Printer-friendly version

Travel Safety

The reality of traveling abroad:

Traveling, living and studying outside the United States may involve risks that are beyond the control of SUNY Potsdam.

The social, cultural, political, religious, governmental, health care, legal (both civil and criminal) and other systems, as well as the geophysical characteristics of other countries may be different in subtle and/or significant ways from those of the United States.

For example, behavior that may be illegal, socially or culturally unacceptable or offensive in the United States may not be illegal and may be normal or acceptable in certain other countries. Conversely, behavior that is considered normal or acceptable in the United States may be illegal, socially or culturally unacceptable or offensive elsewhere.

In some countries political unrest and/or upheaval may be expected. Police, fire and other governmental systems may be inadequate in certain countries. The quality and availability of health care may be very different from what is typically available in the United States.

Different parts of the world are susceptible to different geophysical forces, including hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, tidal waves, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions and other natural disasters. [Adapted from Syracuse University's Conditions of Participation form]

Arm yourself with knowledge about your host country before you go! Including major, current events and/or warnings:


  • U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs: The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs has created a Students Abroad website which offers college students a one-stop reference for international travel. The website offers country specific information, tips for safe travel, and other important information, such as: who to contact if the student is victim of a crime; what to do in case of a natural disaster or emergency; where the nearest U.S. embassy is located; when to apply for a passport and visa; and how to vote in a U.S. election from abroad.
  • Center for Disease Control & Prevention: Information about immunization requirements, country specific health information, safe food and water handling, etc. Contact your local County Public Health Office for information about inoculations you will need in advance.
    World Health Organization (WHO):
    Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC):



The DO'S and DON'TS of safety abroad:

  • DO be aware: Know who and what is around you at all times.
  • DO be alert: Try not to let yourself get so caught up in the beauty of sightseeing that you lose consciousness of your surroundings.
  • DON'T look lost: If you are, sit down and get your bearings. Walk as if you knew where you were going!
  • DO carry a map: If you are in any city where you've never been before, you need a map! Follow a route; know where you are located.
  • DON'T walk alone: Male or female, night or day, remember there is always strength in numbers.
  • DO carry a backpack: They are handy in an open area because they are difficult for thieves to snatch away. However, once in a confined area, it would be wise to put your backpack in front of you. They can become great targets for pickpockets.
  • DO carry a pouch: Pouches are good for money, passport, I.D. and other valuables, because they are on you but concealed.
  • DO take good advice: Ask for tips on health, dress codes and safety from your host institution abroad. Go to any orientation for international students.
  • DO look both ways: This may seem obvious, but consider which way should you look first when crossing the road in England?
  • DO listen to your instincts: If you feel unsafe, get somewhere you feel comfortable.

We care about your safety while you're abroad!