What Not to Do While Abroad

I recently read an article that mentioned “Don’t date while abroad!” I kind of laughed at the article (which had some other interesting things to not do) and then forgot about it – until I re-remembered.

People often make “To Do” lists – but a “To Don’t” list can be just as important – and can keep you safe.

Many people feel what is called “traveler’s invincibility” while abroad. In other words, you can do whatever you want and none of the stories will return home, except for the ones you intend on sharing. However, I will attest that while studying abroad you can make some decisions that after looking back on them, you realize they were not smart at all. My parents gave me much leeway while I was gone – saying only that they wanted to hear from me once a week. But a lot can happen in one night or just in a few minutes.

During my first weekend in South Africa, some friends and I went to a townsite – which can be a kind of shady part of town. We didn’t know the people we were with really well, guys were trying to hook up with girls, and we had no idea where we were. Looking back, it was a very stupid thing to do.

To help others who are going abroad (or are traveling), here is a list of things to NOT do:

* Don’t not (note the double negative here) tell people where you are going. When traveling in a country that you are familiar, it can be dangerous at times for others to not know where you are. This is especially true for when you are abroad. My parents had a basic understanding of South Africa geography through stories I told them – but I could have gotten in trouble five minutes from where I lived to 5 hours away from there – and the parents could not have done a thing about it.
* Don’t fall in love while abroad. Dating can be fun – but trying to maintain an intercontinental relationship would be super difficult. More so if you actually intend on getting married, as you then run into issues of where will you live – as someone would have to sacrifice their home country in order for the couple to move forward.
* Don’t give away your real address. Always tell people, especially those of the opposite gender, to meet you someplace neutral. As an aside from this, don’t let people you trust into your personal room or living space. While nothing happened to me, I had heard of stories where girls had guy friends over that they thought they could trust and they learned the hard way that they couldn’t trust them as much.
* Don’t always be talking to people back home. Your friends and family back home will still be there when you return. Yes, you want to share your stories and adventures while they are occurring but what you don’t want to do is be spending all of your time abroad thinking and pretending you are back home. Even my friends who complained while abroad look back on their experiences and miss them. So put down your phone and computer and go out and make memories of new friends and adventures while you can.
* Don’t bring expensive or flashy items. Your grandmother’s ring? Leave it at home. Your new expensive camera? Maybe a pocket one will be better. Remember, you will already stand out as a non-native – so don’t stand out even more and become an easy target for petty theft or more.
* Don’t throw away your class syllabi. Disposing of your notes while abroad may or may not be a good choice but when trying to get credit at your home institution, it is important to have a syllabus to show them what was being discussed – even if the course was already approved.

Some of these lessons are ones that you can only truly learn (and appreciate) after going through certain experiences. But to err on the side of safety (and fun while abroad), it is important to keep a list of “To Don’t.”

Please feel free to add your own “To Don’t” suggestions!