Different countries, same struggles

Don’t lose yourself in the far-off

24 September 2019 | Skole
Elizabeth Joseph

Being in another country and in trouble can be very overwhelming, especially when you have your studies to focus on.

There are several precautions one could take to stay away from troublesome activities like drugs and be more aware of warning signs of sexual exploitation or other abuse.

Namibia University of Science and Technology (Nust) international relations officer Nico Smit said being strong-willed and open-minded helps when it comes to protecting yourself in a foreign country.

“The university has very strict criteria when choosing who we send abroad. We choose the strong students, both character-wise and academically. It is also very important to send students in pairs and give them a good exit briefing. One can never have too much advice to keep you safe in a foreign country,” he said.

Recently Namibia saw one of its own, trialled for possession of cocaine in Brazil.

This is not something new and will always be a stumbling block for students, wherever they find themselves.

There are so many things that students need to do in order to make sure that they don’t find themselves in situations that might jeopardise their future. Here is some advice that could keep you safe, while you cement your feet in your future.

Educate yourself before you travel

Pay specific attention to any government cautions or travel advisories that have been issued by both your country and the country you wish to travel to.

That doesn’t only mean heeding the warnings on crime or terrorism; also pay attention to any health advisories that may be issued. Also make sure you know where exactly your embassy is and whether you can easily access it.

Technology is your friend

There are several travel apps available that you can download on your smartphone to help keep safe. Some of them provide frequently updated announcements and advisories for the country you’re visiting, while others will send information on your location to authorities in case of an emergency. There are also apps that will help with transport; for example, the Uber app.

Stick to your programme

If you’re studying abroad for an entire semester, you probably won’t have a pre-planned itinerary for every single day. However, if you’re on a shorter study programme abroad, such as over the summer or during a winter break, your activities are likely to be more strictly scheduled.

It’s important that you stick to the itinerary, so that you are where you are supposed to be if there is an emergency or someone needs to get in touch with you. Smit says that the basis for all caution is in the exit briefing, which students get before they leave Namibia.

Maintaining a low profile

You don’t need to keep the fact that you’re a foreign visitor a secret, but you shouldn’t broadcast it to the world either (i.e. like wearing a shirt with a Namibian flag on it), as it could make you a prime target for scam artists and pickpockets. Also with the recent xenophobic attacks all over the world, everyone is prone to becoming a victim. Do intensive research on local customs and expectations before your visit, particularly as it relates to dress and deportation.

Talk to the locals

The people who live in the area where you’ll be travelling to know the area best. As you make friends among the locals or get checked into your accommodation, ask them questions about the area.

They’ll be able to tell you which places are safe and which to avoid, and will be able to give you information about specific hazards you may encounter during your stay in the area.

Although you may feel safe around some people, it is important to remain vigilant, as some of these people may use you as a mule or victimise you in many ways, because you are vulnerable.

The Buddy System

According to Wikipedia, the Buddy System is a procedure in which two individuals, the buddies, operate together as a single unit, so that they are able to monitor and help each other.

In many cases, you will be befriending other students that are studying abroad. Whether you are attending a short-term seminar, a semester or an exchange programme, it is safest to travel in groups when you are visiting unfamiliar countries, cities or even neighbourhoods.

Not only can you expand your collective knowledge and have fun while doing so, this will also help to decrease your perceived vulnerability and further deter others from marking you as a target.

When you stick to these guidelines and keep in contact with your loved ones back home, your stay in a foreign country will be pleasant.



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