Personal Safety

London Eye

All study abroad students are well advised to learn a new set of “street smarts” suitable to their new home overseas. Your program provider will conduct an orientation, but we also recommend that you spend the first few days orienting yourself in your host city.  Learn about the neighborhoods, and understand which areas should be avoided.  Learn about the transportation system and how to ask for directions so you can get home on your own.  You want to be able to blend in as much as possible by imitating the locals in their dress and demeanor. Yes, you will still be yourself, but exercising some additional caution, you can reduce the chances of attracting unwanted attention or of becoming an easy target for theft or assault.  We strongly recommend the tips listed below:


  • Make copies of your passport:  carry at least one copy with you, leave some at home, and scan a copy to leave in your email or on your computer.
  • Register with the U.S. Consulate of your host country online before going abroad.
  • Learn the local emergency numbers (embassy, fire, police, and ambulance). Keep this list in your wallet.
  • Know how to use the public telephone system, and carry pocket change.
  • Check to see if there are travel or health advisories for the places you plan to visit (  and
  • Follow the laws of your local host country - they apply to you at all times.
  • Always make sure someone knows your approximate whereabouts.
  • Walk/travel at night in pairs or small groups, or take a taxi home.
  • Always be alert of your surroundings.
  • Keep abreast of political happenings in your country and of those you visit.
  • Carry identification at all times.
  • Demonstrate confidence in where you are going and what you are doing.


  • Leave your bags unattended at any time in any location.
  • Carry your wallet in your back pocket.
  • Carry large amounts of cash or expensive items.
  • Dangle purses or cameras from your wrist.
  • Stay in dives – the few dollars saved on a cheap hotel room will not cover the replacement costs of a passport, camera, rail tickets, etc.
  • Hitchhike.
  • Participate in any political demonstrations or protests.

Sexual Assault

If you are the victim of sexual assault, it is important to get help immediately.  Contacting your program advisors on site is usually the quickest and most effective way of finding support and assistance.  Here are some precautions to consider:

  • Trust your instincts.  If you feel uncomfortable or afraid in a situation, leave as quickly as possible.  Draw the attention of others nearby if you need assistance.
  • Know your limits.  Avoid using drugs or drinking excessive amounts of alcoholic beverages.  Anyone is more vulnerable when intoxicated and that vulnerability increases exponentially when you are in an unfamiliar environment.
  • Don’t give personal information to strangers.
  • Be extremely cautious about inviting casual acquaintances into your home or room.  Do not venture out alone with people you do not know well.
  • Travel with friends.  Make sure to tell someone where you’ll be, when you plan to return, and how to get in contact with you.

GW’s University Police Department (UPD) has a Coordinator of Victim Services.  This person is available during D.C. business hours at 202-994-0443.  After hours, please contact the UPD at 202-994-6111.  Another valuable resource is the Rape and Incest National Network (RAINN).  RAINN has a 24-hour, on-line live resource for victims of sexual assault accessible on their website.