Obeying Local and National Laws

While you are abroad, you are subject to the laws of that country. You will find that many countries do not offer the same freedoms or rights that you are accustomed to in the United States. In some countries, you are required to serve a minimum of fifteen days in jail if arrested, while in others the concept of posting bail is unheard of. You should take the time to learn and understand the local laws and strictly adhere to them.

If you are arrested while abroad, the local embassy or consulate will be able to provide you with the name of a local attorney, but they are not able to post bail, serve as your legal council or offer financial assistance. If you find yourself in trouble, you should contact your site director and seek legal council immediately.

A Note on Drugs: You should not, under any circumstances, buy, sell or consume drugs while you are abroad. Some countries have very strict laws governing drugs and the average minimum jail term involving drugs is seven years. Some countries even impose the death penalty for those convicted of drug charges. This is a very serious matter and should be treated as such.


Crime, Violence, and Terrorism

While many countries around the world have a much lower crime rate than the United States, no place is 100% safe. Tourists often become targets of petty crimes, including pick-pocketing and minor theft because they do not remain vigilant. It is important to always be aware of your surroundings and protect your personal belongings. You're encouraged to always use a neck pouch to protect your money and personal documents when traveling. Keep your handbag, backpack, suitcase close to you. Keep your arm through the straps at all times.

Be sure to keep your site director and/or family members informed of your travel plans so that you can easily be located. Always check current U.S. State Department travel information (http://travel.state.gov) for countries that you are visiting well in advance of your departure.


A Special Note to Women

Coming from the United States, you may find it difficult when you encounter unequal or unfair treatment as a woman abroad. In some countries, it is not uncommon for women to be honked at, stared at, or receive catcalls. As a foreigner, you are probably even more likely to encounter this treatment simply because you look different or because of American stereotypes. Making eye contact with or smiling at a stranger, which is perfectly acceptable in the United States and even common, may result in unexpected and unwanted attention. When you receive unwanted attention, these behaviors may be common and harmless. It is best to ignore such people and they will stop the behavior.

Try to remember that although these may be difficult and unpleasant situations, they are part of the host culture. It will help you adjust if you take the time to learn about the gender roles and assumptions in your host country, prior to your departure from the United States.