the National Travel Health Network and Centre  and NHS Choices advice about travelling with medicines and contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country you’re travelling to  if you need more information.

Harassment and sexual harassment 

Harassment (unwanted conduct that creates an intimidating or hostile environment) and sexual harassment (unwanted verbal, visual or physical conduct of a sexual nature) can happen to anyone anywhere in the world, and are never the fault of the victim. 

Cultural sensitivity does not mean that you have to tolerate behaviour that makes you feel unsafe or encroaches upon your personal boundaries. Trust your instincts and always prioritise your safety. 

If you experience harassment or sexual harassment while abroad, we strongly encourage you to report it and make use of the support services available to you. You can talk, in confidence, to the following people/contacts: 

  • The local study abroad/international office or welfare office at your host institution 
  • Your personal tutor, School Study Abroad Coordinator and/or the Study Abroad office at Leeds 
  • University of Leeds support services which offer free, independent and confidential help from professional advisors, and remain open to you throughout your time abroad. These include the LUU Student Advice Centre, and the Student Counselling Centre 

Stay in touch

Get in touch with a family member as soon as you get to the country to let them know that you have arrived safely. Update your new contact details and address on Minerva and share them with your family and friends in the UK.

If you plan to travel during the year, remember to let a friend or a family member know about your plans in advance and leave them your contact details, insurance policy details and itinerary. 

Attend orientation events

Make sure you find out about your host university’s orientation meetings, and pay close attention to the safety advice given. These meetings will usually cover any local risks they know of, personal health and safety tips, and details of who to contact locally in the event of any problems or an emergency. 

Be alert

Pay attention to how local students behave and don’t be afraid to talk to them about safety precautions or ask them about local customs. Observe the normal patterns and behaviors in your community, take notice of behaviors that may deviate from that norm and trust your instincts - if it doesn’t feel safe, it probably isn’t! Remember that it’s better to be over-cautious as you get used to a new environment.

Use reliable means of transport and beware of pickpockets! Don’t display money or any other valuable items while traveling. Think about wearing a money belt to keep money and documents safe and wear it somewhere you can see it at all times.

Culture Shock

Even if you are going to a country with fairly similar values, systems and standards of living as the UK, you may find certain things about the society different and this can result in feelings of ‘culture shock’. Culture shock is defined as a feeling of disorientation, nervousness, doubt and/or anxiety experienced when you are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes. This Go Overseas article provides a good overview of the possible effects of culture shock and how to overcome them. 

Culture shock is an ongoing process of cultural adjustment – everyone experiences it differently and it can crop up at any point during your year abroad. One of the best ways of dealing with culture shock is to talk about how you are feeling, especially with other study abroad students who will understand what you are going through.

If you feel that your feelings of culture shock are going on too long or are affecting your ability to study and stay healthy, don’t be afraid to speak to someone. It is often easier and more helpful to speak to someone locally, but remember that University of Leeds support systems remain open to you while you’re abroad too.