Safety While Abroad

Studying abroad will expose you to all kinds of new and exciting experiences. Though this is a time of broadening your horizons, we ask that you exercise caution in order to be as safe as possible while overseas. If you have any questions concerning safety abroad, please ask the staff of the Global Education Office at the Reves Center before departing.

Travel Alerts

The university strongly supports internationalization initiatives including international travel by students. The university also recognizes the risks to the safety and security of students engaging in such travel, particularly the risks outlined by the U.S. Department of State when it issues a higher level Travel Alert. The Policy for Student Travel to TRavel Advisory Countries applies to all undergraduate student travel sponsored, organized, supported or recognized by William & Mary, including the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (the university). This policy establishes the circumstances under which student travel to countries subject to higher risk travel advisories is permitted.

Students planning to study abroad on a university-related program in a country under a DOS Travel Warning should contact the Director of Global Education for additional information. All petitions for summer, fall, and full academic year study abroad in a country under a DOS Travel Warning must be received by the Director of Global Education at the Reves Center no later than 5 p.m. on March 1. prior to leaving the US.  All petitions for spring study abroad in a country under a DOS Travel Warning must be received by the Director of Global Education at the Reves Center no later than 5 p.m. on October 1 prior to leaving the US.

Before Departing the U.S.

Before you leave home, you should make copies of your passport, driver's license, ISIC card, traveler's checks, and credit cards, making note especially of their customer service numbers, including the number to call from abroad. Keep the copies and information separate from your wallet. Also, be sure to leave copies of all documents at home with family. It is also a good idea to scan your passport and email it to yourself and your family. Leave a detailed itinerary with family or friends in the U.S., so they can contact you if necessary.

Do not bring unnecessary valuables with you abroad, but if you do, be sure to pack them in your carry-on bag.

William & Mary is not responsible or liable for any loss or damage to property resulting from fire, theft, or casualty while studying abroad. It is strongly recommended that personal property insurance be obtained by each student  for his or her belongings.  Renter's insurance is offered by most major insurance companies; some companies actually offer the option of a rider on a homeowner's policy to cover the belongings of students away at college. We recommend that you contact your current insurance provider to examine your options and check to see if the policy covers claims made outside of the US. Below is a list of two companies that specifically cater to college students studying in the US and abroad.

CISI Insurance Agency, Inc:

Worth Ave. Group: 

While Traveling

When traveling to, around, or outside your host country, please remember the following tips for safe travel:

  • Do not leave luggage unattended.
  • Do not accept packages from strangers.
  • Airline regulations require that checked luggage must remain unlocked, or be locked with a universal lock that can be opened by airport security. Before checking and after picking up your luggage, keep it locked, and have your name and address clearly labeled on each piece. Place labels on the interior and exterior of your bag.
  • Know at least key phrases in the local language, so that you can ask for help or assistance when you need it.
  • Carry a bank debit card instead of cash.
  • Carry essential documents and money in a neck pouch or money belt worn on the inside of your clothes.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings and avoid areas that may be particularly unsafe.

Petty theft is always a problem in urban locations around the world, but there are common sense precautions that you can take to minimize your risk of being targeted.

  • Try to blend in. Foreigners are favorite targets of pickpockets; the less conspicuous you make yourself, the less attractive they will find you. In particular, t-shirts, shorts, baseball caps, and loud English can act as markers that you are a student from the U.S.
  • Do not make a habit of carrying extra money and cards with you. If you are not planning to use them, leave them in a secure place. The same holds true for your personal documents: IDs, driver's license, passport, etc. Always have a copy of your passport with you, but the passport itself should stay safe at home unless you anticipate needing it (to change traveler's checks, or check into a hotel, for instance.) Some countries do require vistors to carry their passport with them at all times.  Know the laws before you go abroad.
  • Never keep all your funds and/or valuables together in one place.
  • Carry your valuables inside your clothes. Particularly when you are in a crowd, purses can be snatched by thieves on mopeds, purse and camera straps are easily cut, and backpacks can be slit and emptied without your even noticing.
  • Do not leave your bags unattended. When you are seated at outdoor tables, keep purse or pack straps looped around an arm or an ankle to keep them from being an easy snatch.
  • Be on guard if groups of people act strangely around you. Thieves often work together and try to confuse or distract their target. Don't be fooled by appearances. Some professional thieves look quite respectable, and some are children!
  • Keep in mind that thieves often wait near night clubs and bars popular with foreigners, particularly Americans, and target individuals who've had too much to drink.
  • When residing in a hotel, always keep your door locked. When residing in a hostel with multiple beds in one room, keep your valuables under your pillow when sleeping, not on the floor beside your bed.

Be aware that loss of property, whether through negligence or theft, is your own responsibility. The College of William & Mary cannot replace lost or stolen money or goods.

Alcohol and Drugs

Avoiding Harassment

Know that other countries have varying cultural, social, and legal issues concerning gender roles, social relationships, and dating rituals. American women traveling abroad, in particular, may receive unsolicited attention in certain countries, such as being followed and heckled by strangers, largely due to negative sexual stereotypes of American women. These encounters are usually more uncomfortable than unsafe, but it's best to be aware so as to be prepared. Here are some general safety tips to keep these annoyances to a minimum:

  • Dress conservatively, in a less obviously American fashion. Take note of how local women dress and interact with strangers.
  • Move briskly and avoid eye contact with men you do not know. This may seem rude, but being friendly with strangers can result in unwanted attention.
  • Be firm and assertive in your language. Do not try to be polite, as this may encourage unwanted advances.
  • Travel in groups with male students, especially in unfamiliar parts of town. When meeting friends, arrange to meet at a public place (e.g. a café or a store) in order to avoid having to stand idle and alone. If you find yourself in such a situation, such as at a train station, stand near groups or families.
  • Never go out alone (or even in small, all-female groups) at night. Make your arrangements for getting home safely ahead of time.