“Well, women, there’s no shortage of you studying abroad; you are 65% of U.S. students abroad, and number over 100,000 a year. As an American woman, studying abroad is just one of the many opportunities you have to experience life and transform yourself into the person you’d like to be. But as you travel, remember that women are perceived and treated differently from culture to culture—and may not have the same day-to-day lives that you do.”
Living abroad, your close encounters with a new culture may challenge your most deeply-held beliefs—your sense of good and bad, right and wrong—which is a big part of the learning experience. Be open-minded, learn to adapt to the society around you, and behave in ways that will keep you safe. And don’t worry too much: women study abroad all the time without facing serious issues. You, like the women before you, will become partof defining how people abroad perceive American women…and the wider world will become part of defining who you are. –What Women Need to Know Abroad, CIEE
Many women travel safely each year without incident. However, when it comes to health and security, women travelers are more likely to be affected by religious and cultural beliefs of the foreign countries they visit. The truth is that women face greater obstacles, especially when traveling alone. -U.S. Department of State Women Travelers
Research Your Destination
Visit the Department of State’s official website, Travel.State.Gov, where you will find Country Specific Information for every country of the world and contact information for the closest U.S. embassy and/or consulate. You will also find information about visa requirements, crime and security conditions, health and medical considerations, local laws, areas to avoid, and more. Most foreign countries require a valid passport to enter and leave. There are countries that may require a woman to have a male escort to leave a country.
Each country that you visit will have different local laws and customs about women’s clothing and appearance. For example, what you wear in a mall in Mexico might not be acceptable in a mall in the United Arab Emirates.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
It is important for women travelers to understand the cultural norms of the country they will be visiting. Pay attention to local laws and customs because they can be quite different from the United States, especially if you intend to travel alone. Avoid dark, isolated areas at night.
The safety of public transportation varies from country to country. In many places, informal taxis or mini-buses pose particular threats to people unfamiliar with the local conditions, especially to women traveling alone. Find out from reliable sources, such as local authorities or tourism officials, what is and is not safe.
Be cautious when sharing information about your plans and itinerary with strangers. Don’t feel the need to be overly polite if you are bothered by someone. While it may seem rude to be unfriendly to a stranger, creating boundaries to protect yourself is important. Use facial expressions, body language, and a firm voice to fend off any unwanted attention.
Look out for one another! Be an effective bystander
- Be an advocate for others
- Be aware of your surroundings, the people that you’re with and what is happening
- Realize if someone is unable to give consent
- Alcohol use in moderation!
Helpful Links for Women Abroad:
Resources for women’s safety issues abroad created by Northwestern University.
Information for women travelers from women travelers; there is also a free e-mail newsletter you can subscribe to from this site. This site also provides guidance by country on culturally correct clothing.
Sexual Harassment And Prevention In College Students Studying Abroad
Article on sexual harassment while studying abroad, including women’s experiences, causes and ways to prevent harassment.
Transitions Abroad: Women Travel
A collection of first-hand articles, websites and agencies by this award-winning, respected travel magazine.
University of Michigan International Center Women Abroad Guide
Resources that seek to help women be knowledgeable, prepared and safe abroad. Site also includes a collection of student comments, tips, and written resources.
Tips for Women Travelers
From Rick Steve’s Graffiti Wall, tips for women traveling to Europe from women who traveled to Europe on packing, appropriate attire, safety, etc.
What Women Need to Know Abroad – by CIEE Knowledge Series